Where Does My Ticket Money Go?

You’ve paid $390 for a ticket to Burning Man this year and may have purchased a vehicle pass for another $50. That’s over $400 before you even get gas in your car or buy plane tickets, which we know can put folks in a financial pinch. Participants go to great lengths to get to Black Rock City, and we’d like to let you know where your ticket money goes. Our hope is to give a little insight as to why tickets cost what they do.

Importantly, nearly all of the revenue used to put on the Burning Man event in Nevada comes from tickets purchased by participants. This differs from almost any other large scale event that depend on various forms of revenue. Examples of revenue that Burning Man opts out of:

  • Vending: Vending is when merchants are allowed to set up booths selling t-shirts, swag, food, drinks and other products to participants during an event. Vendors pay event organizers for the privilege of being there. Gifting is essential to the Burning Man experience and we would never compromise on this but it’s important to note that unlike other large scale events, we do not offset event production costs by allowing vendors.
  • Corporate Sponsors: When you’re at an event and you see a corporate name or logo, that company has paid event organizers big bucks for that visibility. The sponsors of Nike Pavilion and Verizon Stage see them as marketing opportunities and those funds come out of their advertising budgets. Our principle of Decommodification ensures our landscape is not cluttered with corporate plugs (and we encourage you to cover logos on anything you bring with you!). But that also means we do not accept the significant revenue that many other festivals earn through those corporate sponsorships.
  • RVs and Camping: Some festivals charge extra for placement in certain areas or to bring something other than a tent such as moving vans, trailers, or an RV. Burning Man doesn’t charge differently based on where people stay or what they choose to bring.

To be fair, we also don’t do any promotional marketing of the event, we don’t pay performers or entertainers, and we don’t build complex and expensive stages — all significant costs incurred by other events. Even with that cost savings, unlike other events, Black Rock City is a fully functioning temporary metropolis that exists for over a week and is built in the middle of a remote desert (the cost of which increases yearly).

On that note, we’d like to shed some light on what it costs us to build this incredible city every year. The Black Rock Desert is public land, but we don’t get to use it for free. It also takes a lot of equipment and hours of labor to put things together out there. The following are just a few highlights of costs we incurred in 2013:

  • The space we use is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and our 2013 fees to them totaled $4,522,952.
  • Our 2013 cost for Rental Equipment (heavy machinery, portable buildings, staff radio gear, cars and trucks) came to $1,166,307.
  • Port-o-potties are crucial for our fair city and those related costs alone racked up to $970,836.
  • To offset the impact that our temporary population has on emergency services in the local area, we pay $301,660 to local agencies such as county law enforcement, Paiute Nation, and Nevada Highway Patrol.
  • We still take care of our own though, and our on-playa medical services costs came to $455,024.
  • Getting tickets printed and shipped is also a nice chunk of change, coming in at $479,741 last year.
  • Building our iconic center piece, The Man, isn’t cheap either. Last year we spent $407,055 to bring it to life and share the ritual of burning it down.
  • The other “Man” — the government — likes his cut as well and we paid $1,021,851 last year in taxes and other licensing fees.

We help artists, too. In 2013, we distributed $800,000 in grants to artists. For 2014, we increased that figure to $1 million in art grants and support to artists bringing their works to the playa. We’re also working to increase our support for nurturing Burning Man culture around the world.

These are just some of the specific needs that your ticket money covers. You can see more in our 2013 Afterburn Report.

To give some perspective, we’ve compared our ticket prices to other comparable events, based on data from 2014. While Black Rock City is indeed an experience unlike any other, we think the following events come closest to Burning Man in terms of scope and scale.

Event Prices 2014:

  • Bonnaroo (4 days): $260 + fees
  • Coachella (4 days): $349 + $85 car camping
  • Electric Daisy Carnival (3 days): Prices ranged from $249 to $599
  • Glastonbury (5 days): $333.19 + $40 car parking + fees
  • Burning Man (8 days): $380 + $40 vehicle pass + fees

It should also be noted that we offer 4,000 low income tickets (at $190 each) for those able to show proof of financial hardship, in order to provide access to the event to those without the financial resources to purchase a ticket at full price. The higher priced tickets help to offset the cost of this program. We also gift some tickets to volunteers who build the city and make the event possible.

Our financials and AfterBurn reports offer a lot more information about what our crew does for the event and for the culture throughout the year.