More than two weeks after setting the internet ablaze with claims they “broke Burning Man,” Pittsburgh ticketing company ShowClix has offered an apology for “frustrating people trying to purchase tickets” during the Black Rock Desert event’s Main Sale, where 23,000 tickets were made available to the public.
In a Friday (April 26) blog post, ShowClix’s president Brian Arnone offered a carefully-worded explanation for what caused the ticketing sale to be shut down amid a rash of complaints about technical difficulties, unexpected credit card charges and site timeouts that frustrated thousands of fans trying to buy the $425 tickets.
“We are profoundly disappointed that we did not perform in the way that the Burning Man community deserves and in the way we know we can,” Arnone wrote, apologizing for “the distress this has caused” saying company officials are “redoubling our effort and commitment to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Shortly after the ticket sales began April 10, Arnone explained, “we noticed an isolated service performing slowly.” Typically ShowClix has “systems in place to automatically resolve these issues” but ShowClix officials noticed that the “automated system did not respond as quickly as anticipated.”
That’s when trouble really started, Arnone explained, as someone on his team called an audible to try and fix the unspecified problem. The move seemed to only make things worse.
“We made the decision to manually intervene. Unfortunately, this manual intervention caused unintended side effects that ultimately lead to the issues that many of you experienced,” Arnone wrote. Billboard reached to ShowClix and its ownership group Patron Technology for a more detailed explanation of what caused the ticketing crash and did not receive a response by press time.
Friday’s post was the first time the company had acknowledged its role in the meltdown for Burning Man, a contract that had been held by Ticketfly and its parent company Eventbrite from 2014 to 2018.
Shortly after signing Burning Man as client in late 2018, Patron Technology officials took a victory lap with the firm’s vp of strategic partnerships Jason Mastrine and Burning Man’s Rebecca Throne leading talks at South by Southwest and INTIX, an annual conference for ticketing professionals, promoting Patron’s “technology and expertise.”
“We’ve been extremely successful in the growing space of timed entry exhibits and temporary art events of all kinds, so of course we jumped at the opportunity to share the stage with Rebecca,” Mastrine said in a press release announcing the SXSW panel.
The ShowClix partnership came as Burning Man officials were trying to engineer a “cultural course correction” to push back on social media influencers and Silicon Valley executives who funded elaborate luxury camps that seemed to go against the festival’s ten principals, which include inclusion, decommodification and radical self-inclusion
In a Feb. 9 blog post, CEO Marian Goodell shared a story about an artist who had been repeatedly denied a ride on one of the event’s mutant vehicles, saying the art car’s “gatekeepers are very discriminatory on who they let ride. I was actually told, ‘No, it’s too late for old people to be out, anyway,’ ‘you’re not pretty enough,’ and ‘we’re only picking up hot girls right now.’”
Goodell said the story “broke my heart” and laid out a plan for reclaiming Burning Man’s values through a series of ticketing initiatives. That included making less tickets available during the main sale while increasing its allocation for the Low Income Ticket Program. Goodell also reduced the number of high-priced tickets and eliminated its $1,200 Limited Sale tickets, ending a program that some say allowed upper income individuals to buy their way in to the festival.
The shift in strategy reduced the ticketing supply for the high-demand event, leading to more fans logging in for a shot at a smaller pool of tickets. Arnone’s blog post also addressed rumors that automated software played a part in the ticketing meltdown.
“Bot traffic is also something that we deal with routinely and are prepared for. It was not the primary cause for Wednesday’s issues but contributed to a slow system recovery,” Arnone wrote. He signed off with an apology: “we apologize to the Burning Man community for the distress this has caused and are redoubling our effort and commitment to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”