Art World Rocked By Burning Man’s Latest Move

The Black Rock Arts Foundation is on the way out. The BuMPy Burning Man Project will be taking it over. When? It’s already happened, but details are “coming soon”…of course.

Let us translate the doublespeak, exaggeration and misdirection for you. From the official blog:

What if I want to make a donation to Burning Man Arts moving forward?

At this time you can still donate through the BRAF website, here: In the very near future there will be a new way to donate to art programs through the Burning Man Project. While details are yet to be determined, donors will have the option of directing support specifically to arts.

“Very near future” probably means “after we get back from Caravansary”, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be “sometime in 2015″. They’ve been working on this non-profit thing since 2010. They announced it was completed in January of this year, which has turned out not to be true. This latest announcement is just another example of how much non-profit transition still lies ahead of us. How hard can it really be? How many more details are there to determine?

Burning Man today announced a reorganization of its arts programs to place more art in communities around the world, make more art available for the annual event in the Black Rock Desert, and create more opportunities for artists and donors.

More art, more opportunities, in more communities around the world. Sounds good. Will this actually happen though? I mean, I’m sure there will be more opportunities for donors. No doubt about that. BMOrg’s line of scarves and calendars and above-face-value-tickets will expand to other merch items, and every issue of JackedRabbit will be jam-packed with pleas for us to give them more money. “For the good of the artists”, we’ll be told, “to help the community”. Is there actually some sort of  plan with quantifiable goals behind these lofty statements? Like, “100 art works in 3 years”? Or is it just “eventually, we’ll do more?” Perhaps the thinking is along the lines of “when we increase ticket prices to $650 next year, we will also increase funding for art grants from $800,000 to $1 million”.

Black Rock Arts Foundation, which is now a subsidiary of the non-profit Burning Man Project, is joining forces with Black Rock City’s art department to create one program called Burning Man Arts. The mission of Burning Man Arts is to change the paradigm of art from a commodified object to an interactive, participatory, shared experience of creative expression.

“This change breaks down the barriers. Art for the playa and art for the world will be one and the same,” said Burning Man’s founder Larry Harvey. “It makes it easier for artists to apply for grants and support, and it enables donors to contribute to the entire spectrum of expressive culture that is pouring out of Burning Man.”

Err…and how exactly will it do that? They don’t know, the details are “yet to be determined”. Let’s just go ahead and execute a merger of two corporations, don’t worry about how it will work, that’s just details, details don’t matter, we can figure all that out later…we’ll drop some acid on an art car in Deep Playa and the answer will come to us.

There is plenty of “art for the world”, and the Burning Man Project’s merger takeover announcement is not suddenly going to make the Art World and the Playa the same. No-one is talking about what a problem the commodification of art is except Decommodification, LLC. Andy Warhol painted 32 different flavors of Campbell’s Soup cans in the 60’s, and that work is considered iconic. The art world is doing just fine without Burning Man. According to Bloomberg:

Global art sales approached their pre-crisis high last year, led by record prices for postwar artists and a jump in U.S. auctions. Sales of art and antiques increased 8 percent to $65.9 billion…Boosted by a 25 percent increase in sales, the U.S. confirmed its position as the international art market leader, representing 38 percent of the market by volume, a 5 percentage point increase from 2012, according to the report.

“Most high priced works in postwar and contemporary art are being sold in New York, both at auctions and in dealer sales,” Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist who compiled the report, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not just the U.S. buyers. People from Latin America and Asia are buying in New York.”

Is this just another big pie for Burning Man to stick their fingers into, in the name of “non-profit” – like oil? Will we see art galleries on the Playa soon, like at most other festivals?

So far in 2014, the Black Rock City art program has provided more than $1 million in grants and support to artists preparing works for the annual event in the Black Rock Desert during the last week of August.

Since its creation in 2001, Black Rock Arts Foundation has funded 149 projects worldwide, providing more than $2,500,000 in grants and support to artists. BRAF has awarded more than $430,000 through its Grants to Artists program and installed or otherwise supported 38 projects (with direct grants of $770,000) through its Civic Arts program. BRAF has also produced 82 memorable events and provided collaborative public art consulting services.

The word “partially” is missing from in front of “funded”. The artists still have to raise money themselves, grants above $20,000 are rare.

The word “support” is in there several times, and it’s crucial. This year’s Art Honoraria grants were $800,000, 2.6% of revenue – $10 from every ticket. So how do they get from that to “more than a million”? If a Burning Man staffer goes to project meetings, this appears to count as “in kind” contributions. So $1.2 million of cash sponsorship gets inflated to $2.5m in “grants and support to artists”. Most of the artists I’ve spoken to don’t really feel supported by the Burning Man Project, or feel any need to employ them as consultants. Many feel like they have to battle against BMOrg and their selectively enforced rules to make their projects happen. If they use the words “Burning Man” or photos of their artwork on the Playa in fundraising to get their art to the event, the kind of support they will get is more likely to be from the legal people sending them threatening letters, or demanding they take our insurance policies.

Perhaps this is all going to change in the new system, and Burning Man will raise money on behalf of artists and pass those funds through to the artists without taking a cut. Maybe Burning Man will take out a blanket liability policy for art at its event, and pay the artists’ share out of ticket revenues.

pigs fly

Unfortunately, their track record suggests otherwise. Burning Man Arts tells us one story on their web site, but the IRS filings of their non-profits from Guidestar paint a very different picture.

Black Rock Arts Foundation Assets Revenue Expenses Profit Grants Efficiency
2012 $560,917 $621,359 $477,525 $143,834 $114,449 18.4%
2011 $588,129 $735,147 $577,706 $157,441 $219,080 29.8%
2010 $392,205 $478,567 $461,961 $16,606 $169,274 35.4%
2009 $364,588 $405,762 $278,003 $127,759 $80,349 19.8%
2008 $237,910 $439,353 $498,831 -$59,478 $105,906 24.1%
2007 $268,433 $532,346 $352,662 $179,684 $116,790 21.9%
Total $560,917 $3,212,534 $2,646,688 $565,846 $805,848 25.1%
Burning Man Project
2012 $368,249 $591,672 $259,925 $331,747 $36,378 6.1%

woman-stacking-money-in-pyramid_webFor an organization whose very foundation principle is Gifting, they don’t appear to be very good at The Art of Giving. They seem quite good at stacking up the cash in their bank account rather than spending it on grants, though.

Believe who you want, Burners. Believe BMOrg, telling you that everything’s wonderful, and that centralizing art grants within the Burning Man Project is going to be good for artists and donors. Or believe us, showing you what 6 years of IRS Form 990 filings say. According to the IRS, BRAF spent $805,848 on grants between 2007-2012 – not $2.5 million.

For donors, this development means that financial gifts to art projects for the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert can be tax deductible and opens up a wide range of new opportunities for supporters of the arts

Donations to the Black Rock Arts Foundation were already tax deductible. That’s why we can see the IRS data. So, what gives for the givers? “A wide range of new opportunities”…such as? “Coming soon”.

it’s not technically a merger. Legally speaking, Black Rock Arts Foundation is becoming a subsidiary of Burning Man Project. Operationally, the two organizations are bringing their resources together to create one robust art program that will work on projects both on and off the playa

It’s not technically a merger, it’s technically a takeover. The new program will be run by BMP, who will bank all the money. BRAF board members who recently left are not being replaced.

I wonder if the real reason behind this is that BMP needs to do something “charity like” to maintain their tax-free status. Maybe the bean counters cautioned that sending founders to San Mateo for panel discussions where they took credit for charities they didn’t provide grants to wasn’t quite enough?

BMOrg provided us with a handy FAQ for their announcement. It uses a lot of words to explain that there are no new initiatives, programs, tools, or sources of funding and support for artists, and there are no new opportunities for donors to give. In fact, pretty much nothing’s changed. However, “ideas are being explored for the future”. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into how this merger could help artists and donors.

What are the benefits of doing this?

This change will benefit artists and donors, and will ultimately lead to more art being created and enjoyed by more people around the globe. It breaks down the barrier between art on playa and art in the world, and instead creates one entity that will work in the interest of both. Artists will have more opportunities to receive funding and other forms of support, and donors will have a new range of options for supporting the arts.

What is the timeline for this to take place?

The legal transaction was completed on July 24, 2014. The transition and restructuring of the entities will occur over the coming months and into 2015.

What happens to the BRAF Board?

Many of the BRAF Board members have stepped down and we thank them for their dedication and service building a vibrant, successful arts organization over the past 13 years. A scaled down version of the BRAF Board will continue to exist. We are working with members of the board to engage them in new ways with Burning Man Project and Burning Man Arts.

How will decisions on grants be made?

Burning Man and BRAF grant programs will continue to award grants based on the same criteria as before. While we will create some additional efficiency by merging these programs and sharing tools and other resources, we don’t anticipate making immediate changes to our grant criteria or decision-making bodies.

How are current BRAF programs being affected?

We don’t expect the transition to have any major immediate effect on existing projects, grants or grant applications. They will be completed within the framework of BRAF in collaboration with Burning Man Project.

What new programs are being planned for?

None at this time, but there are some ideas being explored for the future.

Intel Inside SiMan

Just came across this story. It’s from September 2011, so after Burning Man announced their non-profit vision, but just before I started this blog. Exhibitor Online has a piece on how Burning Man was the inspiration for an Intel corporate stand with product demos, a merger between the two cultures. The result was a huge hit, bringing nearly 40,000 new Twitter followers. They smashed their goal of glow stick wielding attendees at “The Big Reveal”, the high point of “the world’s biggest geekfest“.

SiManCompleteThey spent $50k to create SiMan (uhhhh…how is that pronounced, again?). First, from Intel’s SiMan Release:

No one would ever confuse the Intel Developer Forum with Burning Man, but the upcoming tech industry event in San Francisco will boast at least a hint of the annual counter-cultural festival in the Nevada desert.

 The completed SiMan towered over attendees at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

 He’s called SiMan, short for Silicon Man, and on the second day of Intel’s big geekfest, he will stand an imposing 18 feet high inside Moscone Center West. While that height pales in comparison to the 50-foot-tall effigy that burned to the ground earlier this month to the delight of some 50,000 desert-dwelling self-stylists, some wearing nothing but a free spirit, SiMan promises to be a behemoth impressive in his own right.

Besides being regaled by a fully clothed crowd and remaining indoors, SiMan isn’t destined for a fiery end. Rather, he will be gloriously illuminated with 1,500 LED bulbs strung together with 180 feet of wiring. And his masters plan to let him live on to serve as a beacon for an embedded future.

The SiMan Masters are un-named. Was this entire affair in fact a symbolic beacon for the future of our culture, in its new *cough* “non-profit” *cough* structure?

Keep a lookout for SiMan on the Playa.

Re-blogged from Emphasis and comments ours; interpretation of the Tin Principles, theirs.

Exhibitor: Intel Corp.’s Intelligent Systems Group
Creative/Production: Live Marketing Inc.,
Chicago, 312-787-4800,
Production: Taylor Inc., Brampton, ON, Canada, 800-605-6519,
Show: Intel Developer Forum, 2011
Budget: $50,000
 Attract 500 attendees to the booth and lure 380 attendees back for the reveal event.
 Generate thousands of impressions via social media.
 Drew more than 700 attendees to the ISG booth and attracted 400 guests to the reveal event on day two.
 Scored 43,000 Twitter impressions, 9,000 Facebook impressions, and 1,000 YouTube video views.

he merger of Burning Man and corporate America is about as likely as Lady Gaga and Warren Buffet hooking up. For while corporate America is driven by a relentless pursuit of the almighty dollar, Burning Man is based on the idea of creating a radical, spontaneous community absolutely void of commercialism.

Drawing upwards of 45,000 people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the art-festival-slash-self-expression event culminates in the burning of a human effigy that towers 80 feet above the masses. The weeklong affair challenges visitors (aka burners) to contribute to the pop-up populous, be it by building the human form, sharing their creativity, and/or ensuring that the experience leaves nary a trace upon the desert after its completion. What’s more, Burning Man is based on 10 guiding principles, including complete inclusion (as there are no prerequisites for “community” membership), participation (attendees must be participants, not spectators), and “decommodification” (commercial sponsorships, transactions, and advertising are strictly prohibited). So as you can see, in the eyes of dollar-driven corporate America, Burning Man is pretty much the antichrist.

Nevertheless, Intel Corp.’s Intelligent Systems Group (ISG) made a deal with the devil at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF). Held Sept. 13 – 15, 2011, at San Francisco’s Moscone Center [note - next to BMHQ at the time - Ed.], IDF is an annual trade show and educational conference that hosts roughly 5,000 developers and programmers, i.e., the people that dream up the whiz-bang software, hardware, and applications that run on Intel architecture. Here, the ISG hoped its booth would fulfill traditional corporate goals, such as generating awareness and fostering Intel’s position as a technology and thought leader. But according to Len Klebba, who oversees event marketing for the ISG, it also wanted to nurture creativity and cultivate a sense of community between the ISG and attendees. [with glowsticks! - Ed.] And given these atypical aspirations, Burning Man and the ISG were a match made in exhibit-marketing heaven.

Before the Betrothal 

To further comprehend why the ISG’s mismatched marriage made sense, it’s important to understand a little bit more about the ISG and IDF. Simply put, the ISG sells microprocessor technology that’s embedded within devices or components to enable smart connectivity [blah blah] … “The ISG came to us and said, ‘Give us your craziest out-of-the-box ideas that will make us the talk of the show,'” Trompeter says. “We tossed out a few concepts, but before long, Burning Man trotted to the forefront.”

So how does a seemingly impossible union between Burning Man and corporate America avoid a Romeo and Juliet-style demise? “If you think about it, Burning Man is actually a perfect analogy for the ISG,” says Kristin Veach, Live Marketing’s senior vice president of marketing and business development. “Our idea was to allow attendees to embellish and assemble a Burning Man-style human form during the show and to pair this activity with product demos, giveaways, and a show-stopping reveal.

ibuiltsimanThe Burning Man concept, then, would expose attendees to Intel products, and foster creativity and a sense of community as people added their artistry to the project. And like the real Burning Man festival, the show-floor activity would culminate in a buzz-worthy event – but instead of burning the effigy, the ISG would reveal what had by then become an 18-foot-tall behemoth to the crowd. The theatrical reveal would hoist the humanoid form to a “standing” position to tower over the show floor like a pissed off Optimus Prime.

Needless to say, the ISG fell in love with the Burning Man idea, so Live Marketing forged ahead. Its first chore: Renaming the Burning Man concept. After all, this wasn’t a Burning Man event; it was an ISG event. After running into myriad copyright and corporate-communications issues, the Live Marketing and ISG team named their human effigy SiMan. The team admits the name is a little twisted, as it was concocted by reversing the “I” and “S” from ISG and giving a nod to the same letters in the ISG tagline for the show – Intelligent Connected Solutions. But despite its somewhat warped state, SiMan has a better ring than IsMan. [SiMan has a better ring? Oh dear - Ed.]

Next up was finding a company to craft SiMan’s components, including a core, a head, and various limbs, to which attendees would attach artistic embellishments. In addition, attendees would also help connect these elements (to play up the Intelligent Connected Solutions tagline) and essentially construct SiMan on site at IDF. For that, the team turned to Taylor Inc., an exhibit house based in Brampton, ON, Canada. “We started with the basic concept of a Burning Man-like structure, but with a high-tech twist,” says David Hunter, account director at Taylor. “Ultimately, we created multiple components comprising a metal frame sheathed in wood and skinned with a vinyl, multicolored computer-chip-like motif. Strings of LED lights ran throughout the elements, and tiny LED fixtures were used to create SiMan’s facial features.” [errr...and the high tech twist is? - Ed.]

With SiMan under construction, Live Marketing crafted various complementary activities and messaging. The resulting SiMan-based program – which comprised everything from the SiMan activity to partner promotions to a booth visit – not only exceeded the ISG’s goals; it also impressed our judges. “This idea wasn’t just cutting edge,” one judge said. “It was a unique traffic builder/integrated program hybrid that certainly must have sparked developers’ imaginations.”

[blah blah]
siman faceWith This Glow Stick, I Thee Wed  [!!! - I would've titled this section "it's glowtime for SiMan" - Ed]
Day two culminated in a theatrical production the likes of which IDF had never seen: Glow Time. Modeled after Burning Man’s flaming finale when the human effigy goes down in a fiery blaze of glory, Glow Time was SiMan’s moment in the sun – although to keep the fire marshals happy, the flames were replaced by glow sticks, and SiMan wasn’t reduced to a pile of ashes.

Throughout the first two days of the show, staffers and partner exhibits promoted Glow Time. In addition to handing out glow sticks, they encouraged everyone to come back to the ISG booth at the end of day two for the big reveal and grand-prize drawings. By roughly 6 p.m., more than 400 glow-stick-wielding attendees – 100 more than the ISG’s goal – swarmed the now-darkened space (achieved by turning off several overhead light fixtures in the venue). Dramatic music played in the background while the Assembly Zone’s presenter acted as the Glow Time emcee, reinforcing ISG’s “connected,” “embedded,” “community” verbiage. 

intel mickey mouseWith a theatrical flourish, featuring special-effects fog and spotlights, the 700-pound SiMan was raised to his full height of 18 feet and lit via his internal LEDs. Awestruck by the towering creature they’d helped create, attendees pulled out their cell phones to capture the moment and share their pictures and videos with family and friends. After a few words from the emcee and a round of applause for SiMan, the fog dispersed and the lights came up. But before attendees left, the presenter plucked two cards from the Plexiglas bin for the grand-prize netbook drawings.

When attendees returned on day three, they discovered that SiMan was still fully suspended in the Assembly Zone, sans spotlights and fog. During the day, staffers and partners encouraged attendees to decorate SiArt Pieces, but instead of attaching them to a component in the zone, attendees could attach them directly to any part of SiMan (or rather those areas they could reach without a ladder). All told, the ISG estimates that more than 700 people participated in the Assembly Zone activity, adding more than 1,000 SiArt Pieces to SiMan – a number that surpassed the ISG’s goal by more than 45 percent.

…the program’s social-media efforts garnered more than 43,000 impressions on Twitter and approximately 9,000 impressions on Facebook. Additionally, its YouTube videos scored more than 1,000 views.

“From to Glow Time to the Assembly Zone activity, the ISG’s Burning-Man-based program was a tremendous success,” Klebba says. “SiMan truly got attendees involved in his creation, fostered developers’ creativity, and generated amazing awareness.” So it just goes to show, despite the naysayers and the cultural (or corporate) taboos, even an unlikely marriage of polar opposites can sometimes turn into a long-term love affair.

More Tickets Mysteriously Appear [Updates]

And…what do you know! More tickets going into STEP. Quelle surprise. It was only yesterday that we were hypothesizing about this – seems like we guessed right.

Good news for Burners who’ve been waiting in the queue could be coming tomorrow. Check your email and your spam filter, because if you don’t respond within 72 hours, or you have a credit card problem, your chance is gone.


we’ve been able to free up some additional tickets for the community. In addition to the tickets sold back to participants, we’ve already put 1,500 tickets into STEP, and this week we’re adding 1,000 more. That means lots of people who have been in the queue for a long time will get tickets this week. Please note, however, the queue is quite long so signing up for STEP at this point is not advised.

We’re also placing 2,000 additional tickets in the OMG Sale, for a total of 3,000

Just over a week ago, on July 17, BMOrg informed us that they had received 2,500 tickets back from Burners through STEP:

Good news! The system is working! Over 2,500 tickets have been sold back through STEP, snapped up by eager Burners yearning for the playa. 

Some were snapped up by buyers, but it appears that BMOrg sat on thousands of tickets rather than putting them in the STEP queue. All of these should have gone straight back out to other Burners waiting in the queue to buy tickets. Instead, BMOrg “put 1,500 tickets into STEP”, and held onto 1,000 of them – by their own admission. Now they’re releasing the other 1,000, bringing them up to 2,500 total in STEP. Why would they do that? Well we have proof they were trying to sell tickets for $270 above face value, and didn’t want people to know about it:

From: Steven Young <>

Subject: Donation Ticket Introduction

Date: June XX, 2014 [snip]

bmp logo

We have a special opportunity to share with you. The Burning Man Founders have made a group of 2014 Burning Man tickets available as thank-you gifts for Burning Man Project to offer to our supporters.For a limited time, your $650 contribution includes a $250 tax-deductible donation to the non-profit Burning Man Project along with the gift of one ticket (valued at $400)

This is a short-term initiative about which we are being discreet; kindly do not post about it on social or traditional media

money-banking-loan-loanshark-loan_shark-debt-lender-rman15502lThis seems to prove my thesis. They held off on STEP tickets trying to scalp them for $650 in the name of “donation” – which was only ever partial anyway. Decommodification LLC got their royalty cut of the donation tickets, just like all the regular ones. Burning Man Project only got $250 of the inflated $650 price. How much of that $250 actually went back out to finance good deeds in the community? Stay tuned for that information (…and when Burners.Me says “coming soon”, it’s probably going to be faster than 7 years).

I can think of no other reason why ALL the tickets sold into STEP, weren’t immediately sold back out through STEP to all the Burners who got in the queue in April and have been eagerly waiting ever since. Isn’t that the entire fucking point of their STEP system? Perhaps not. Why weren’t these 3,000 “extra” tickets that they found stashed under the sofa listed in STEP from day one? ISN’T THIS EVENT SOLD OUT? Why would BMOrg suddenly discover 3,000 tickets (worth a cool $1,140,000), but only add a few of those to STEP at the very last minute? It’s not like they didn’t know the population cap, how many tickets they’d sold, or how many tickets Burners had sold back to the community. It was 2,500 a week ago, they told us.

People have been screaming for these tickets on an hourly basis on social media, and for an unknown reason they still haven’t mailed everyone’s tickets out. This is 2014, millions of tickets get sent by mail every day. Why does BMOrg have to do “a few here, a few there…”? And why do the people who got in early to the STEP queue get punished, just to make room for 3 times as many random chances in the OMG lottery?

For all we know, the extra 2,000 going into OMG also came from STEP – they could be the ones sold by Burners whose tickets arrived in the mail in the last week or two, after the “2,500” were counted. We have to take their word for it that it actually is only 3,000 extra tickets being released into the OMGSTEP pool. It could be 3,300, it could be 9,000. Only a very, very few people are in a position to know the true picture. Certainly, the event cannot claim to be sold out if there are 3000+ more tickets for sale, less than a month before it starts.

How sure can we be that 4,000 Burners (6% of the entire city) really did receive Low Income tickets? Not very. You would have to trust BMOrg, and quite clearly from the information above, ticketing has not been working the way we were told it would. If only 3% of the party got Low Income tickets instead of 6%, would anyone notice? It’s not like anyone runs around with a special wristband, “look at me I’m poor!”

Oh, and as for the commenters chastising us for “promoting scalping”…how big of a problem is scalping to the Burning Man community? How risky is it to buy tickets off the Internet? 9 tickets have been voided. That’s 0.01% of the population. Hope you feel proud of yourselves for the great difference you’ve made to our community, snitches.

As always, if anyone has any more information than this, please share. Work for BMOrg, and have proof that we’re wrong? Then show us, there’s no reason to keep it secret.

Next year, BMOrg, just sell all 68,000 69,613 tickets in one go for $650. Tell Ticketfly to sell them like it is Justin Bieber or Metallica or AC/DC, or almost any other event. Stop dicking our community around, and bank an extra $20 million for yourselves.

[Update 7/25/14 2:10pm]

Burner Marcin has shared his experience selling tickets via STEP, compared with in the past:

As a data point: when I sold my tickets via STEP last year, they were gone in a matter of hours. This year it’s been over 10 days already and still no sale.

If there’s a line, it’s being heavily throttled or really badly implemented.

Yet more proof: you sell a ticket through STEP, it goes to BMOrg who do [unknown] with it before they “choose” whether to sell it for $650 to secret insiders, release it back to the STEP queue, put it in the OMG sale, or do something else. I feel bad for this Burner who has had to wait 10 days to get money from BMOrg (and is still waiting – why?), when they could’ve sold it online and got $900 within 24 hours. They were obviously trying to do the right thing, as BMOrg had instructed them to, but it doesn’t appear that BMOrg is trying very hard to do the right thing by them.

Here’s what BMOrg tell us about STEP:

Tickets released into STEP are sold to participants registered in the program on a first-come, first-served basis. You are welcome to sell your ticket directly to a specific person yourself…

We are unable to tell you your place in the STEP queue. Since many people sign up and then find tickets through other channels, the numbers can be quite misleading and we want to avoid anyone to be needlessly discouraged because they may have had a higher number when in actuality they have a very strong possibility of getting a ticket.

In actuality, if the ticket sold to STEP is not even put in the STEP queue, I don’t think the possibility is very strong at all. In fact the possibility is nil: impossible.

I guess the meaning of “first come, first serve” is not specifically defined, and thus is in the eye of the beholder. To the eyes of BMOrg, it seems to mean “first you come, then we serve whoever we want…and maybe after that we’ll consider selling your ticket into the STEP queue to Burners who’ve been waiting there for months”.


Don’t Sneak In

burning_man suitsIf you don’t have your ticket to Caravansary by noon tomorrow, your best hope is to either “win the OMG lottery” on August 6, or “buy a ticket on the Internet”. Since the event sold out in 44 minutes in the general sale 5 months ago, there is a premium for tickets on the secondary market, like there is for every other sold out event in the world. It’s a fairly basic principle of Economics that is called “Supply and Demand”. It’s the same principle that lets BMOrg sell tickets at $650 $380 for a concert they don’t book any talent for. For some reason, Burnier-than-thous consider you to be “not a true Burner” if you follow this ancient and well established Principle of Supply and Demand. This group turns a loving, collectivist blind eye to the fact that the guy who founded the festival city counter-culture movement party and wrote their much younger Principles as a guideline (not rules), Larry Harvey,  has told everyone repeatedly “we never said we’re against capitalism” and has just opened a gas station in Black Rock City (at 10 & L).

If you have an extra ticket and you want to sell it, you have to get it into STEP by noon tomorrow and take a $500 loss – according to BMOrg’s Cultural Rule Enforcers; or, according to us, sell it online to someone who wants to go, make their day and make yourself a profit. If there are any Burnier-than-thous around you whining “you can’t sell your ticket above $380, it’s against Burning Man’s values”, our recommendation is sell tomorrow when BMOrg have left you with no other choice but the secondary market, take some of the profit and use it to make a donation of $100 to the Burning Man Project, BRAF, Black Rock Solar, Burners Without Borders, or the Orgy Dome, the “second home” to more than 10% of Black Rock City’s population. Then you can ask the Burnier-than-thous “how much did you donate to the Burner community?” and listen to the chirping of tickets, I mean crickets.

If you don’t win the lottery, and refuse to buy tickets for above $380 even from BMOrg themselves (who are above The Law of The Sacred Principles, not operating under them)…then you’re probably SOL on going to Burning Man this year. Unless, that is, you use a tool called “GOOGLE” that is closely linked to Burning Man, and discover this site, from 2011:


Re-blogged from Unofficial Networks:

So, You Want To Poach Burning Man? Can You Really Sneak In?

 By: August 28, 2011 1:10 pm


Photo credit: Burning Man from the air, with a jumper about to poach?

Who doesn’t? It may not be “the Burning Man way”, but people do it every year, have done it ever since they started charging for entry, and with ticket sales sold out for the first time ever this year, you better believe someone is trying to sneak in right this second.

The question is, how do you do it? Not to mention, what’s the likelihood of getting caught? Well, the long story short is it’s very possible, but not as easy as it seems. And you definitely don’t want to end up like this guy.

Photo Credit:

First off, yes, people have done it, people do do it, but you have you have to ask yourself, is it really worth it? AND What am I willing to go through to make it happen? Those are big questions, and if you’re still down, here we go.

The Fence-The whole perimeter of Burning Man is marked off by an orange fence. It goes far and wide, but still, you’d think it’d be easy to just walk across the desert, hop the fence, and walk right in, right? The problem is there’s mucho law enforcement out there and they are pretty much there to make sure you don’t sneak in. There’s not that many roads that lead into the event either, so figuring out how to negotiate where to drive (Route 34?), leave a car, then walk in undetected is a lot harder than it might seem. If you’ve been to Burning Man you might have a better idea, but if you haven’t, this is one of your major hurdles to jump.

Night Rangers-If you choose to poach during the day you’d have to have some Burners out there near the edge of the fence to blend in. If you go at night, duh, of course you’re going to try to go at night, it’s waaaay too hot during the day for this kinda shit, law enforcement use infrared lights and night vision to find you. No joke, or so the rumor goes.  Even volunteers have radar equipment that searches for anyone way out at the perimeter.

Poach the Entry Gate-You can try sneaking in at the gate, there’s some classic stories out there, but the gate checkers do a ruthless job of going through your vehicle (see above picture of messed up kid trying to get in). They make you open the back of your truck or SUV. They make you open your roof box. They might even just make you get of your RV and go through every little nook and cranny to make sure no one is sneaking in. Big coolers in there? They’ll open them. Burning Man as an event goes big to make sure the only people that get in pay their way. Even still, people do sneak in…or so the stories go.

You Can Do It!-There’s stories upon stories, and most of them state that nowadays it’s 100x harder than it was in the past to poach. Still, the stories are hilarious and might get some creative juices flowing. Some guy apparently drove in a water truck one year. He basically made it in, but then was spotted spraying water out in front of his ride like a dumbass and got caught by a ranger. He probably would’ve been fine if he wasn’t such a dumbass, but where are you gonna get a water truck?

Stealth Army Style-A popular place to try and sneak in is from the east side of the desert. While the prefered method would be to casually take your time and hope you don’t get spotted by the night rangers, this guy decided to crawl on his belly, for miles, to try and poach in. He had all his stuff with him to, which is another thing to remember because when you show up to Burning Man, you have to have all your own supplies as ice and coffee are the only things sold there. Back to the story, the rangers were watching him the whole time. As the story goes, he got to the fence, where again, he had been watched the whole time, and  was popped. But because the rangers were so impressed with his patience to stay on his belly that long, they let him in!

The stories run deep, and no matter which way you look at it the poach in is tough, and there’s a lot of people looking for you if you try. But it also seems that if you do it right, you might get some respect and maybe get let in, or maybe if you’re ninja enough, you’ll just get in anyway. You’ll never know unless you try, and then it goes back to if it’s worth it for you to try?

The truth is it’s really a pretty good deal for a weeks worth of camping and what goes on out there for the face value of a ticket. The problem this year is the lack of tickets, even though people try and sneak in every year. There will be crashers this year, like every year, but probably even more this year. We wish you poachers all good luck on your desert pursuits, and if you have a good story to share, we’re all ears.

One last thing to consider, even though we’ve also heard the rangers patrol the skies in some way (yeah, like, how?), dropping in from the air might just be the way to go. It’s been done, and again, we’ve heard they look, but right time, right place, a big huck out of some form of aircraft, and fly safely into a camp full of goodness? Now that sounds like party time!

Photo Credit:


Don’t sneak in, Burners. I can’t think of a way to say that more clearly. We warned you, so if anyone tries and gets caught, it’s nothing to do with us – blame Google. Or, take the Burnier-than-thou endorsed high ground, and miss out. You can boast to everyone how “you’re doing it right” at Burning Man: by not going to it. Or, buy a ticket on the Internet – and tune out anyone telling you that’s some sort of sin.




Ticket Prices Starting To Drop

2014 Stubhub Data

2014 Stubhub Data

I’ve been tracking the price and quantity available for tickets and vehicle prices on Stubhub for the last few weeks. Good news for Burners who don’t have a ticket or vehicle pass yet: the prices are dropping, and the number available is starting to increase – a sign of further price drops to come. Today the price has dropped below $800 for the first time.

If you want to sell your ticket or vehicle pass and pocket a few hundred dollars extra, the time to list it is now because we expect the decline in secondary market prices will accelerate.

worlds_greatest_snark_men_cartoon_cut_out-r9a83c0394833419ab23721395e19d643_x7saw_8byvr_324The Burning Man snark group have announced that they will snitch to BMOrg on anyone selling tickets above face value. Meanwhile, BMOrg themselves have been selling tickets to chosen insiders for much more than $380 for months. They justify this by saying that $250 of the price premium will be donated to the Burning Man Project (why not the whole amount?)

More than 2500 tickets have now been sold back to BMOrg through STEP at face value (minus a loss for the Burner on transaction costs). If you sell a ticket to STEP at face value, does BMOrg try to resell this for $650 to insiders, before it goes into the STEP re-sale queue? It’s impossible for us to say for sure, we can only suspect. Even most of the people employed by BMOrg wouldn’t have direct access to the algorithms and data involved in this process. Will only 1000 tickets be sold in the OMG sale? Again, this is difficult to say except for a very few insiders at BMOrg and Ticketfly. These details don’t show up in any IRS filings for their 501(c)3 non-profit, or their Afterburn Report.

caravansary ticketThere is a discrepancy of 9,000 tickets (face value: $3,420,000) between the officially sold ones, and the population cap. These tickets may be “handed out to volunteers”, who sell them to their camps or on the after-market as a reward for their time. Or they may be “scalped for $650 by BMOrg” ($5,850,000), with any excess inventory being washed through STEP and OMG sales. There is no clear statement from BMOrg about these mysteriously missing 9,000 tickets: where are they, who has them, what are they doing with them?

There is still a “last chance OMG sale” coming up, supposedly of 1000 tickets.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 12pm (noon) PDT: OMG Sale ($380) registration begins
Monday, August 4, 2014 12pm (noon) PDT: OMG Sale ($380) registration closes
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 12pm (noon) PDT: OMG Sale ($380) starts

Why not just put all those tickets into STEP? Why make Burners try to log on again at a certain time and get in yet another queue? It makes little sense, unless you see STEP and OMG as ways for insiders to unload a leftover bunch of tickets they haven’t been able to sell on the secondary market.

This Friday, July 25th, is the last day that STEP tickets will be offered to anyone in the queue. We believe it’s also the last day to buy $650 BMOrg scalper donation tickets if you have the special code. If you don’t have your ticket by noon Pacific time on Friday, then your only official chance is the OMG sale – register next week, try to get in the queue the following week, and hope you’re one of the lucky 1000; and your only real chance is the aftermarket on Stubhub, Craiglist and eBay.

Anyone who wants to unload tickets is forced to sell them on the secondary market, after noon PST Friday July 25th. Since many people who have bought tickets still haven’t received them in the mail yet, the quantity listed on Stubhub is probably going to increase. If you price the ticket you’re selling at $380 on Friday, for sure you will sell it…but this is probably true if you price it at $780 too.

In the past, we’ve seen this trend play out before, with ticket prices dropping as the event gets closer. People realize that their friends couldn’t get tickets, so they don’t want to go. Their ride fell through, and they couldn’t get a vehicle pass. Something came up at work or in their family. They split up with their BF or GF. There are all kinds of perfectly legitimate reasons why someone might want to sell a ticket, and the closer we get to the event, the more desperate those sellers become.

We predicted the situation would be different this year with the new vehicle passes, that they would increase in scarcity and therefore value as we got closer to the event. They definitely increased in value, they’ve been a scalper goldmine from day one, selling for as much as ten times their face value. But the number for sale is increasing too. Either we got it wrong, or we were right that they could sell more than 35,000 vehicle passes and no-one would be the wiser. Only motorbikes and planes can get in without a vehicle pass, otherwise you’re going to get all the way out there, line up for 8 hours, only to be told to turn around and go home. Officially, you can’t buy either a vehicle pass or a ticket at the gate.

copenhagen Zoo_BusThere is a Bus Service, Burner Express, but that’s limited to 5,000 people. Tickets are $250 for a round trip from San Francisco with bike, and they still appear to be available.

At Burners.Me, we’ve always maintained that if you buy a ticket it’s yours, if you want to sell it, it’s yours. If scalpers are such a big problem (which they’re not), why refuse to link tickets to IDs even though everyone’s ID gets checked on the way in? Is it to facilitate their own scalping? Why should BMOrg be able to sell tickets above face value, but Burners can’t? How does “scalping a ticket” possibly harm the Burning Man party, anyway? You could sell your ticket for $880, donate $250 to the Burning Man Project, and keep $250 for yourself. Or you could keep all the profit for yourself, after all we live in capitalism not communism. Unless you’re at the largest gathering on US Federal land, Black Rock City, where all commerce is banned…except for all the commerce that isn’t.




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