How to Buy Low Income Tickets for Burning Man

Each year Burning Man sets aside low income tickets, for those who want to participate but feel they don’t have the disposable income to attend.

Around 4,500 “low income” tickets are expected to be sold in 2019 at $210. In 2016, Low Income tickets didn’t sell out until shortly before the event. In 2018, demand for Low Income was relatively high. But in 2019 the allocation of low income tickets increased almost 20%, so we will have to wait and see if it’s a challenging year.

Who Is Eligible for Low Income Tickets

Burning Man does not publish eligibility criteria and there are no strict cut-offs for financial eligibility, although some have reported having middle class incomes but unusual expenses or other financial hardships and receiving tickets. Not only is your income and costs of living taken into account, but your contribution to the event is also a factor. So if you feel you can’t attend due to ticket cost and therefore don’t intend to apply for tickets, and feel your contribution to the event would be significant, you may be a good candidate for the low income ticket program.

Can I Register for the Main Sale and Still Get a Low Income Ticket

Yes. There is a lot of wrong information floating around. As of 2019, here is the correct information.

  1. You may register for any sale, and still receive a low income ticket.

  2. If you actually buy a ticket in any sale, your low income ticket will be cancelled/application rejected.

  3. If you register for another sale, the fact that you registered may be taken into account as part of your low income ticket application. We asked exactly how much it would be taken into account and were told by the low income ticket people: “Purchasing another ticket disqualifies you from being awarded a Low Income ticket. Registering for a regular sale would only be taken into account if the application is really marginal and we’re having a tough time making the call [to award a low income ticket]." (emphasis added)

Note: In past years, people have generally received word on their low income ticket application roughly four weeks after applying. So if you apply immediately, the first day you can, for a low income ticket, you will likely get a response before registration for the main sale opens.

Can I Pay for My Low Income Ticket When I Pick It Up.

No, you will need to pay for it in advance. The cutoff date in 2019 is July 17th. But, if you have some special circumstance, you may plead your case to Burning Man, and an exception might be made. E-mail them.

We have had several discussions regarding low income tickets with the Burning Man organization, and here is the best advice we have based on those conversations:

  1. Read the instructions carefully. 2018 Instructions are here. The application itself also includes instructions. And there are FAQs . If the application period is open, you may view the application on the Burning Man Website, otherwise, view the archived 2019 Application.

  2. When you submit financial information, be sure the information includes your name and the date of the document. This is one of the most common error in applications. If your name isn’t on the financial document, such as a lease, consider entering into a formal sublease agreement with the lease holder.

  3. Paint an accurate picture of your finances, using available documents. For example, if you have a decent paying job, but are financially struggling because of a recent divorce and unexpected medical expenses, simply submitting a W-2, lease statement and bank account statements may not show the whole story. In such a case, you might want to submit your divorce settlement papers, a series of bank statements showing balances declining, medical bills, along with your W-2 and lease.

  4. Finances are only half the story, craft a thoughtful and brief statement of why you are attending and what you plan to contribute. This is absolutely critical. Three or four well crafted paragraphs is enough - the team is busy and doesn’t want to read a novella. But the paragraphs need to clearly demonstrate what you plan to contribute and what you plan to get out of the experience. In 2019, you were asked:

    1. Please tell us what the Burning Man community means to you and how you are an asset to the community.

    2. In addition to the basic civic responsibilities expected of all Burners as outlined in the 10 Principles, how do you plan to contribute to Burning Man this year?

    3. What do you do for work (how do you earn money), and why do you feel you need a Low Income ticket this year?

  5. Make the review of your submission easy on the review team. Here’s a sample checklist to confirm you are doing this:

    1. Did I submit enough financial documents that my financial picture is clear to the review team?

    2. Does each document have my name and date on them? Did I strike out my social security number everywhere it appears?

    3. Did I eliminate financial documents that aren’t helpful in painting the picture?

    4. Did I explain clearly why the Burning Man community is important to me, and if helpful provide examples of how it has helped me in the past or what I am dealing with in my day to day life that it may help with?

    5. Did I explain how I am an asset to the Burning Man community. If I haven’t attended, have I contributed pre-burn to the community in a way that will be helpful to my case? Are there other areas in life that I have meaningfully contributed to the Burning Man spirit?

    6. Did I clearly explain my intended contribution to the playa, and is that contribution valuable and unique?

    7. Have I clearly explained what I do for a living, and avoided catch phrases or euphemisms that make it less clear what I do? (“I am an artist and work in retail” is less helpful than “I work in a retail art store, where I earned $22k in 2018 and $23k in 2017, and where expect to earn $23k in 2019. I have also sold three paintings in the past year for an aggregate of $1,200”.

    8. Have I explained why I need a low income ticket in a simple narrative statement. “I just lost my job and don’t have money to spare” is less helpful than “I worked for ten years in retail, but lost my job in January 2019. I had $20k in savings when I lost my job, but in the past six months have drawn my savings down to $10k. I live in New York City, and am unable to leave because I also provide weekend care for my grandmother, and therefore my expenses remain high.”

    9. Do I have documents to prove anything I am explaining in a narrative. If I have had a large, unexpected expense, have I somehow documented it in my financial documents. If I have been fired, do I have evidence, such as unemployment checks.

The following are comments from the people who review the low income ticket applications:

“Make a sincere effort. You don’t need to write a novel (in fact, please don’t!), but tell us your story. Why should you get this ticket?”

“Make sure you are providing documentation that is obviously yours, and in your name. Take the time to help us understand your financial situation, that means explaining your income and expenses. This is the only way we can get a sense of your circumstances, so be sure to explain any discrepancies in your documents - did you have to take time off for some reason that resulted in a gap in income? Maybe you make a decent living but are supporting a large family in an expensive city? Maybe you’re elderly, disabled, a vet, or for some other reason on a fixed income? Help us understand!”

Ms. Peach: I’m all about seeing that someone actually made an effort when submitting their application. We really do care if you’re interested in participating, how you want to participate and why Burning Man is important to you. A three sentence paragraph is perfect. I’m also super frustrated when folks submit a benefits card (food stamps, CalFresh, etc.) but it doesn’t have their name or the dates valid on it. It could be from 4 years ago! Make sure your stuff has names and dates.

Mrs. Black: i think this is a big one: You must provide proof of your income and expenses. We usually get one or the other. i suppose a tip would be you can take a picture of multiple w2s at once in order to get more than one doc in an image.

Mrs. Red: For me, I look for consistency. Consistency in numbers, in expenses, in documentation. Make sure there are no unexplained discrepancies. My #1 denial reason is a large, unexplained gap in income and expenses. I would also make it super duper clear that without actual documentation, you will not get a ticket. I don’t care if your house burned down, or if you made $5 cash last year.

Mr. Red: one of the most repeated mistakes I see in applications is providing documents/screenshots with no names. Make sure the submitted documents are relevant.