UPDATE/CORRECTION: The manager for Infected Mushroom says the group does indeed have tickets.
The mad scramble for sold-out tickets to Burning Man and the subsequent price gouging by scalpers have been frustrating for burners who didn't plan ahead, but now it appears that it could impact the musical offerings on the playa this year as many big-name DJs and musicians have been stuck without tickets.
“About 25 to 30 percent of our DJs are ticketless right now,” says Chris Kite of the Utah-based Bass Camp, which will be creating Temple of Boom on the high-profile corner of Esplanade and 10:00 this year. “These guys are contributing their art for free, and they aren't even looking for a free ticket, just access to buy one.”
Among the big acts that are still ticketless are Shpongle, Infected Mushroom, EOTO, Mimosa, and Adam Ohana, many of which are managed by Coast 2 Coast Entertainment, which helped book many of its artists on the playa but waited too long to buy tickets for them, many of whom have been on tour and unable to put the time into preparing for Burning Man.
“We're having a small crisis in that regard,” said Syd Gris of Opulent Temple, whose epic lineup for its traditional Wednesday-night White Party includes many of the performers who are stuck without tickets. He and Kite have both appealed to Black Rock City LLC, which stages Burning Man, but so far haven't found a solution to the problem.
Big sound camps have always been the redheaded stepchildren of Burning Man. Despite their role in creating its nightlife and soundtrack – fueling the event's growing popularity and helping burners with fundraising events throughout the year – they don't qualify for art grants, free tickets, or other support that art collectives often receive from the LLC. While some burners dislike the DJ culture, Burning Man has in recent years become one of the world's biggest electronic music events, a status that contributed to brisk ticket sales this year.
“The irony of this is some of these artists usually get paid $50,000 to play and they want to come [to Burning Man and] play for free and they can't even do that,” said Syd, who has worked with other big sound camps to push for more support from the LLC in recent years, with little success (as I chronicle in my book). “Our lineup on Wednesday night, if we booked it at another festival, would be easily a $100,000 night.”
Kite notes that BassCamp's budget this year is tens of thousands of dollars, all paid for by member dues and fundraising events – which is fairly typical for big sound camps (which, as part of the burner ethos, don't pay the DJs) – and he said its been very demoralizing to spend so much time and money at this late stage to ensure they can still deliver their planned music lineup.
“I'm spending a lot of time online just trying to get tickets,” Kite said. Anyone who wants to help out can reach his camp at firstname.lastname@example.org, or they can contact Syd at email@example.com. And for a guide to the best DJ sets planned for Burning Man this year, check the Guardian's Aug. 3 playa prep issue.