Burning Man  2011 got off to a big start yesterday as tickets went on sale, demonstrating that the 25-year-old event is more popular than ever. The demand for tickets at 10 a.m. was so strong that it crashed the servers for almost two hours, overcoming efforts to beef up a ticketing system that has functioned pretty well the last two years after being a frustrating hassle in previous years.
“People were happy with [the event] last year or they wouldn't have pounded the servers trying to get a ticket,” Marian Goodell, the event's communications director, told us. “The ticketing system had been tested pretty extensively, but the sudden demand for service was high that the ticket vendor had ever heard of before.”
More than 20,000 people snapped up tickets in the first 24 hours, outpacing last year and selling out the 9,000 tickets each at the first two tiers of $210 and $240. Goodell said that as many as 40,000 users appeared to be trying to log on yesterday, with many apparently not willing to endure a wait time of about six hours in some cases. Once the current tier of $280 tickets is gone, the price will be $320 until the event.
Last year, the population of Black Rock City – the temporary city that Burning Man attendees build in rural Nevada every August – peaked at more than 51,000 people on Friday night. Goodell wouldn't make a prediction about this year's population, noting that spring ticket sales are hard to predict, but she noted that many of the event's marquee artists, such as Peter Hudson and Sean Orlando, are planning ambitious projects for this year that are already generating excitement.
“We're very excited about this year,” she said.
For more on Burning Man and its myriad subcultures, you can find my past Guardian articles on the culture here  or look for my upcoming book, The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture, being released next month by CCC Publishing .