Whatever else history might say of the Burning Man Ticket Fiasco of 2012, it offers the community that puts on the festival one more brute lesson in market economics. For attendees at the longtime countercultural arts festival held annually in the desert near Reno, news that four-fifths of the tickets to this year's festival have already been sold is only worsened by reports that three-quarters of the personnel at the festival-defining theme camps and art projects didn't get tickets in last week's long-dreaded, much-abused lottery sale. Last year's record attendance numbers prompted the Burning Man Organization (BMORG) to ration attendance at a capacity set by the Bureau of Land Management, a figure that just now tends to rest just above the 50,000 mark.
By last Friday, Marian Goodall, BMORG's business director, was acknowledging all is not well in Burnerdom. “Not everyone who wants a ticket this year will get one, that is clear.” By yesterday, Ms. Goodall was on NPR worrying aloud about “gutting the social infrastructure of the event” and worse. Later that night, a statement by Andie Grace, the festival's communications czar, was profuse in apologies, appealing for patience from a sorely tried subculture as the org works out this latest kink in the Burner credo of “radical inclusion.” “[W]hatever is to blame,” pleaded Ms. Grace, “now that we've reached this point, we absolutely know we have to get this next moment right.”