Ticket Sales: What Went Wrong, What We’ve Learned, What Comes Next

As promised, here is a lot more information about the recent ticket sale as well as some information about what’s happening next.

Debriefing our first general sale

Thursday’s ticket sale clearly did not go as expected. Here’s how we got there:

  • We needed a new system to give us better control over and information about orders as well as more sophisticated features for directed sales and ticket fulfillment. In 2017 we ported our website to a new codebase, new hosting provider, and new e-commerce platform. We tested the system in January and again in March with directed sales, and throughout the week prior to the sale. The entire system performed beautifully at low volumes.
  • Our e-commerce platform documentation states that it can scale to volumes far higher than what we need. Our hosting provider assured us that we would not encounter issues and gave us specific prep instructions, with we followed. Unfortunately, it did not prevent the problems experienced.
  • Although we did some research into server loads, we opted not to increase our server capacity in advance. We failed to anticipate just how high demand would be in the first hour — which not only crashed the server, it also created a less fair situation, because rather than selling the first ticket to the first person to click, the second to the second, etc., it benefited people who were lucky or who had the technological ability to hit the server harder.
  • We attempted to upgrade our server capacity *during* the sale; those changes have still not taken effect and we are following up in preparation for the sales still ahead of us.
  • Our attempts to fix the initial issue with RV/Trailer passes were substantially delayed by our own inability to reach the site due to overwhelming traffic.

We apologize. The SOAK community expected better of us, and we let you down.

We also know you’re frustrated. Hitting ‘refresh’ for 2 straight hours and getting nothing in return sucks. We have work to do to find a system that handles these massive spikes while aligning with our other needs (and our budget) and we’re committed to doing that work. This year’s data gives us a better baseline for planning. A few community members have reached out with related experience and expertise, and we appreciate you.

We will begin shipping tickets in the next week and open the Facebook-based Ticket Exchange page that many have used with success for the past 2 years. We hope it proves useful to you this year, if you need it. In the meantime, a lot people *do* have tickets… if your theme camp or art project is short-handed, think about putting out a call to meet new people who are looking for a way to participate. Read on to learn about additional ticket sales we have planned.

We’re growing together. Sometimes it’s painful. If you want to throw us some specific feedback, please email info@soakpdx.com.


Directed Sales: Our Philosophy

As some of you know, we held our first Directed Group Sale last year. It was a proof of concept, targeting a handful of large theme camps that had a long track record with SOAK. It was successful within its scope: those camps significantly benefited, and the experience helped us make good decisions about internal systems as well as the future of directed sales for various groups (such as this year’s new Artist Scholarship Program).

SOAK is 100% volunteer run, and volunteers take many shapes: SOAK staff & infrastructure volunteers, theme camp organizers and those who run the camps, artists and art supporters. Without any one of these groups, the experience of our event would be substantially diminished. It’s our goal to evolve our systems in ways that help keep all of these groups healthy, supported, and in balance with each other. We also value new participants who are just discovering how great this event and our community is, as well as those who are taking a rest after supporting the community for years.

Participant diversity is one of our primary goals.


Theme Camp Directed Sale

This year, all registered theme camps can apply for the Theme Camp Directed Sale. This limited pool of tickets will be spread across a larger audience, but more camps will have an opportunity to benefit. While we had always planned to hold a directed sale for theme camps, the outcomes of the first general sale clearly indicated that we needed to increase the allocation of tickets to this sale, and feedback from a number of people helped give final shape to our approach.

The Theme Camp Directed Sale will take place in mid-April. Apply for sale access from now until Friday April 7 @ 9:00pm PDT if you are a registered theme camp.

** Your theme camp MUST be registered with SOAK by Friday April 7 @ 9:00pm PDT in order to participate in the sale. This is in addition to applying for sale access. Register now if you haven’t already: soakpdx.com/themecamp **

  • Applying for the sale does not guarantee your camp will receive access to the sale.
  • Theme camps who receive access to the sale will have a limited period of time in which to complete the purchase of tickets allocated to them.
  • Tickets allocated in this sale will be full price ($110).
  • Tickets allocated in this sale that are not purchased by the deadline will be returned to the pool, and sold in the 2nd general sale.

Apply for access to the Theme Camp Directed Sale


Looking ahead: the 2nd general sale

We intentionally front-loaded the the first general sale with a high percentage of the available tickets & RV/Trailer passes in order to give confidence to as many people as possible. Because of this and our decision to expand the Theme Camp Directed Sale, the final general sale (April 29 @ 10am PDT) will contain about 10% of the total available tickets and about 25% of the available RV/Trailer passes.



SOAK is evolving. We’re a regional experiment in temporary community, and our community evolves while it grows. Things we did last year aren’t necessarily things we’ll do the following year — we try things out and they don’t always stick. Hell, they don’t always work… at least not in the ways we hope or expect. If nothing else, it’s an exciting ride.

With love and devotion and a bit of exhaustion,

Honeybee & Starfish, your dedicated SOAK Producers


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