WHERE DOES MY TICKET MONEY GO?
Almost all of Burning Man's revenue comes from tickets purchased by participants. There are other forms of income as well, including merchandise sales (calendars, t-shirts, movies, posters, etc.), but these are nominal at best, and represent only a tiny fraction of Burning Man's total income -- and Burning Man does not accept sponsorships.
People often claim (or complain) that Burning Man's ticket price is too high. To give some perspective, here's a price comparison, based on data from 2013. We've compared ticket prices to other "comparable" events. These events come closest in terms of scope and scale, but still don't come anywhere close to the Burning Man experience, particularly given the fact that Black Rock City is a fully-functioning metropolis for nearly 60,000 people, constructed in the middle of the remote desert (the cost of which increases yearly):
Event Prices 2013:
Electric Daisy Carnival (3 days): $289.00 + fees
Bonnaroo (4 days): $260 + fees
Coachella (4 days): $349 + $85 car camping
Glastonbury (5 days): $333.19 + $40 car parking + fees
Burning Man (8 days): $380 + fees
It should be noted that we also offer 4,000 scholarship and low income tickets (at $190 each) for those able to show proof of financial hardship, in order to provide less expensive tickets for those in need.
Also notable for this comparison is the fact that Burning Man doesn't charge for RVs (whereas some festival do), nor does it take (and therefore doesn't profit from) corporate sponsorships or vendor fees, unlike major festivals, which represent a large source of their income. On the other hand, Burning Man doesn't pay for the publicity, marketing, advertising, or performers that they do.
If you want to know where your ticket money is spent, you're encouraged to read through our Financials web page. Where you see a "Miscellaneous" line item, that would be the costs incurred when we helicoptered that diamond-encrusted hot tub onto the roof of our Board Secretary's home so she could soak in style. The cost overruns on that one got a little out of hand, admittedly.
If you'd like to know how your money is being utilized in actuality, read the AfterBurn Report, which details what the Burning Man Organization does - as well as how and why - throughout the year to produce the Burning Man event, and to facilitate the expansion and growth of Burning Man culture out in the world. A lot more happens at the Burning Man Organization than most people realize ... you may just be surprised.
Got an opinion about all this? We welcome your feedback at feedback (at) burningman (dot) com.