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How did Firefly come to a $95 average ticket contribution?

Our budget estimates for 2019 suggest that Firefly will break even if the average participant pays $95 for a ticket. Here’s how we estimated that:


In 2018, Firefly cost $132,000 to run:

  • $57,000 (43%) on rent, transportation, land improvements, portapotties, and other infrastructure
  • $39,000 (30%) on art grants and art transportation
  • $29,000 (22%) on legal, accounting, insurance, and other organization-wide expenses
  • $11,000 (8%) on volunteer cores to make Firefly run during the event

In 2019, we estimate that Firefly will cost $144,000 to run. Major differences from last year including adding 24-hr first aid/medical coverage and improved radios.  (We also decreased expenditures on legal and accounting fees, as the 2018 budget included the costs of financial and tax audits covering several past years.)

The 2019 estimated budget can be seen here.

Number of participants

In 2018, Firefly had 1284 ticketed participants. We’re not anticipating selling more than 1,300 tickets this year. We’ve been growing at about 10% year-on-year for quite some time, and if you had to park in one of the three off-site lots last year, you know there are lots of hassles which still need to be ironed out.


Firefly’s revenue comes from the sale of tickets and parking passes. We anticipate selling approximately 600 parking passes at $30 per pass, for parking revenue of $18,000. That leaves $144,000 – $18,000 = $126,000 to be covered by ticket sales, divided by 1,300 participants, for an average contribution of $95 per ticket.

For some of you, $95 is more than your finances can handle; for others, it’s remarkably little for an experience as important to you as Firefly.

So does Firefly have financial reserves?

Firefly has reserves sized to cover about one Firefly production cycle. For example, if one year there were an emergency last-minute cancellation of Firefly, we would be able to refund all tickets and still have enough money to prepare and run Firefly the next year. (In other words, most of Firefly’s expenses are incurred before the event, and ticket sales pay the organization back for those costs).

What’s the historical context of Firefly’s finances?

Event Year Event Size Ticket Price Expenditures Surplus (loss)
2013 850 $75 $67k $5682
2014 850 $85 $75k $30,132
2015 950 $80 $80k $17,017
2016 1012 $80 $85k $16,064
2018 1140 $80 $100k $12,042
2017 1284 $80 $132k $(1,349)


While Firefly’s budgeting goal is to approximately break even, event growth has meant a need for growth in our reserves.  (And varying expenses, especially weather-dependent land and road maintenance, make this a challenge!) 2015 through 2017 were budgeted to break even for unchanging event size, but ~10% yearly growth in participation resulted in a surplus, covering the need for greater reserves.

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