You’re paying $575 for a ticket to Black Rock City and may be going in with a friend on a vehicle pass for $140. That’s more than $700 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 participate in Burning Man, 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.
Where Does the Money Come From?
Importantly, nearly all of the revenue used to build and operate Black Rock City comes from tickets purchased by participants. This differs from almost any other large scale event that depend on various forms of revenue. 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 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 and we don’t pay performers or entertainers, which are 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).
Where Does the Money Go?
The Black Rock Desert is public land, but we don’t get to use it for free. We work with the Bureau of Land Management and other government agencies that permit the event, and we reimburse them for each and every expense they incur as a result of their work with us. It also takes a lot of equipment and hours of labor to put things together out there. Each year we see increases in the costs of our permits, logistics, and operations.
Our costs are also increasing because we’re making serious investments in expanding our impact around the globe. Burning Man is no longer confined to the Black Rock Desert; Black Rock City is a springboard for bringing radical and creative ideas to the world. In 2014 Burning Man became a nonprofit organization with a mission to make Burning Man experiences and values accessible to more people, in more places, more of the time.
We are bringing the inspiration, creativity, inclusion, and yes, some of the funds, from Black Rock City out into a world that, especially in these turbulent times, could really use it. If you want to know more about Burning Man Project’s finances, you can view our IRS Form 990. You can also learn about our nonprofit programs in Black Rock City and beyond in our most recent Annual Report.
How Do Our Prices Compare?
While Black Rock City is indeed an experience unlike any other, we’ve compared our ticket prices to a few other events for the sake of perspective.
- Bonnaroo (4 days): Between $190 and $925 + $60 car camping pass + fees
- Coachella (3 days): Between $429 and $999 + $102 camping pass + fees
- SXSW (10 days): Between $540 and $1,600 + fees
- Electric Daisy Carnival (3 days): Between $319 to $779 + $1,099 camping pass (for up to 4 people) + fees
- Glastonbury (5 days): ~$345 + $58 car parking + fees
- Envision (7 days): Between $419 and $799 + $350 ready-set-camp + fees
- Burning Man (8 days): $575 + $140 vehicle pass + fees
It should also be noted that we offer ~5,000 low-income tickets (at $225 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. For those who can afford to contribute financially, we sell a small pool of tickets for as much as $1,400 to help offset the cost of the low income program. We also gift thousands of tickets to volunteers who build the city and make the event possible.
Again, for more information about our nonprofit finances visit our Public Documents page where you can find our annual reports and IRS documents.