There are tens of thousands of people for whom Burning Man is an annual certainty: They and their friends and families know for sure where they'll be during the week leading up to Labor Day.
For these people, this morning is a D-Day of a sort: The first day that tickets to the counter-cultural arts festival go on sale.
And, as always, tickets are being sold in a tiered pricing structure, with 10,000 tickets going for $210, 10,000 for $225, 10,000 for $250 and whatever supplies are left at $295. Burning Man asks people to buy the highest-priced tickets they can afford, but in my experience, most people buy the least expensive ones they can.
In the previous few years, attendance to the event has soared, and for years, many burners have rushed to get their tickets as quickly as possible. That used to mean that everyone would ensure their orders were placed in the mail and postmarked the first possible day, because the lowest-priced tickets went in a first-come, first-served order.
Nowadays, Burning Man uses an online ticket ordering system, as well as mail-order, though the $210 tickets are only available online. That means, as I write this, there are thousands of burners all over the world who, at precisely 10am pacific--when the tickets went on sale--hit "order" and are now waiting to see if they will be able to get one or two of those 10,000 $210 tickets.
In 2006, this system melted down as it was unable to handle the rush of orders all at once. But last year, it seemed the system had improved, though I definitely still heard tales of people having problems with it.
I've gone to the last ten Burning Mans, and this year, for the first time, I was thinking seriously of not going, and thus, not ordering tickets. But for the sake of this blog, I decided to try to buy some and see how it went.
This year--so far at least, the system seems to be holding up under the weight of the onslaught of orders. And they've added a nice little feature, which is updating how many orders are ahead of you every 60 seconds.
However, it's moving awfully slow.
I actually didn't hit "order" until 10:01, so by the time I made my way into the system, there were 4,480 orders ahead of me. By 10:15, that number had dropped only to 4,265. At this rate, it will take until about 2:12 pm to get to my order. That's assuming that I have the patience to wait. And, of course, it may speed up. Though it may also slow down. I'll update this blog later to indicate how long it took to process my order.
Anyway, if you're just reading this now, you're probably already too late to get in on those first 10,000 $210 tickets. But I would hurry up and get in an order anyway, because you may still be able to get a couple for $225. If you wait, you're going to be paying $250 or more.
And don't forget: This year, for the first time, Burning Man is not selling tickets at its gate. And, also for the first time, it has indicated that it may limit the number of tickets it sells.
In other words, if you want to go to Burning Man 2008, this would be a good time to order tickets. If you get some and decide later not to go, you can always sell them on Craigslist.
Update: At 11:37 am, I've moved up to the 917th spot. So it appears the system has sped up considerably.
Update: At 11:50 am, one hour and 49 minutes after clicking "order," I got to the top of the list and was able to order two $210 tickets. So, I would have to say that Burning Man got its online ticket system right this year, although it should be noted that the button for ordering tickets was in a hard-to-find location on the Tickets page and I've heard from some friends that it took them long enough to find it that they likely missed out on being able to get the $210 tickets.