Burner Artists Ripped Off by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj

You would think that top DJs could afford to pay for their art installations, instead of stealing them. David Guetta is the #2 highest paid DJ in the world ($30 million in 2014, so as big as Burning Man), and Nicki Minaj is #11 on the Forbes rappers list ($11 million in 2014), the only woman listed.

Maybe BMOrg’s IP policy made it all too hard. Rather than negotiating with all the lawyers, they just went to a set designer and said “make me this”.

Guetta appears with the art piece(s) and flame effects at about 2:20.

The official video for the song is definitely Burning Man themed:

Will they appear on the Playa this year, to perform their new hit?

From thump.vice.com (emphasis ours):

Did David Guetta and Nicki Minaj Steal From Burning Man for Their Billboard Music Awards Performance?

…Structures on stage with Guetta and Minaj nearly identical to those of a Burning Man art installation known as the HYBYCOZO series have prompted accusations the DJ and rapper stole someone else’s work.

“We received several calls in the evening telling on Sunday telling us to turn on the TV to watch the David Guetta performance because our design was popping up all over the stage,” designer Yelena Filipchuck tells THUMP. “It was so egregious that people who weren’t even that familiar with the project sent us messages asking us if we did the stage design!

Filipchuck and her design partner Serge Beaulieu debuted the HYBYCOZO installation at Burning Man after a successful Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2014. The series of steel-wrought, laser-cut, light-emitting geometrical structures went on to become one of the most photographed installations in the festival world after follow-up appearances at Treasure Island festival in San Francisco and Further Future outside of Las Vegas earlier this month.

HYBYCOZO, a contraction of Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone, features a number of different geometric permutations placed in conjunction, but in particular, the pentagonal dodecahedron (12-sided structure of five-sided panels) is the design that the designers suggest was pinched by Guetta and Minaj.

side by side hybocozo

Side by Side comparison. Image: Vice

“The size looks similar at six feet tall,” says Filipchuck. “The pattern attempts to be a copy, we zoomed in and the composition of the pattern matched exactly [a circle in a pentagon] on a grid of lines coming out of the corners. The shape itself even had the same thicker darker edges, glowing from the inside and matched the distinctive laser-cut repeating patterns that we are known for.”

Strengthening Filipchuck and Beaulieu’s intellectual property theft case is the more circumstantial evidence in the “Hey Mama” video, in which Guetta and Minaj galavant in distinctly Burning Man-themed scenes, replete with dusty post-apocalyptic revelers, art cars, and a stage setup commonly used at Burner spin-off events like Desert Hearts.

…”The part that hurts the most is that we are young artists doing festival art and stage design. Now it feels like anything we do will just be copied by one of these huge corporate teams,” Filipchuck adds. “If they wanted this aesthetic they should have contacted us to discuss the options rather than [create] what a appears to be blatant rip off of our art without our permission.”

Guetta enjoys burner vibes in the video for his and Minaj’s “Hey Mama”

Read the full story at Thump.

Over to you, BMOrg. You say that your IP policy is only there to protect artists and defend our culture: please go and defend our artists and our culture from these thieves.

 

Concierges At Burning Man: Now Made Official [Updates]

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 10.45.04 AM

There was a bit of an uproar last year when we shared that Festivals Concierge Service were making money from Burning Man. Well, it seems they’ve read the rules and done their best to comply with them – and no less than Larry Harvey’s words are being used to pitch their product.

As we predicted, Larry & Co’s response to last year’s Commodification Camp Concerns has been to give a full green light to concierges, commodification camps, Mistresses of Merriment, and anything else the VIPs require.

From Festival Concierge Service:

Burning Man is not a festival like no other, it is a community experience based on 10 principles that serve as guidelines.

The services we offer for Burning Man are intended to assist you in the preparation and organization of your Burn.

We do not offer on-site concierge services.

In any case we sell the Burning Man Experience. It is a unique personal experience, and is made possible only through your participation and understanding of the ten principles.

“Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them. This is because our city has always been a place where old and young, and rich and poor, can live on common ground. The word for this is fellowship, as in the fellowship of a club or lodge whose members, however diverse, are united by common values and a sense of shared experience. But common ground is not a level playing field, and should not be interpreted as mandating equal living conditions.”

The services, which are all provided by BLM-Licensed Outside Services Contractors, include:

ACCOMMODATIONS
ON-SITE RV SERVICES
TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION TO AND FROM BURNING MAN
PLUG AND PLAY CAMP PLACEMENT
MUTANT VEHICLE (ART CAR) PRODUCTION AND RENTAL
SEGWAY AND ELECTRIC SKATEBOARD RENTAL
BIKE AND DECORATION
COSTUME DESIGN AND PERSONNAL SHOPER

[Update 5/21/1 6:09pm PST]
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.51.58 PM
Take a look at this. Big thanks to Anonymous Burner for sharing this. BMOrg has already known about this for almost 3 weeks, and the site is still up. And why wouldn’t it be? They are conforming to the rules. They only deal with licensed vendors who give the Feds a percentage of their sales.

The trolls have come out for us very swiftly after this post. Did we hit some sort of nerve?
Within an hour of me posting this story, James of San Diego appeared on our web page, saying:
Burners XXX of burners.me spends years talking shit and dishing out hate then gets called out and identified by Danger Ranger. Then BurnersXXX cries and whines cause he can’t take the criticism. Trolls don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash…Although many long term Eplayans are way bigger assholes and are anonymous.
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For anyone that doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is open minded enough to judge for themselves the definition of “cries and whines”, you can read my previous response on this matter. There’s no doubt that one thing this commenter is saying is true: the officially sanctioned BMOrg forums on ePlaya suffer from low traffic, and high trolls. It’s not just that trolls are allowed to be there, abusing and bullying others, with support piled on from paid BMOrg employees: some of them think they have so many of the “suck up points” required to game the system, that they feel completely backed by the Org whenever they want to let their personal fancies assault the lives of others.
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When you see someone on the Internet saying “so and so’s a troll”, you should wonder if really it is the person named by the attack – or is it the nay-sayer accusing others of not conforming to their desired way of being.
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If you haven’t read it yet (and even if you have it’s worth a refresher) please check out our post How To Spot An Online Troll. Thanks to Jan Irvin at Gnostic Media for some of the key parts of that article which are his writing and insights.
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Spring is here and troll season has begun once more. The Ministers of Propagandas (of those organizations that employ them) are looking for things to do, victims to cyber-bully, and misinformation to sow…
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Badger then came over to www.burners.me to tell us:
I can’t believe you stooges have fallen for this faux site.
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I can’t believe there are any stooges left who are drinking the Kool Aid so much that they’d think “Larry & Co would never allow private concierges at Burning Man”…when Larry himself writes a lengthy blog post entitled “Concierge Culture” and explaining why wealth divisions have never been a problem and rich people should be allowed to ignore Radical Self Reliance if they can afford to.
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.59.35 PM

Source: Voices of Burning Man

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PDR agreed with Badger, that Festival Concierge Services is not a real web site.
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.40.42 PM
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These are the same people as last year. They were in touch with us then, and they’re in touch with us now. The New York Times already wrote about it (quoting Burners.Me as a trusted source). The Key Group, private concierge service out of Luxembourg, has a highly desirable existing customer base of Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals. A-list Hollywood stars, princes and princesses, Billionaire’s Row, Mega-Sparkle Ponies, political pundits, the DEA, FBI BLM and other unnamed alphabet agencies, experimental Google technologies, even now frikking cartoon characters…this is Burning Man 2.0. Everyone requires a handler, for their Radical Self Reliance. If you handle yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

bm shark jumping
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Personally I think we should be giving FCS some props for adjusting their pitch to better suit our culture, after last year’s feedback – almost 100 comments and 1000 shares just at this site, not to mention Larry’s loqacious diatribe against Marxism. Isn’t that what we want – we complain, they listen, they remove the things we were complaining about, and from then on they conform to the rules. Is that what we’re trying to achieve? Making Burners conform to rules? Or “teach them a lesson”, is that the purpose of all this?
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I am neither endorsing nor condemning Burning Man concierges. People who’ve never had access to a concierge before probably think it’s something special. Like most VIP sections, it’s really not.
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However, when Larry & Co promote it by writing blog posts justifying it, it’s hard to rail against it very much. Go with the flow, I say…
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.42.41 PM
This is much more of a problem to me.
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Legitimate Burners lucky enough to win tickets, get them snatched away by the bureaucracy…and yet, the Concierge Commodification Camps seem to have tickets not only for their guests and entourages, but also for the sherpas, Mistresses of Merriment, and other staff.
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Every year, they make it harder and harder for Veteran Burners to get tickets. “Oh it’s a numbers game. It’s supply and demand. There’s no possible way to fix it”. I call Bravo Sierra. Problems can be solved, if there is a desire to. There’s certainly enough brainpower amongst the million-strong online Burner community.

[Update 5/21/15 7:07pm]
Thanks to FIGJAM for sharing this over at ePlaya. The latest from Answer Girl and the full complement of the 2015 Placement Team. There is no such thing as Commodification Camps – all camps are the same, regardless of how much they charge per hotel room or how many sherpas they employ. It’s just a spectrum, and everyone in the spectrum is welcome. Plug-n-plays are welcome, as long as they have an interactive component on offer to other camps. Like popsicles.

The Placement Team is up and running at full complement and the Burning Man Headquarters team is fully operational.We made some changes to our Theme Camp and Placement policies following events in 2014 involving TurnKey camps, and we wanted to inform you of them so you can plan accordingly.Definitions:TurnKey is a category of camps along a spectrum. At one end of the continuum are camps that depend on supported infrastructure to create on playa projects. At the other end are camps providing vacation type experience packages for campmates with no specific requirement for contribution.In 2014 Burning Man placed 12 TurnKey camps all of whom indicated they would offer an interactive aspect to be enjoyed by the entire Burning Man community.For 2015, all Placed Camps (other than infrastructure support camps) will be held to the same standards in order to receive placement, early arrival passes and access to the Directed Group Sale.

Theme Camp Placement Criteria / Standards:

Other than event infrastructure camps, all camps will be held to the same standards of inclusion and participation regardless of how the camp is structured. All Theme Camps requesting placement will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. Theme Camps should be visually stimulating, have an inviting design and a plan for bike parking and crowd management.

2. Theme Camps must be interactive. They should include activities, events or services within their camps that must be available to the entire Burning Man community.

3. Theme Camps must be neighbourly. This includes keeping sound within set limits, controlling where camp generators vent exhaust, and easily resolving any boundary disputes that may arise.

4. Theme Camps must have a good previous MOOP record (for returning camps).

5. Theme Camps must follow safety protocols designed by the organization (this includes traffic management on the streets, proper handling of fuels, and any other areas defined by the organization’s production team including alternatives to RV lined streets).

Entering BRC with Early Arrival passes:

Only Theme Camps meeting all of the above criteria and receiving Placement, will be given Early Arrival Passes from the Placement team for entry to BRC for pre-event set up

Post-event evaluation, Theme Camp Standing and access to the Directed Group Sale (DGS):

Post event, all placed Theme Camps will be reviewed on the criteria above, as well as:

1. MOOP score. If a camp receives a yellow or red MOOP score, the Placement team expects the camp to be proactive in addressing the issue.

2. Strain on resources. This refers to whether a camp requires extra BRC infrastructure support, which could include undue communication or interactions with Placement, Rangers, DPW or the playa restoration team. This could also include the processing of negative feedback from other departments. If a Theme Camp attracts negative attention by violating principles and cultural norms, this will similarly strain resources.

If a Theme Camp meets all of the criteria they remain in “good standing” and may be eligible to receive access to the DGS. Exemplary camps are the most likely to be invited to the following year’s DGS.

Good standing is of benefit as it will affect future placement.

Camps not in good standing will be contacted and will be expected to make substantial changes to their submitted camp plans to qualify for future placement of the DGS for the following year.

For most of you, this information is familiar and reflects what you are already doing. For some of you, this information means you are going to need to increase your interactivity and upgrade your public facing spaces to reflect the spirit of radical inclusion.

We are here to support all of you create an amazing and interactive city for everyone at Burning Man to enjoy.

For more information about this and other topics you can watch the Theme Camp Forum. We recorded the March 21 event.

Fuze Meeting link: https://www.fuzemeeting.com/replay_meet … e9/7113130


[Update 5/22/15 10:51am PST]

Thanks to Pooh Bear for bringing this to our attention. BMOrg are openly promoting one of the oldest tourist packages, Green Tortoise, which is about $1000 per head. Many major camps charge much less in dues, I am curious to know how this pricing sits with everyone.

The price of the tour is not so important. It’s nonsense to say “this is great at $1000 because they funded some art and gave people rides on their bus to Gerlach, but it sucks at $16,000 because they funded some art and gave people rides on their art car”. BMOrg have decided “it’s a spectrum” which makes all things welcome. If any Burners thought Commodification Camps would be shut down, I hope now you realize that despite whatever words were said, and however many feedback forms were filled out, that isn’t what actually happened.

The Voices of Burning Man has an official response, from “Burning Man” – yes, the symbol now speaks.

http://blog.burningman.com/2015/05/news/kicking-concierge-caboose-in-black-rock-city/

YMMV on how much actual caboose actually got kicked, and with what level of force.

They’ve said they’re trying to stop it. Even though FCS aren’t actually doing business at Burning Man…what’s next, any TaskRabbit services for Burning Man get banned? No more trunk shows?

We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:

  • Notifying participants in our Outside Services (OSS) program not to do business or subcontract with concierge companies like FCS or their clients.
  • Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system.
  • Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
  • Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
  • Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
  • Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.

Can anyone explain to me how BMOrg could possibly think the Ticketing Team might be involved with FCS acquiring event tickets for resale? Isn’t the event sold out, there are no more tickets?

The messages seem mixed to me. Concierge culture is OK (says Larry), and then it’s forbidden (says “Burning Man”). Shouldn’t we be focused on bringing more beautiful art into the world, rather than what things can They stop that They were previously promoting a few months back?

[5/22/15 9:35am PST]

Some hilarious commentary from some of the usual crew of haters on the official BM Facebook page, suggesting that we are lying about this story. Well, just click the links people, you can go to the web site yourself. It is very real, despite whatever “caboose kicking” is being talked about, there they are: still in business. With even burningman.org advertising their offering now. That is, if any Burners have any kind of anti-authoritarian, rebellious spirit in them…

And don’t think FCS are the only ones offering this service – they are just facing the wrath of Burnier-Than-Thous because they were brave enough to “stick their heads above the parapet” as Ross Asselstine describes it. They visibly tried to conform to the rules and promote the Ten Principles, after receiving community feedback last year. Most other concierge services aren’t doing anything remotely like that – that we can see, anyway…instead of “great, thank you, we asked you to make some changes and you did that”, they will face attacks from Burnier-Than-Thous and factions within the Org. All in the name of…what, exactly? Are they going to ban First Camp and Board Members Camps from having concierges? Paid staff? Nope, nothing’s changed, just more hot air, diversions, distractions, smokescreens. All part of the carnival, the hucksters, the chumps and suckers and rubes, making the spectacle for the ringmasters.


[Update 5/27/15 2:26am PST]

FCS has updated us with the statement below (emphasis ours).

Despite BMOrg’s claims, they were well aware of FCS, who have been in contact with them and trying to do the right thing for months now. There are many other concierge, catering, and event planning services operating at Burning Man – and it seems like the ones that DIDN’T try to do the right thing in dialog with BMOrg will still be operating on the Playa. Perhaps under the radar, perhaps with a “wink wink nudge nudge” tolerance, or perhaps with official support and free advertising (like the Green Tortoise tourist packages).

If BMOrg really wanted to put an end to concierges at Burning Man, then they shouldn’t have got their founder and philosophical head to write a lengthy blog post accepting and justifying them.

According to FCS, BMOrg may even be breaking some laws by trying to dictate who licensed OSS vendors can and can’t do business with. Isn’t their Vendor License with the Bureau of Land Management? Or is there a second contract also?

From Festivals Concierge Service:

A few days ago Burning Man posted an article on their blog about our company stating that concierge services did not exist at Burning Man and that they will do everything possible to prevent us from working on this event. Which is a total nonsense and in conflict with Larry Harvey‘s post of last December and even with our long discussions with BMorg.

Who will believe that BMorg just discovered that there are some wealthy Burners and they spend their money on services and organisation during the event?

After our last year mistake thus receiving a lot of community feedback, we agreed not to propose any direct on-site services and to only propose services through official Burning Man Outside Service Program suppliers (who refund 3% of their Burning Man business income to Burning Man organisation), and to respect the use of the Burning Man’s IP. April 20, 2015, a Counsel of BMorg even replied, “In the spirit of Radical Self-Expression, please use your own words to explain the Burning Man event to your clients.” Now BMOrg is stating publicly that we never tried to find a way to work with them, which is for the record totally false.

It seems that the Burning Man organization is influenced by opinions emerging from group of Burners who have an distaste for wealthy individuals and refuse changes to « their » event. Although their actions violate the first of the ten principles they claim to defend: Radical Inclusion. As Larry Harvey, Burning Man co-funder wrote recently “Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them.”

Concierge culture existed at Burning Man early before we started any business there. Larry Harvey even confirmed it himself on his December 3, 2014 post on Voices of Burning Man: “Equality, Inequity, Iniquity : Concierge Culture”. As explain by Marian Goodell (Burning Man CEO) at the Global Leadership Conference, BMorg highly supports this business by its OSS program, and even takes financial advantage of this system. The near to 100 outside services companies who are supporting the Plug and Play camps are a most important part of the new business model of Burning Man, they are not going away, despite most of the Burner’s community dislike of them. The BMOrg personally deals with the outside services companies, towards satisfying the desires of the Concierge Camps, and of the Plug and Play Camps.

After trying to be recognized as a Burning Man Outside Service Program (OSS) official provider, Burning Man organisation finally replied us that they refuse to add concierge services to their program. We have therefore decided to propose a page on our website, clearly explaining that the services we offer for the Burning Man event are only intended to help our clients with preparation and organization, and the we didn’t offer any kind of package of the type BMOrg are trying to describe, or any other kind of unauthorized on-site services.

We are probably the only one type of concierge company who tried to do it in the official way, who tried to conform to the rules, who accepted to participate by paying the OSS contribution, who promoted the ten principles and who do our best to educate our clients to the Burning Man culture. Despite that Burning Man decided to lie and slander us publicly. This attitude is unacceptable.

The plug and play camps are increasingly numerous each year, and they do not relate anymore only to the wealthy Burners. There are some beautiful tunrkey camps starting from $500 for the week, including food, showers and electricity. These camps mostly host a large majority of campers, and RV’s are a minority. Some observers suppose that in a few years the Plug and Play Camps will represent more than 50% of the event, in accordance with the new business model of Burning Man.

Even if it displeases some Burners, the event evolves over time and we clearly are on the way to a Burning Man 2.0 with increasingly Virgins and wealthy Burners: people with annual income up to $150K grew  from 5.8% of the population in 2010 to 10.4% in 2014 and newbies from 21% in 2010 to 39,99% in 2013 (cfr. BRC Census).
http://burningman.org/culture/history/brc-history/afterburn/2014-afterburn-report/brc-2014-census/

This craze causes an obvious shortage of tickets that causes so much hatred from some Burners who have no more access to “their” event.

Also, by saying that they will notifying Outside Services (OSS) applicants and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if they learn that they are doing business or subcontracting with us or our clients, they will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs, BMorg is asking OSS applicants to violate the U.S. Anti-Discrimination Laws and also the first Burning Man principle: Radical Inclusion

About this ticket problem, all our clients are already in possession of their own tickets. FCS does not have the task of verifying networks used by our clients to obtain their tickets. But we still allow doubting the good faith of BMorg when we know that they sells themselves a large amount of tickets to most of the Plug and Play camps.

We will continue to offer our services to help our clients organize and prepare their Burning Man experience. In any case BMorg may not oppose us from doing business outside of the event. We never claim to sell the Burning Man Experience, and even we really do our best to educate our clients to the Burning Man spirit. We also tried to create an art foundation (Art on Playa) to help our clients to sponsor art at Burning Man, but we met so many obstacles when we explained that we request financial transparency on projects that we wanted to support that we finally preferred to suspend this project. It seems that no one wants us to have a look on how they spend OUR money on their project. At least many of our “wealthy clients” continue to financially support art at Burning Man and by their actions, let all the community enjoy their gifts…

2014 Afterburn Report: The Death of Transparency

spend_money_good_time_442305We’ve been duped, Burners. For 4 years now, we’ve been sold on a “pie in the sky” vision. Burning Man would no longer be about exploiting volunteer labor and the financial and artistic contributions of Burners, to create profits for a small group operating in near-secrecy without oversight. Instead, it would now be a charity, with our tax-free deductions supporting an altruistic vision to bring Burning Man’s Principles to the world. The Founders would step down, but leave the infrastructure in place to maintain the integrity of Burner values into the next century.

A noble vision, but here’s what really happened:

  • the Founders set up a private company and transferred the main assets of the business to it; this company earns royalties for the use of the Burning Man name, logo and trademarks
  • the Founders each got a $1 million+ tax break for passing their share of future profits from the LLC over to the new tax-exempt non-profit
  • transparency was removed, except for public IRS Forms which were filed late.
  • people who had given substantial amounts of their lives volunteering for Burning Man, were arbitrarily shunted out the door to make room for new, paid employees.
  • ticket prices went up, revenues doubled
  • it got harder for veteran Burners to attend, while remaining relatively easy for Virgins

bravenewworld_cover_large

Rather than the transparency we’ve been promised for so many years, and a new BMOrg focused on charitable works, we get higher ticket prices, more revenue streams, and more secrecy. I’m not so sure that Burning Man has jumped the corporate shark – it seems more like it’s been eaten by it.

The new Afterburn report is buried deep in the new web site. If you read “Voices of Burning Man”, the section of the new site that seems to actually update, you’d have no clue about it. If you go to burningman.org, there’s nothing on the main page. If you navigate their menu system – The Culture, The Event, The Network, Stuff & Things – you will have to really dig to find anything about it (the correct sequence is Menu, The Culture, Historical Archives, Black Rock City History, Afterburn Reports, 2014 Afterburn Report). Basically, to read the Afterburn, you need to subscribe to the Jackrabbit Speaks or click this link.

This year’s report begins with the type of statement we’re used to seeing from this crew:

Our AfterBurn reports will continue as they have since 2001, except they’ll now be consolidated, and focus exclusively on the production of the event in Black Rock City.

“Continue as they have since 2001″ in OrgSpeak means “be completely different from how they have been since 2001″.

The word “consolidated” in this context means “much smaller”. Significantly, BMOrg are no longer publishing Burning Man’s financial chart. This was always an incomplete document, since for some reason they didn’t share their revenues; we had to make assumptions based on ticket and ice sales. At least it highlighted things like BMOrg spending more on travel and costumes for themselves than they did on donations and art for the community. Read our analysis for 2013 and 2012, as well as the IRS returns for Burning Man Project 2013 and Black Rock Arts Foundation 2013.

BMOrg continue to insist that transparency is still “coming soon”:

Separately, Burning Man will begin producing an annual report, in addition to the yearly IRS Form 990 financial reporting. That report will focus on Burning Man’s nonprofit activities and year-round global programming, as well as updates about Burning Man’s organizational infrastructure and support departments (such as Communications, Technology, Legal, Accounting, Human Resources, etc.).

Given that we just got the 2013 information in February 2015, it seems unlikely that we will be able to have any meaningful discussion about Burning Man 2014 for a year and a half after the event. What’s the point of that? It seems like it would be fairly straightforward to ask the various department heads to write a brief report on the event by December 1, then post these to burningman.org. What do we gain by waiting a year and a half? This is all for charity, right – so why not have openness, sharing, participation, communal effort, civic responsibility, radical self expression, radical inclusion? Why run it like a typical profit-driven corporation, where any disclosure of information must be signed off by the Board and PR team? The event is sold out, so it’s not like their revenues are at risk. At this point, the global culture will grow from participation and authenticity, not exclusion, hypocrisy and secrecy.

BMOrg have just had professional auditors going through the books for 2013 and 2014: will these accounts be published? It seems very, very unlikely.

It is now well more than a year since Larry Harvey said

larry worldIt has been asked if we intend to reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC. The answer is yes; that too will happen at about the same time as the Burning Man Project reveals its information—these two entities will then become a clean well-lighted suite of rooms thrown open for inspection.

So will there be an event in the future when “the Burning Man Project reveals its information”? Or did he just mean the IRS Form 990 filings? I’m not holding my breath. Right now, it seems that there is no intention to EVER reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC.

In January, Communications Director Megan Miller told the Reno Gazette-Journal:

megan miller“It is definitely incomplete information,” said Megan Miller, communications director for Burning Man Project.

While all of the information required from the Internal Revenue Service is in the documents, Miller said, Burning Man cannot yet disclose revenue information from this past year’s festival, nor the one prior since the organization currently is undergoing an outside audit for 2013 and 2014.

All of this missing information that Burners have been seeking should be available before this year’s end, Miller said

The audit has been signed off, so what are they waiting for? Still counting the money? Or perhaps, so busy counting the $30.5 million from 2015’s ticket sales that what happened in the past doesn’t occupy much attention any more.

The increase in ticket prices and population cap over the last few years has led to a massive windfall for BMOrg, but only a slight increase in the number of art projects sponsored by Burning Man. Artists still have to raise funds themselves, half to two-thirds of project cost.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 09.34.23

For 2014, $800,000 was spent on art, across 61 projects – an average of $13,115 per project. There were another 200 art installations placed on the Playa without any financial support from BMOrg.

And what of the giving back to the community? It’s now more than halfway through the 2014-2015 Burn year, and more than a year since BMOrg “fully completed their transition to a non-profit”. So we should be able to point to lots of great outreach activity, right? Maybe I just can’t find that section of their website. There’ve been a few TED talks and panel discussions.

They’ve gone from “the only things we sell are ice and coffee, and all proceeds from that go to local charities” to “the Arctica volunteers donate their tips to charity” – which was about $13,000 last year.

Perhaps when we finally get to see the 2014 financial information for the Burning Man Project, it will describe some wonderful things that the self-appointed custodians of Burner culture have done to promote it, and we can all feel like we’re saving the world together. Maybe we’ll see a new, fair contract for the artists, when the art grant recipients for 2015 are publicly announced.

Remember 6 months ago, when the community was outraged about the Burning Man Project Director running an expensive Commodification camp with dozens of paid employees? The Minister of Propaganda told us:

(shhhh, just between you and us …) we’re working on a really really BIG project that will serve to tell the Burning Man story as it is today and into the future, and it’s gonna be RAD. You’ll know it when you see it.

Could we get the rad thing now, please? Pretty please?

tanabaumBuried within the latest Jackrabbit was the news that Jim Tananbaum has stepped down from the board of the Burning Man Project. This could’ve been a positive, if it had happened in response to the crisis, showing that BMOrg listened to the community.  Instead they published his statement blaming all his paid employees for his camp’s problems, and lecturing us on what a great example of the Ten Principles it all was. The resignation now comes as too little, too late to have any meaning. We’ve seen what BMOrg’s real response to the AirBnB-ing of Burning Man has been: “camps that get placement have to have an interactive element”. Or, in OrgSpeak: “all systems go, plug-n-players! Charge as much as you like, employ as many sherpas as you like, just buy the $800 VIP tickets. Get your Citibank Gold festival packages now!”

 

Screenshot 2015-03-17 17.35.35

Strange Festival

The latest installment in the commodification and appropriation of our culture: Acura’s commercial for their 2016 MDX.

This one is longer but without sound:

Diddy did it first:

In 2006 Lexus created controversy with an ad campaign featuring the Belgian Waffle from Burning Man.

lexus waffle

And who could forget these giant advertisements at Burning Man:

bummer hummer 2008

big-vw-bus-burning-man

tesla prototype 2007

Image: Duncan Rawlinson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Duncan Rawlinson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: jojomelons/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: jojomelons/Flickr (Creative Commons)

iphone 2013

Image: Curtis Simmons/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Curtis Simmons/Flickr (Creative Commons)

google doodleBack in the day, at least they took a stab at irony:

 

mcsatans

Image: Hiker Carl

Image: Hiker Carl

 

“Emotional Rollercoaster from Hell”

BMOrg’s latest post on ticketing does nothing to quell doubts about the motivations behind Ticket Hell. Taking us on an emotional roller coaster from hell, and generating and focusing a massive amount of psychic energy around a totem, are clearly uppermost in the minds of the rulers of Burning Man:

it takes time to process all those transactions. Maddening time. Anxiety-inducing time. Time people spent on an emotional rollercoaster from hell, as they waited helplessly to see whether or not the winds of fate would blow a golden ticket into their hands. And during this time, probably more intensive psychic energy was heaped onto one single thing than anything else in Burning Man’s 29-year history: The Little Green Man.

The Little Green Man
Green Man walkin’.

The Little Green Man (yes, we’re capitalizing it, shut up) was the little dude standing, strolling or running along the progress indicator bar, marking one’s advancement through the ticket queue. As ticket-seekers urged him on with a fervor worthy of a filly at the Derby, he ascended to the level of a little green mythical being of possibility that would make the average totem, rune, relic or fetish (wait for it…) green with envy.

So wait a minute – one of the world’s largest occult rituals, with a city of 70,000 people anchored around the symbol of The Man, sitting awestruck as the effigy burns – and even that doesn’t generate as much “intensive psychic energy heaped onto one single thing” as this ticketing process?

Most people wouldn’t consider the idea of making someone “green with envy” over a magical symbol like a totem, rune, or relic, as a thing to brag about. We are investing all our psychic energy into the alien-looking avatar of BMOrg’s creation, and being taken on an emotional roller coaster ride from Hell that puts us in a helpless position. This has been deliberately engineered, and now BMOrg are crowing about how well it all worked.

At one point there were Pac Man ghosts chasing the man:

The ghosts are yet another occult symbol. They emphasize the cycle of Death and Rebirth being celebrated in this annual sacrificial ritual.

Image: Emilie Ogez/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Emilie Ogez/Flickr (Creative Commons)

[Update 2/23/14/ 11:53am] – Reader JV informs us that the Pac Man screenshot above was Photoshopped, and posted on Burning Man’s official web site in the discussion forums as a joke.

 

In another post de-briefing us on the situation, BMOrg said:

Did the servers crash?
No, they never did and the ticket buying process was never stopped — the queue was intentionally paused (briefly) to allow the servers to catch up to the demand — and nobody lost their place in line as a result.

This conflicts with reports from at least 5 different Burners who got a message that Ticketfly went down. Here’s a screenshot from one of them:

esteban hernandez screenshot

If Ticketfly had crashed, and the system had to be brought up again, that would have explained why some who were in the queue at 12:00:07 or less didn’t get tickets, while others who entered around 12:10:00 did. The queue was re-started on a new server, and all the people in the original queue were left hanging. If the system worked as planned, then how did people who logged in later skip the queue?

Whether the system crashed or not, it is becoming extremely clear that this did NOT operate on a FIFO (First In, First Out) basis. People who logged in at seconds past noon didn’t get tickets, while people who logged in 15 minutes or more after did.

Why did some Burners get offered a $20 donation to make, and some a $40? Something is obviously segmenting Burners into groups, before they get to buy. Is this segmentation based on Burner profiles? If not, then how do they decide who gets shown a $20 donation and who gets the $40? Random? Or once the tickets are sold, the donation cost rises?

It should be: every Burner is equal, first come-first serve, process the transactions simultaneously. This is a computer system, after all. It’s not like we are all actually standing in a line at a ticket booth, waiting for someone to type in our details and get back to us. I can see no technical reason why 21,500 transactions couldn’t be processed in less than 10 minutes.

What about the massive waste of time from when they sold the last ticket, to when they let Burners know there was no point waiting in the queue any more?

Why were people held in line for so long only to find out tickets had sold out?
The system lets people into the purchasing stage, and then people purchase their tickets. Until they’ve all successfully purchased their tickets, it’s not sold out. If for some reason somebody doesn’t complete their transaction (bad credit card, they bail out, etc.), then their spot is given to the next person in line. So we don’t remove people from the line until all the tickets have been successfully purchased, because technically you still have a chance to get one.

While this statement may be accurate on the face of it, it’s not the whole truth. If you are #50,000 in the line when the last ticket is sold, there is no chance for you to get a ticket, technically or otherwise. The statement does not adequately explain how 60,000 58,500 people were kept waiting in line for 15+ minutes after the last ticket had been sold.  It takes no-one 15 minutes to complete the transaction with Ticketfly, not everyone.

Putting the pieces together, it seems like what happened was the queue didn’t shut down because there was still soe inventory available. The inventory was the Donations, which were unlimited.

Were people given any advantage if they made a donation?
No, not at all. It was first-come, first-served for everybody.

Another statement that is clearly not true, according to hundreds of Burner reports online. Some people were logging in to buy multiple tickets for their friends, because they could get straight through while their friends were still waiting. If it was “first-come, first-served for everybody”, this would have been impossible.

we do actively weed out known resellers as part of the registration process (that’s one of the reasons we have you register for the sale).

An admission here that Burner profiles are screened, and “undesirables” on their list are “weeded out”. Do they ever receive a message, being told “your Burner profile has not been accepted because we know you’re a reseller”? Or are they just sitting there in the queue, waiting like everyone else, but with no chance to get through because their code won’t be accepted?

as long as people are willing to buy tickets at exorbitant prices (we wish they wouldn’t, but some apparently do), there will be a market for predatory resellers. It’s antithetical to our community’s ethos, but it’s also the reality of supply and demand (and technically legal).

“We wish they wouldn’t”…and yet they hiked the price of VIP tickets to $800 this year. I guess $800 is no longer considered “exorbitant”, so long as you give the money to BMOrg instead of a fellow Burner.

The lack of vehicle passes is looking to be a huge problem, they have leaped to $325 now on Stubhub. Some Burners are prepared to go to extreme lengths to get the little slip of paper:

SusanI live in Noe Valley, and was very lucky to get 2 tix, but no vehicle pass. If anyone reading this lives in SF, I’m prepared to offer oral services for 2 hours, in-house. Our camp would like more than one pass, so if you have extra my housemates can also service you orally. No vaginal penetration, unless you have 3 passes. In that case you only get one girl. Email me at
2014 tantric blowjob workshop

We have no information that this is Susan, or that this camp is offering vehicle pass trades. It’s Burning Man, these things do happen…

Some Burners are reporting that Verizon customers got through much faster:

Craig: I would like the very high tech answer to why my friends using their -VERIZON- brand wireless 4GLTE phones had purchased 4 tickets within 2 minutes, (if not seconds) while 5 others of us located in different cities in throughout Oregon, had 1 hour wait times and “NONE” (no not a single one) of us made it through. 5 different computers, people, ISPs, login codes and cities. NOT one success, Yet Those who paid the big bucks for that nationwide 4G LTE got through in seconds. Now I am not insinuating any large corporate dollar exchange for server priority amongst the big boys because that “NEVER” happens. But I would like an explanation.

Verizon Customer Service: I was a Verizon Customer Service Representative for 9 years until I moved into management. Verizon has a camp at BM, but I can’t tell you the name. We’ve been working closely with BMorg to bring cell service and other benefits to the playa. I can’t tell you officially that Verizon customers get preferential treatment in the sale of BM tickets, but if I were you, I would change service providers next year to increase your chances.

 

There has been a great deal of discussion online about this ticket situation. Here are a few selected highlights from Voices of Burning Man:

sid swerman: There are too many inconsistencies that BMORG did not address in their initial attempt to explain all this that appear in the Blog. Some feel they have done a great job explaining. I do not.

IE How can there be a thousand scalped tickets? Do 100 people work for stub hub who have the back door secret? Who, besides the 1%, can afford to pay $1000 for a ticket, many many tickets? Something just seems out of line here. I feel your pain.

Sourdough: Two of us were sitting side by side at my home in Anchorage, AK. Two computers wired to same broadband router. Both watching computer clocks turn over on the hour. Both clicked our email link within the first second. We both went through the same experience of getting the fluctuating wait times to next step calculations, but her wait time projection was usually a few minutes less than mine. In the end, she had the opportunity to purchase at about 50 minutes, and bought two tickets, vehicle passes sold out. At about 1 hour 5 minutes my turn came up, but all sold out. I had hoped there would be a vehicle pass available. But we have located one from another source. This will be our 2nd year attending. Last year we bought in the STEP.

 

Mimi: Bret Ebey posted to the Burning Man facebook group that he got tickets after clicking in at 12 minutes after, along with screenshot of his confirmation. Doesn’t sound like everything went exactly the way it was supposed to to me. Here’s his post:

Hmmm, okay, I guess that was my surprise of the day. I wasn’t going to play the game this year, but decided ‘oh what the hell’. So at 12 minutes after, I got in thinking I had zero chance since I know everyone else starts within seconds after the hour. Guess what? Tickets baby!

  • Mimi Kevin McAllister reported on a thread on the burning man facebook group page asking people what time they clicked in and whether they got tickets that he clicked in at 12:47 and got 2 tickets and a vehicle pass after waiting 12 minutes! I guess I clicked in 47 minutes too early. 
Daniel: I’m confused, I never saw a wait time… at all. I got a message saying that “Ticketfly is temporarily down.” I waited about 10 minutes, re-clicked the link in my email, and was able to purchase tickets. No wait time at all….. will my order be voided because i “bypassed the line”? 
 

TEX : That’s exactly how BMorg has designed it. Make it a headache for anyone to attend the event on a regular basis unless they volunteer for the free labor force. “Be a slave like me, or you’re whining.” Typical ego response from volunteers. My other favorite is how volunteers see all non-volunteers and ‘civilians’. I don’t volunteer to support the infrastructure because the infrastructure crews are all like you. And please don’t tell me within the first 10 seconds of meeting you that you volunteer at the DMV. It’s like how New Yorkers always start off a conversation about how they’re from New York.

 
Bruce: So BM people, I can absolutely tell you that your queue system is broken. I have 2 friends in the UK and Australia that were able to go through the entire process successfully 3 times each. They only waited about 15 minutes the first time but after that getting through the queue was instant. No idea how or why but there are the facts. Believe me they aren’t technical people so no ‘backdoor’ was being created.

We didn’t break any rules as the codes they used were from other friends and they purchased all of our tickets as they were getting through so quickly.

kk: I was completely and totally screwed by a glitch in the system this year which has not been addressed here. Wondering if anyone else had a similar experience. I clicked the unique link from my email right at noon and was initially told I had a 5 minute wait. Then pause, then back to a 19 minute wait. By 12:22 my wait had gone down to 0 minutes and I was informed “You’re In! Please wait while we redirect you…” except I was not redirected to the ticketing page. The window notified me “Old number in line” and explained “this number has already been used, please click below to get back in line” at which point I was completely screwed. I had only one browser window open, I did not share my link or unique code with anyone else and I numerous attempts to explain my situation to ticketing has been futile. I figured with the unique QueueID this year that there might be a way to look up what happened, but it seems all the ticketing admins are able to do for me is tell me better luck next time and link me to this blog post. Did anyone else have a similar problem? I can’t be the only one. I think this is something that needs to be addressed.
jj : What does the ‘technical backdoor’ mean?

I was lucky (so much so that I had to check my confirmation email multiple times to make sure that it was actually real) enough to get ticket within minutes and was never put in the dreaded queue. At about 11:59 (2:59 my time) I clicked the link in the email and was told I was to early. I kept closing the page and re-clicking the link until the page changed. My memory gets little fuzzy here – to much adrenaline – but I don’t even remember seeing a green button. The page first said something about the site being down. So I refreshed. Then it said all tickets were already in carts! BUT HOW COULD THAT BE!?! Only a minute had gone by. I just kept refreshing the page until the ticket buying option came up – bingo, got one in about four minutes.

This is the same thing I did last year. Refreshing constantly. Didn’t get put in queue either. Got my ticket in two minutes.

Unfortunately out of our planned camp of six, only myself and my friend got tickets. The others will join the thousands of others in the hunt for one.

To all of those looking – best of luck and stay positive.

HoldZ: IMO The Glastonbury ticket system is best in class. It totally eradicates touting (scalping). Your ticket has your name & photo & the only way you can resell it is through their own version STEP & it goes to the next person in line , not a person of your choice. Not only is this much fairer it also stops people buying more tickets than they actually need at its totally pointless!!

Also, all international tickets are sent out via post which is way better as there’s no need to spend hours queueing for Will Call!!
I’ve no idea why BMorg don’t implement a similar system, why keep trying to reinvent the wheel??

Zorg: Nice try at an explanation. But this cannot possibly be the full story. By your own numbers, 21,500 purchases were completed in just over an hour. I was lucky enough to get to the final purchase page, but when I asked for two tickets, it said there weren’t enough left. So I reduced my request to 1 and got 1 ticket. My confirmation from ticketfly was emailed at 12:57. This means EITHER I was the person who got the very last ticket (!!) OR allocations were reduced to one per person when ticket supplies started running low.

This further implies that the end of all the successful 21,500 sales probably occurred around 64.5 minutes after noon, i.e. the AVERAGE rate of processing of successful transactions was about 1,000 every three minutes, or FIVE PER SECOND.

This further implies that TRANSACTIONS WERE PROCESSED IN PARALLEL. i.e. there were MULTIPLE SERVERS (or AT LEAST multiple threads within a single server) processing the eventually successful transactions at any given time. We can estimate that the fastest an average individual could possibly complete the final purchase with confirmations of credit card, mailing address, etc would be 10 seconds, and a more likely upper average transaction time for an individual final purchase completion would be about 60 seconds. Since the eventual average processing rate was 5 purchases per second, this means that there must have been somewhere between 50 and 300 processes (threads within servers) handling eventually successful transactions ON AVERAGE throughout the sale.

But given the EXTREME variations in expected wait times that I saw during my 57-minute wait to get to the final purchase page, IT CANNOT POSSIBLY BE TRUE that there was no variation in server resources (e.g. due to server or thread crashes/hangs) during the first hour of the sale process, EVEN WHEN YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE “PAUSE” of the line (unless you assume that the algorithm to calculate the remaining wait time was complete bullshit :-)

Because IF the allocation of server resources had remained constant (apart from the pause), and the average time taken by an individual to buy ticket(s) when they got to the final page remained constant, AND the remaining wait time algorithm WASN’T complete BS, then we should have seen expected remaining times decreasing monotonically throughout each successful purchasor’s sale process.

Because IF the position in the queue was determined by the server arrival times of the clicks on each user’s green button (in my case at about two SECONDS past noon), then effectively every eventually successful person’s position in the queue was determined WITHIN THE FIRST FEW SECONDS AFTER NOON of the sale, since on the basis of my experience clicking two seconds after noon (I synced my computer’s clock with the nist.gov atomic clock and had a display of that running during my purchase) and being probably one of the last people to get a ticket, there must have been over 20,000 green button clicks received at the servers within the first few seconds….

The thing that gets me (and probably most other people) emotionally wound up, is when we see (as I did), for over half an hour, that each minute my expected wait time is going down by a minute (so we believe all is going along nicely and we just have to wait) and then suddenly it goes up (as it did in my case) from 9 minutes to OVER AN HOUR, when we are MORE THAN HALF AN HOUR into the wait process. Changes like that CANNOT POSSIBLY be due to changes in the AVERAGE time taken by an individual user behavior in completing their purchase once they are on the final page, which probability theory tells us is EXTREMELY unlikely to change by a factor of two over many thousands of presumably similar buyers. It MUST be due to changes in the allocation of resources on the sever side (e.g. crashes).

So if the sale had proceeded per the theoretical “stable” model, by 30 minutes into it there should have been approximately 10,000 eventually successful purchases left to process. But my remaining wait time after waiting more than 30 minutes was shown to be 9 minutes (which would imply an estimated average sale completion of more than 1,000 per minute i.e. three times the final “official” average). But then it went up to “over an hour”, a change by more than a factor of six, which cannot be reasonably accounted for by changes in average user purchase time behavior.

On a technical note, there is really no need for the process to be as incomprehensible as it currently is. Since there is a pre-reg, it is trivial to load-balance ahead of time. In principle, if we expect 80,000 attempts to purchase, we can pre-allocate users to 80 servers, each of which only needs to process 1,000 requests (or equivalent architectures with multiple threads per server). The ONLY technical challenge is in fairly synchronizing across server queues, but if the clocks of the servers are synchronized, and arrival times of each user “green button click” are noted at each server down to the millisecond, then there is NO REASON WHATSOEVER not to make it totally transparent to everyone within the first few minutes of the sale EXACTLY what position they are at in the queue, EXACTLY what the average purchase processing time has been so far, and to show a REALISTIC view of how likely it is for their purchase to be successful given the current average number of tickets sold per customer, plus a REALISTIC and relatively predictably changing estimate of how long it will take to either get to the purchase page or find out that they have not been successful….

I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy, so I celebrate the fact that I was able to buy one ticket, but I still do think it was weird that I wasn’t able to buy two, and I strongly believe that the whole process could be dramatically improved…

Edgar Blazona: Great job burning man for trying to get in front of this one. Your best yet. However I agree with Greg. We have given years of our lives (15) to you. All of our extra cash and art projects throughout the years which return with the worst loyality program of any company ever. You have nothing for us loyal customers. Can you imagine paying top dollar to a company year after year, promoting them as the best thing ever to all your friends and then not be given any preferential ( I know that word will spark all kinds of haters but that’s only word that comes to mind) treatment. ALL companies take care of their best and loyal customers. I run a company (you have even purchased from me) and if this is how I treated you or my customers you would never come back. Is that what your telling us in a weird way? We want *new* customers? Or we don’t need to take care of our loyal customers because we have a line out the door after you?

People- My comments have nothing to do radical inclusion. This ticket thing year after year has nothing to do with radical inclusion. This is business making business decisions which for the life of me I don’t agree with.

Chip- Please help the rest of the org understand this, to give back to the loyal customers just like you did so perfectly at JDV.

Disappointed? Yes. But more just tired of this ticket game year after year.