Burning Man’s Gift Economy and its Effect on Mainstream Society [Update]

Festpop has an article by Karli Jaenike about how Burning Man is changing the world. I’m re-blogging it here so we can then discuss it. Emphasis ours.


re-blogged from FestPop

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It’s no secret that most festivals are a huge moneymaker for large corporations. North American companies are projected to spend $1.23 billion to sponsor music venues, festivals and tours in 2014. That’s a 4.4 percent increase from 2013, according to IEG, LLC. IEG also charted out the most active companies sponsoring music festivals in North America with Anheuser-Busch topping the list alongside PepsiCo, Inc. and Coca-Cola Company. Microsoft Corp. (in what’s said to be the company’s first deal with a non-endemic property) sponsored Coachella Music Festival on behalf of its OneDrive storage service, while Samsung and Honda are among the sponsors for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. These corporations will undoubtedly receive a huge return on investment given the growing popularity of music and arts festivals around the world.

Burning Man, an annual arts festival and temporary community based around radical art, radical self-expression and radical self-reliance, stands in stark contrast. Participants who attend this event provide everything they will need for their weeklong adventure except for the main infrastructure. Infrastructure includes necessities like port-o-potties, medical tents, the effigy (which is burnt to the ground at the end of the festival), center camp, land and insurance. Organizers and participants intentionally succeed in creating a setting where decommodification and gifting are part of the core principles of the event.

Decommodification means absolutely no corporate sponsorships of the event, no advertising allowed, and definitely no transactions. Commodification is viewed as exploitation of the Burning Man culture and is frowned upon by most people involved, while at the festival. Many burners (people in the Burning Man community) believe that in many developed countries commodification has gone too far, has reduced people to abstractions and is taking away part of what makes us simple and human. Members of the community are very protective of this principle and will try their best to wipe all corporate influence from the event. This includes covering any visible brand names on the side of box trucks, bicycles, and… well, anything. People at Burning Man want to forget about branding, business, money, and the greed that comes along with it… and just for one week create a space where our humanity is not divided into “quantifiable bits suitable for trading”. What do people do when they want to exchange goods or services? Enter “gifting”.

Seva Cafe DMP2_Page_07

Gifting is the act of giving a gift out of the goodness of ones heart, and not expecting anything in return. The Principles Guidelines page of their website says that, “Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.” Gifting is such, such an important part of what makes Black Rock City (the city created during Burning Man) such a magical place. When gifting is the currency, rather than money or bartering, a strong sense of community evolves. Think about how you feel when you receive an unconditional gift. You feel an instant connection to that person, and a sense of gratitude. You feel loved, because you know that that person is giving you the gift because they appreciate you as a person, not because they are expecting anything in return. It also feels satisfying to give unconditional gifts. “’Gifting with nothing in return’ I feel, is impossible. Only those who have not felt the satisfaction in making someone’s day [with a gift] could say there is nothing given in return” said Domo Delacy, a veteran burner. Domo has received and seen people receive all sorts of amazing gifts on the playa. “I’ve been gifted tickets. I’ve also gifted a couple back to will call. You know someone loves you when they gift you a ticket” said Delacy. “My good friend Capt. Jim was gifted an art car! Under the Oasis was a 67 GMC with brand new running gear… is that a good one or what? Another friend got a naked plane ride.”

Playa gifts can come in many forms, which don’t necessarily have to be physical. “[I received] the gift of expansion and compassion from my fellow camp mates my virgin burn. They taught me what the 10 Principles were with love and compassion,” said Starfire Serendipity Jones, a 10-year burner. Other gifts have included, “bacon, grilled cheese, ice cold melon and fresh espresso from the coffee stand across from camp (fucking heaven), homemade absinthe and banana booze… YUMMMM!” Jones goes on to explain, “I loved & shared many things openly in love [on the Playa]. It was primarily things I could use on Playa or things I “needed”. The people that ‘get it’ are so free and in-flow that we share with out even thinking, it is just part of us. The most beautiful thing is that there is no “us and them”. No scarcity, just sharing… because it is truly a gift to the giver to learn that frame of mind. Giving something just to give it. Not because they expect something in return.” She says, “It breaks the old adage of ‘you can’t get something for nothing’. It also creates a new paradigm for being in the universe and here on terra firma. That off Playa we can live like that in our daily lives. There is enough for everyone to share.”

dustcitydiner

 

Another way gifting enhances the experience at Burning Man is that it acts as social lubricant. It gives you an excuse to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation when you otherwise wouldn’t. Walking through the streets of Black Rock City it’s common to be pulled aside and invited to partake in a cold adult beverage, a game, a tarot card reading, a meal, or a hug. That underlying fear of rejection that most of us unconsciously harbor isn’t a factor at Burning Man because it’s unlikely that anyone would reject a heartfelt gift. Burners feel safe and confident interacting and building connections with others through this system that serves to further strengthen the sense of community.

“The Burning Man Community is […] inspired to create, participate, and celebrate in the world without many of the conventional restrictions of the modern paradigm,” says Zac Cirivello, Burning Man Media Relations Coordinator. “Through exploring the values of our 10 Principles, the Burning Man Community has become a “do-ocracy” where the individual is empowered to directly participate in their surroundings to make the world the way that they want it to be, whether that world is our longtime home of Black Rock City, or the urban environment in which they live.”

This is where radical self-reliance plays an important part. While food, drink, shelter, and friendship are given freely in most cases at Burning Man, all participants are expected to also provide enough for themselves for the week (and maybe enough to share!) Those who show up expecting gifts, or expecting to be ‘taken care of’ are frowned upon. Buying or trading at Burning Man is also extremely taboo, and those who attempt to are reprimanded. “A critical part of the gift economy is how it differs from a barter economy. A barter is still a direct transaction: it assigns a value to an object or act and in turn commodifies it. A “thing” will still then have a “value”. At the core of bartering is the attempt to still create an exchange of equal value. This is the same as “default” world transactions but only with cash removed from the equation,” says Cirivello. “Gifting, on the other hand, is an unconditional offering – an offering with no expectation of return. This removes the assignment of traditional object value (or “price”) and instead puts the emphasis or value on the act of generosity itself. It becomes part of a circular abundance loop where Burners provide for others without the expectation of return because they know that others are there to support them in kind.”

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In reality, the gifting economy at Burning Man is not an economy at all, and is somewhat of an oxymoron. Economies are generally self-sustaining and generate wealth for a population; this is not the goal at Black Rock City. The gifting economy at Burning Man is more of a “gift culture”. A gift culture that actually supports and depends on the economy outside of Burning Man. Zac Cirivello states, “While the culture of Burning Man puts a lot of emphasis on our principals of gifting and decommodification, that does not make it a world entirely free of commerce. We have some very real costs associated with the creation of Black Rock City each year including permitting fees, staff support, and a long list of resources required such as vehicles, porto potties, lumber, signage, fuel, etc.” The festival stimulates Nevada’s economy by contributing millions of dollars to rent the land and use the facilities for the festival. Additionally, visiting burners stimulate the economy from which they buy the food, drink, and materials to make their Playa gifts. They also support the economy of the cities surrounding Black Rock City when they purchase their last minute items, gas, and food before the burn.

This culture works at Burning Man because the community makes it so. All participants willingly take part in gifting because they understand it’s part of what makes Burning Man different from everywhere else. There is no need for organizers to enforce or police a gifting economy, because the people uphold these values on their own. “One of the great things about the Burning Man Community is that Burners are incredibly passionate about preserving the integrity of our culture. We, and BMORG, do not have to run around policing our values because they are ones that are strongly shared by a vast majority of citizens in Black Rock City,” says Zac Cirivello. “The gifting economy is a demonstration of a shift in conventional thinking away from a “scarcity mindset” towards an “abundance mindset” – where people recognize that they have enough and want to put their energy towards a betterment of the community as opposed to a betterment only of the self.

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While creating a temporary utopian community in which a gifting culture flourishes is an accomplishment in itself, Burning Man and it’s supporters are always looking for ways to share this abundance mindset with the masses. “There is certainly a lot of potential for the Gifting Economy to start impacting the ‘default’ world, and there have been a number of projects that are looking to spearhead that change,” says Cirivello. “One of those projects is [freespace], an experimental project looking to see what is possible with the gift of a physical space to a community, and [this] is also the recent recipient of a financial grant from Burning Man.” [freespace] began in June 2013, and started with a two-story building that was donated to San Francisco’s creative community for a dollar. Since it’s inception, [freespace] has hosted over 300 free events including free bike shares, maker classes for people in homeless shelters, and a community garden.

Nation wide corporations are catching onto the popularity of the gifting mindset, with Panera Bread launching “Panera Cares”. This campaign consists of opening “pay what you can” Panera Community Cafés in Saint Louis, Dearborn, Portland, Chicago, and Boston. These cafes offer dignified dining experiences, without judgment to customers who may not be able to pay. While companies like this are obviously getting publicity and public favor in return for their gifts, it’s definitely a start!

The Internet has made it easy to gift in modern society with online resources such as WikiLinks, Wikimedia Commons, and Creative Commons. People from around the world share their functional work, artwork, or other creative content with others. Participants can use and benefit from shared work, study this work, make and distribute shared content, or build upon shared content to create something new. On the Internet one can also find free and open-source software, free or donation based music, art, and collaborative works. Creative Commons, a non-profit organization founded by Lawrence Lessig, has released several copyright-licenses free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights to their content they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of other creators. Many times, the only stipulation involved with the use of this shared content is that works created from said content must also be shared freely.

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Burning Man Organization spreads the message that a gift culture promotes through its many regional burns. “The Burning Man Regional Network is a global network of Burning Man inspired events that help to promote the values and ethos of Black Rock City throughout the world,” says Zac Cirivello. “One of the things required to be included as an Official Regional Event is having an event that embodies the 10 principles, including that of gifting. In much the same way that folks look out for and support each other in Black Rock City, the participants of these events have the opportunity to practice a decommodified existence for a few days at a time and participate in a world where generosity and unconditional gifting are core components.” More than 75 regional burns are held throughout the world at different times of the year. These events change the lives of people who may or may not have been to the “big burn” yet. Regional burns allow people to experience the selfless beauty of a Gifting Economy, and the freedom of decommodification if only for a long weekend. Many burners are inspired to attend the larger Burning Man in Nevada after years of experiencing the positive affects of these local burns on their communities. Zac Cirivello says that one goal of the regional events is to share the Principles with others “Through these events, as with Burning Man, folks are taking the spirit of gifting home with them and promote the global spread of the Gifting Economy.”

Would a Gifting Economy be sustainable in everyday culture? Society would need to experience a major shift in attitude. Many say humans are inherently competitive, egotistical, and even greedy. Problems could arise with determination of value: what may be valuable and a wonderful gift to one person may not be as valued by another. Humanity would have to get past their learned ideals of worth, value, and fairness in order to genuinely place others before themselves. While this kind of economy might seem idealistic to most, the idea is very real for many. The Internet is full of writings on the subject, many of which call for major change. However you stand on the subject, there is no denying that what the Burning Man Organization creates out in that Nevada desert is a beautiful thing.


Back to Burners.Me writing now.

I have no problem with the ideals of Gifting and Decommodification. They’re part of what makes Burning Man special. As the article says, it’s hardly a sustainable economy, it’s more of a culture.

What I do have a problem with, is BMOrg claiming credit for the effort and expenditure of others, and telling the media they’ve done something which they haven’t.

The mention of [freespace] here particularly rankles me.

Burning Man takes in $30 million a year from all the things it sells: tickets, vehicle passes, ice, coffee, scarves, bus rides, aircraft landing fees, gasoline, propane, calendars, photos, movies, soundtracks. They also accept donations, which they accumulate in the bank account of their tax-free non-profit subsidiaries. These 501(c)3 non-profits are required to file public financial statements, called IRS Form 990. You can view them at Guidestar.

From the most recent filings (2012):

Burning Man Project took in $591,672 of donations, kept $368,249, and paid $36,378 in grants. They spent $259,925 on overheads.

Black Rock Arts Foundation took $621,359 of donations, kept $560,917, and paid $114,449 in grants. They spent $477,525 on overheads.

The two organizations have now been merged, to create a tax-exempt powerhouse with about a million bucks in the bank.

How much has Burning Man actually given to [freespace]? $0.

I can’t speak to what Burning Man has done to support the Panera bakeries, but I bet that’s $0 too. The idea was shelved in mid-2013. I can definitely speak about [freespace], though.

[freespace] is not actually an organization you can donate to, it is a project of Reallocate – a registered 501(c)3 non-profit started by Burners. Reallocate is a great organization run on a shoestring budget. It’s a genuine charity, they definitely don’t hoard money from donors. When Dr Mike North founded Reallocate, I was the first person he asked to be on its Board of Directors. I am the largest financial contributor to Reallocate. I am also the second largest financial contributor to [freespace]. As well as a pretty significant amount of money, I have given both organizations time – my own, and that of my employees. I have provided expensive resources like decked out shipping containers to support their projects, and covered the related logistics costs. I have also promoted both charities on this web site.

ekovillages.com up-cycled art containers at [freespace]

ekovillages.com up-cycled art containers at [freespace]‘s Mission St location. Art by Ian Ross Gallery

freespace mission2

Some of these containers have been to Burning Man too. After we deployed them here, [freespace] got a commendation letter from the San Francisco Mayor’s office, and a trip to the White House.

 

What did BMOrg do, in a year+ of [freespace]? Nothing. Nada. No checks. What little promotion they did, was of themselves first, and the charities they claim to support second. Here’s the entire extent of it:

Global [freespace] movement to hack the World Cup

How [freespace] challenges Burning Man’s emergent principles

Burnerhack at [freespace] SF?

Burners Discuss Community Building in San Mateo

Their story about “emergent principles” sums the situation up well:

In San Francisco Burner circles, close to the source, I often hear the Burner’s Dream expressed thusly: Our dream is to bring the principles we embody out on the playa back to the default world….Sounds like that Burner’s Dream come to life, right? Naturally, Burning Man got involved. But what does that even mean? Who is this “Burning Man?” Is it the Burning Man organization? is it the fledgling non-profit Burning Man Project? Is it Burning Man participants acting of their own accord?

Yes.

...[the BurnerHack] was organized by Micah Daigle, a Burner who travels in circles close to the Org, but who isn’t officially involved. He’s a participant. He’s also one of the creators of BurnerMap, a Facebook app that allows you to create and print maps of where your friends are camping, and arguably one of the most successful participant-driven Burning Man projects in the event’s history.

BurnerMap has tens of thousands of users. It’s a participant-driven project on the scale of the whole event itself. And yet the Org is not involved. That can make the relationship weird at times. That weirdness extends to physical events like BurnerHack, and even to independent cultural movements like [freespace] itself.

And as Burning Man tries to grow into a year-round culture, we have to figure it out.

…when BurnerMap has reached out to the Org for help, asking to pre-fill the map with official placement data, for instance, the efforts have fizzled out. Priorities are so different on either side of the bottom-up, top-down divide that it can hinder collaboration.

“We need the Org for Burning Man to exist,” Micah says, “but is it Burning Man? No. Burning Man is an emergent event.

The challenge of figuring out how capital-B Burning Man can be productively involved with emergent events like BurnerHack and [freespace] is the domain of the Burning Man Project, the new, nonprofit side of the Org that aims to be the future of year-round Burning Man culture.

Its representative most involved with [freespace] is James Hanusa, who is responsible for the Project’s new initiatives. He knows the [freespace] organizers and believes in them, and he was Micah’s closest point of contact in the planning of BurnerHack. He knows the Project should support initiatives like these, but he says, “We’re still figuring out how.”

The will is there, but the way is not yet clear. The Burning Man Project is busy enough figuring out its own job, so working with spontaneously organized participants is yet another step ahead. 

Here we can see that even by their own admission, BMOrg don’t provide much, if any, help.

The above was written in June 2013. Since then, [freespace] extended its initial lease for 3 months – not for $1, and funded by us – then relocated from Mission St to Market St, where it ran for a further 6 months this year. It closed in August, before Burning Man. So what have BMOrg been doing? Still figuring it out, a year and a half later? How much time do they need to figure out how to write a check to a charity that they tell the media they’re supporting?

We provided a comprehensive overview of everything the Burning Man Project has done since it was announced in early 2011 in The Art of Giving: it’s pretty disappointing, especially given the amount of money they’ve raised in that time, and how much they’ve spent on lawyers and accountants.

It seems like one thing they did figure out, is how to take credit for [freespace] and Reallocate in the press and in their panel discussions.

Here’s some of Burners.Me’s promotion of [freespace]:

[Temporary Autonomous Zone] – Proof the Model Still Works

Bring Something New Out Into The World

Collaborative Coding in [freespace]: Burnerhack

Burners Collaborate to Bridge SF’s Homeless/Tech Divide

Civic Responsibility Hacks the White House

From Central Market to the White House: Taking Burner Values To The Top [freespace] live 7am PST

What’s missing from these stories, compared with Burning Man’s coverage? You won’t find any examples of me talking about how great I am for donating my time and money to these charities, or taking any credit for their efforts. Indeed, I’m only bringing it up now because I am sick and tired of Burning Man boasting to the media about things they haven’t done, while hoarding the cash that was genuinely given to them in good faith by their donors.

I used to drink the Burning Man flavored Kool-Aid, before I did the homework, crunched the numbers, and compared their statements with the truth. Calling their secretive, for-profit royalty company Decommodification LLC was the last straw for me – they’re laughing at us, all the way to the bank. It came as no great surprise to Burners.Me that some of BMOrg’s Board of Directors are now selling Commodification Camps and making commercial videos at Burning Man to promote their brands.

I asked [freespace] founder Mike Zuckerman for comment, and he responded today – see below. Reallocate’s CFO confirmed that neither they nor [freespace] have ever received any grant from Burning Man. He believes Zuckerman earned $2000 personally for working for the Burning Man Project, but the guy appears to have pocketed the money himself, since it has not gone through the charity’s books.

Please, Burning Man. These are charities. Non-profits, trying to help the world. They need our money and support, not just to be used for shameless self-promotion. If you want to use them as examples of how your culture is saving the world…then put your hands in your oh-so-deep pockets, and write a fucking check. Don’t keep the money piling up in your tax-free bank accounts, while telling us how great you are, how you’re all about Decommodification and Gifting. Decommodification doesn’t mean earning royalties, Gifting requires you to actually give more than you take, and Radical Self Expression shouldn’t mean suing other charities.

What else are you doing with that big pile of cash we all gave you? Sending your founders around the world for speaking engagements? Is that what the half a million dollars a year of travel expenses are for?

Put Money Where Mouth IsI know there’s nothing in the Ten Principles about honesty, integrity, conflicts of interest, or the truth. But there should be – some of us do care about these things, more than we care about the almighty dollar. Deceit is not cool, and justifying it in the name of charities that you only pretend to support is pathetic. The Burner community are amazingly talented, creative, and generous – we want to associate ourselves with positive, uplifting things. Lead by example, don’t let Burners take the lead and the risk and spend all the cash, while you try to claim the credit. Step up and put your money where your mouth is.

Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, and Burning Man can produce some evidence of their financial contributions to [freespace], Reallocate, and Panera Bakeries. I’d happily eat my words. The ball’s in your court, BMOrg, and our money is in your pocket. Just Do It.


 

[Update 10/15/14] Mike Zuckerman, the founder of [ freespace ], emailed me today with this:

To answer your question, Burning Man has been a supporter of [ freespace ] in that they have covered us in social media, their blog and maybe a Jack Rabbit mention (I can’t remember). More than that they included us in their regional network gatherings both in Berlin at the inaugural European Leadership Summit and in SF at the Global Leadership Conference. The [ freespace ] concept is a bit foreign to most newcomers so working with Burners has been super helpful in many of our locations including SF, Paris, Philippines and Detroit as well as a few other cities that haven’t figured out their own locations yet, but I’m optimistic they will. They have also helped by introducing their regional contacts to anyone within the [freespace] network wherever they may be in the world. 
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As far as money goes, the BMP gave me $2000 directly to purchase equipment to document the progress of [ freespace ]. I got this cool set up that mounts to my iPhone that I saw a kid with at SXSW. I consider myself an iPhoneographer, but the iPhone sucks in low light, wide angle, memory capacity, recording sound and holding it steady. So I got all of those things added externally. It looks kinda crazy but is pretty amazing quality for a phone and can be broken down to fit into my pockets. Im not a pro videographer, but there has been a lot of exciting developments and I’m grateful to have captured a lot of it. There wound up being 9 [ freespaces ] in our 1st year. The second location in SF did close just before Burning Man, but the movement is still alive and there is a constant stream of inquiries from all over the world. We are planning to go again for National Day of Civic Hacking in June of 2015 or other cities may do their own thing if they want. I don’t remember exactly when they gave me the $2K, probably in May. 
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So there you go – Burning Man did not give [freespace] any grant. They gave an individual $2k to buy video equipment for himself, which presumably he can also use to document Burning Man and anything else that takes his fancy. That is 3 VIP tickets – hardly a significant grant to help a charity. I don’t need to get into specifics, but I gave them MUCH more than that. And I don’t make $30 million per year, or have a charity which takes in $1.2 million+ a year of donations.
“Promoting [ freespace ] to their Regional Network” is the same as “promoting themselves to their Regional Network”. The more videos they have to show, the better they look when claiming credit for the idea. Burners gift the work, BMOrg takes the glory.
This [ freespace ] video from July 2014 has 3 views on YouTube:

The Great BMOrg Cash-Out of 2010-2017, $35-47 Million: an Updated Estimate

A guest post from our reader A Balanced Perspective, updating his post earlier this year.

breaking bad money


 

The BMOrg Cash Out of 2010-2017, $35-$47 Million, an Updated Estimate

by A Balanced Perspective

I penned The Great BMOrg Cash Out of 2010 to 2016 – $28 Million to $45 Million, Est post in May. This post is an updated estimate of the BMOrg’s cash out based on knowledge gained in the prior few months.

Despite numerous requests to prove anything incorrect within the original post, no person proved anything incorrect, except I didn’t include the cash from images and trademarks licensing revenue streams; I was naive in the belief of California 501(c)3 laws requiring disclosure of the BMOrg’s large conflicts of interest; DPW labourers are employees, not contractors as I believed, but the cash they were paid is not sufficient to change the estimate; and the other Burning Man Project (the Project) board members were elected for terms of two years, not one year. I penned the post upon this rubbish solely from a belief in fair play, a belief of the awesome Burning Man community, and all awesome Burners whom contribute to throwing the incredible crowd sourced parties, must be treated, by the BMOrg, in a fair manner.

In the manner of the prior estimate, this estimate is based upon simple maths on their statements, their numbers, and their corporate records.

Click on the numerous links for the supporting statements, numbers, and corporate records. Might any person might prove any number or statement to be incorrect, please do so within the comments on this site.

Please disclose if you have signed any contract to be a representative of the BMOrg, or if you are a member of their social media crew. I’m much obliged, Elizabeth, for editing my draft, and to a brace of our brilliant mates for their assistance towards an improved understanding of the financial maneuvers.

A summary of their $35 million to $47 million cash out, mostly tax free, capitalistic cash out, based on simple maths on their afterburn reports, the Scribe’s brilliant SFBG reporting, Decommodification Incorporated and Clarification of Decommodification posts by burnersxxx, on their corporate records, and Larry Harvey’s statements.

Background and Organizational Summary

Black Rock City LLC (BRC LLC) was incorporated in 1999 with Larry Harvey, Marian Goodell, William Roger Peterson, Crimson Rose Elliot Peterson, Michael Danger Ranger Mikel, and Harley Dubois as owners. They are permanent Project board members, per the Project’s bylaws. Marian is the Project’s CEO and/or President, Larry is the Project’s Executive Director, William Roger Peterson as the Project’s Director of Nevada Relations and Special Projects, and Harley Dubois is the Project’s Transition Manager and Black Rock City Manager. I refer to these six as the BMOrg within this post, in due of they are in near total control over their for-profit and non-profit corporate entities. Their precise salaries and positions upon the Project may be obtained by viewing and copying the minutes of the Project board meetings, physically available to any person venturing to their Alabama Street headquarters, as per CA 501(c)3 law and page 36 of the Project’s bylaws.

At the conclusion of 2013, they donated the BRC LLC, which does business as Burning Man, and manages the Burning Man event, to the 501(c)3 non-profit Project, and thus obtained a huge tax deduction in return. The BRC LLC is presently a for-profit subsidiary corporation of the 501(c)3 Project, all profits from the Burning Man event flow up onto the Project’s ledger.

The Great BMOrg Cash Out of 2010 to 2017

2010:
a) Over $4 million of salary. Payroll increased from $2.8 million in 2009 to $7.2 million in 2010, with solely 30 salary employees, temporary salary labourers (DPW), and the six LLC owners to pay as Senior Staff. The contract labourers were paid solely $231,783, and legal and consultants were paid $1,468,000. In 2009, the contract labourers were paid $161,000, thus the increase of payroll isn’t DPW being switched from contract labourers to payroll, it’s a legitimate $4.4 million increase year over year. Thus, unless the salaried employees were paid, on average, over $90,000 each, or the pay of DPW labourers increased far over $500,000, the six prior BRC LLC owners took over $4 million of payroll towards their pockets. Kudos to Woody for providing a spreadsheet clearly illustrating the huge increase of their salaries from 2009 to 2010.

2011:

a) $4 million of salary from $7.1 million of payroll

2012:
a) $4 million of salary from $7.8 million of payroll

b) $100,000 from licence of images. Decommodification LLC, their pass-through royalties company, was formed in November 2010. The BMOrg, previously through their BRC LLC, has been taking 10% of the revenue from licensing of images since 2002. It is believed the 10% levy, a site fee, or a percenage of profits is now going to their for-profit licensing royalties company, Decommodification LLC.

2013:
a) Over $3 million of salary from $7.0 million of payroll.

b) $300,000 from licence of images, primarily from Spark: A Burning Man Story, to their Decommodification LLC. I’m not of the ability to estimate a value upon their income from their Youtube channel, their Ignite! site, print, or upon other potential sources of image licence revenues, thus, I didn’t include other potential revenues in this estimate.

c) $1,000,000 from the licence of their Burning Man(TM) name and trademarks )'(, paid to their Decommodification LLC. The Burning Man(TM) name, and other trademarks, were previously transferred from their BRC LLC to their Decommodification LLC. The BMOrg stated $4.5 million was paid to the BLM, but the BLM, upon being queried, stated they received $3.5 million. Since the original afterburn line was “BLM and other usage fees, and in due of their false statement, I’m estimating the missing $1 million was a usage fee for licensing the Burning Man(TM) name and trademarks. The BMOrg is encouraged to inform us, and the Reno Gazette Journal, where’s the missing $1 million?

d) End of 2013, $1 million to $4 million of cash and properties. They donated their BRC LLC to the 501(c)3 non-profit Project, gifting the event back to the community, as was repeated throughout Spark, though first the BRC LLC was likely stripped of cash towards their pockets, and property towards Black Rock City Properties LLC, of unknown ownership. The cash was likely not a large amount, most profits from prior burns were apparently taken as salaries and trademark licence levies. We won’t know the amount of cash stripped from the BRC LLC ledger prior to the donation, despite Larry stating otherwise, we’ll only know, sometime in 2016, the cash remaining on the ledger post the donation.

They obtained brilliant advice on this donation. They are already taking most of the cash profits from seven years of the Burning Man(TM) event towards their pockets, so how might they gain even more cash? Their donation of the BRC LLC towards the 501(c)3 Project results in their cash out being mostly tax free, perhaps a tax deduction of $30 million to $45 million, 1x or 1.5x sales, due to the future revenues of the BRC LLC from the Burning Man(TM) event, and comparable valuations from purchases of EDM rave festivals. Perchance, they deferred salary from prior years to 2013, terming it a loan, and obtained the benefit of gaining more cash tax free.

2014:
a) $4 million to $6 million from 2014 ticket sales, held in reserve, or held in escrow, for the purchase of the Burning Man(TM) name and trademarks from their Decommodification LLC in early 2017. That’s when Larry states they will be paid for their value, that’s when they will officially cash out. I estimated $4 million of each year of 2014, 2015, and 2016, in due of that was their, by simple maths upon their numbers, prior salary, it would be unreasonable to estimate a smaller number. The $6 million high estimate is due to the Burning Man event revenues increasing from $12 million in 2009, the year prior to their salaries were first increased to over $4 million, to nearly $30 million in 2014. Thus, $6 million is not an unreasonable estimate. This results in a total payment of $12 million to $18 million for the Burning Man(TM) name, logo )$( and other trademarks in early 2017.

The BRC LLC places the cash in reserve, or escrow, each year, but it’s not a completed deal. The value of the Burning Man(TM) trademarks increased since the price might have been set in 2011, and the acceptance of this amount is subject to a vote by the six former BRC LLC owners, though their vote does have to be unanimous to not accept the cash. Financial maneuvers might also occur, perchance donating Decommodification LLC to the 501(c)3 Project for additional tax deductions, after the assets of Decommodification LLC are stripped away to yet another LLC, in the same manner as the BRC LLC was donated to the Project, after the trademarks and other assets were stripped towards their Decommodification LLC.

Mandatory conditions were attached upon the donation of the BRC LLC to the Project, as is the usual for large donations, and some of the conditions are reflected within the Project bylaws, updated at the time of the donation. Burners have not been informed of these conditions, and the plan, might be something Burners don’t expect at all.

b) 500,000 to $1 million in salaries. They are entitled to reasonable salaries for their positions on the 501(c)3 Project. As stated prior, their precise positions and salaries are available on the Project board meetings minutes.

c) $1 million for licence of the Burning Man(TM) trademarks. The $1 million amount in 2013, perchance was decided during the middle of 2013, thus the licence levy might be higher than $1 million for the complete year of 2014.

d) $500,000 to $800,000 for licence of images of Burning Man, primarily from Spark: A Burning Man Story, distributed on Netflix, Showtime, and other channels. The ticket terms state the licensing of images at Burning Man, i.e., images of the art, mutant vehicles, theme camps, and Burners, is controlled by the BRC LLC, and Decommodification LLC. There is no rationale their for-profit Decommodification LLC is within the ticket terms, other than to take licensing revenues towards their pockets.

Thus, by this simple estimate based upon their numbers and their statements, in 2014 Where Your Ticket Money Goes  is $85 to $130 of each ticket is directed towards their pockets, in place of towards awesome Burners throwing this crowd sourced party.

2015:
a) $4 million to $6 million from 2015 ticket sales, held in reserve, or held in escrow, for the purchase of the Burning Man(TM) name and other trademarks from their Decommodification LLC in early 2017.

b) $500,000 to $1 million in reasonable salaries.

c) $1 million for licence of the Burning Man(TM) trademarks, paid to their Decommodification LLC.

d) $400,000 to $800,000 for licence of images of Burning Man, paid to their Decommodification LLC.

2016:
a) $4 million to $6 million from 2016 ticket sales, held in reserve, or held in escrow, for the purchase of the Burning Man(TM) name and trademarks from their Decommodification LLC in early 2017,

b) $500,000 to $1 million in reasonable salaries.

c) $1 million for licence of the Burning Man(TM) trademarks, paid to their Decommodification LLC.

d) $400,000 to $800,000 for licence of images of Burning Man, paid to their Decommodification LLC.

Early 2017:

As penned within this estimate, the Burning Man Project, or its BRC LLC subsidiary, is scheduled to purchase the trademarks from Decommodification LLC, including the Burning Man(TM) name, )$( logo, and additional trademarks, such as Decompression(TM) and Decommodification(TM). That’s when they’ll be paid for their value.

Thus, $35 million to $47 million of cash is directed towards minting them, mostly tax free. Upon averages, each of the six former BRC LLC owners will pocket as much cash as was commissioned by them for all the art, including the temples, in the entire history of Burning Man, which is less than $7 million, per the afterburn reports.

cash cowIF ANY PERSON MIGHT PROVE ANY OF THIS ESTIMATE TO BE INCORRECT, PLEASE DO SO IN THE COMMENTS BELOW ON THIS SITE. I would be very much obliged, towards obtaining improved information upon their seven year cash out.

Not a shabby capitalistic pocketing for a bottom up crowd sourced party that awesome Burners have thrown for two decades upon our theme camps, mutant vehicles, art projects, and the labours of thousands of Burner volunteers.
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Opinion – A Fair Manner Forward

The BMOrg must:

a) Disclose the details of their cash out to numerous people whom donate cash, art, and volunteer labour to the 501(c)3 Project. The BMOrg must also disclose their large conflicts of interest to thousands of donors gifting art, volunteer labour, mutant vehicles, sound camps, theme camps, and others providing entertainment to ticket buyers. Tickets sold by Black Rock City LLC, dba Burning Man, a subsidiary corporation of the Project, is the primary source of cash going into the pockets of the six people controlling these corporations. They are firmly in control of the Project, and most are also on the BRC LLC board. I believe it dishonourable of them to hide, from donors, the cash directed to their pockets through bureaucratic processes, misdirections and omissions, and false statements, while remaining firmly in control. I’m of the opinion they must act in the manner people believe a 501(c)3, licensed by the State of California, and receiving donations, must act.

b) Disclose the mandatory conditions attached to the donation of the BRC LLC to the Project. Burning Man states, “Over time, however, it is likely that the event will evolve in ways that support the efforts of the non-profit in more distinct ways than are currently apparent or even yet explored“. It is fair for Burners to know, and have great input, into the 100 year plan.

c) Place independent Burners, whom truly represent the awesome Burning Man community, on the Project Board, in place of your mates, fund managers and corporate executives.

d) Distribute most tickets through the awesome Burning Man communities, in place of over the Internet. Rebuild the Burner community in this manner. If people desire tickets, they might obtain tickets by making connections within the Burner community by contributing to the bottom up crowd sourced parties. Permit volunteers to purchase several tickets for their mates. Gift several thousand tickets to mutant vehicle owners, sound camps, theme camps providing entertainment, and artists, whom contribute mightedly towards throwing the crowd sourced party on the playa. Permit them to sell the tickets, at listed price, to their campers and others to defray the costs of their incredible gifts to the community, and of providing entertainment to the BMOrg’s ticket buyers.

e) Negotiate a fair contract with the awesome artists, collectively. Fair is not divide and conquer, nor reimbursing artists solely 30% to 40% of their costs, solely $12 of each $380 or $650 ticket sold to Safari Camps.

f) Pay those whom labour, for more than a brace of weeks, a fair wage. Might you pay an additional 100 awesome DPW arses an hourly wage of $15 for two months, it is $500,000, solely $8 of each $380 or $650 Safari Camp ticket. Add in another $4 per ticket for raising the wages paid towards the DPW to a fair value.

‘ABalancedPerspective’

Commodification Camp Concerns

Last night a couple of dozen interested Burners participated in the “Turnkey/Plug-n-Play Forum” discussion. It was organized by Travis Puglisi, who makes a (modest) living working on camps, art projects, or as a vendor at Burning Man, Coachella, the Joshua Tree music festival and others. BMOrg were invited to participate, but declined. I guess they’re too busy engaging the community in conversation about Turnkey camps to actually want to talk to anyone.

Kudos to Travis for making a genuine effort to connect with the community by asking: if he wants to make a living from festivals like Burning Man, then what is acceptable behavior, and what is detrimental to our values? [Travis later commented that he doesn't actually care about this, even if the community thinks it's wrong he's still fine with treating BM as a commercial gig]. It’s more than BMOrg are doing: they are just defining Turnkey as any camp where some camp members arrive early to set up the infrastructure, whether paid or unpaid. By this definition, almost every camp is a Turnkey camp, so there’s nothing they can do about the problem. That’s why at Burners.Me we like “Commodification Camps”, because it highlights the main issue in reference to the 10 Principles: Commodification.

2014 psyclone medallionIn the past Travis has been one of the organizers of Play)A(Skool. He quit “declined collaboration” when they wanted to bring 80 RVs, considering that model to be unsustainable. This year he worked for camp Psyclone, ultra-wealthy Burners who were mostly from New York. Psyclone, located at 6:30 & A, scored a clean green on the MOOP map – except for a single red dot, which they have not yet received any explanation about. The camp conceived of and fabricated their own art, they make their own food (it’s not catered), sort their own trash and take aluminum to Recycle Camp.

This year the camp consisted of 17 RVs, 10 hexayurts, 2 tents, 6 yurt-like structures, and 3 inflatable prototype shelters. Travis was careful not to name anyone from the camp, but I’m guessing the latter were Clearchannel CEO and Billionaire Burner Bob Pittman’s Dhomes:

pittman dhome

Pittman (L) in front of one of his Spider Dhomes. Photo: Nellie Bowles

Inside the inflatable party pad. Photo: Nellie Bowles

Inside the inflatable party pad. Photo: Nellie Bowles

Pittman plans to bring 200 Dhomes next year, renting them for $5-10k per week. Read all about it in Re/Code. Travis demurred pled ignorance on answering how much Psyclone’s camp dues were for 2014.

Here’s some coverage of Psyclone from last year, from Modern Luxury:

…the anti-establishment art and music festival has really grown up. This year, the call of the Playa—the festival’s name for the stretch of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert that’s now its home—drew a crowd of bigwig burners, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Sean Combs [P.Diddy], MTV founder Bob Pittman and two intrepid members of the Hamptons social set, who recalled the event for us.

Burning Man is a not-for-profit weeklong festival…

Remember when you were a kid at Disney World and were totally awestruck? When you’re a “virgin burner” you feel like it’s Christmas morning every morning of the festival. Burning Man is a big hippie commune where the ideals of the ’70s are vibrantly alive, if only for a week. No money, no red-velvet ropes; everything is shared and all are invited everywhere.

Burning Man teaches radical self-reliance with its “Bring what you need or find what you need, but give more than you receive” message. At the core of its values is the principle of taking care of the Playa. The worst thing you can do at Burning Man is to be irresponsible with your MOOP

This year, our 60-person camp was called PsyClone, and it was just about the coolest place I’ve ever been. I got to meet entrepreneurs, famous actors, people who work in politics, fellow doctors (I’m a psychiatrist) and amazing artists, all in one tented campsite. At about a quarter of an acre, the camp was very small, consisting of RVs and tents in the back and a central area for socializing, plus sofas, a refrigerator, a homemade shower and a barbecue. At the front of the camp, major pieces of art were set up to attract visitors.

2014 psycloneEach camp applies for space from the Burning Man administrators about six months ahead of time. The event organizers decide your location depending on how you plan to contribute and how clean you left your space the previous year. To attend Burning Man, you don’t need an official camp—you can just show up and pitch a tent—but know that you’ll likely be in a less-desirable location.

…There truly is no place like home.

- See more at Modern Luxury 

Last night’s meeting went for a couple of hours, and although some good points were made from different sides of the Commodification Camp debate, it was ultimately inconclusive. Some of the issues raised are worthy of further consideration and discussion by the community.

 

What Makes A Commodification Camp?

Is it employing workers, making a profit, or the level of camp dues provided? Or is it selling hotel rooms and services to “Safari tourists”? To me, it’s a Commodification Camp if its members don’t have to build anything, work any shifts, or pack anything up; they simply fly in and fly out without putting in any Communal Effort and Gift with their checkbook, if at all. You can’t call it Inclusion or Participation if it happens in a wristband-only VIP area.

The difference between Burning Man and many other events is that this city is built on the backs of volunteers. Those running for-profit camps, are therefore lining their pockets with the blood, sweat, and tears of the rest of us, for whom Burning Man has always been a labor of love. Why should everyone work for free, pay to be there, and pay to bring art and gifts – while a select few charge thousands or tens of thousands per head for hotels and pay slave labor wages for others to wait on them and clean up their mess?

Light sculptures at Psyclone

Light sculptures at Psyclone

Psyclone had 6 paid workers managing the build, logistics, operations, and tear-down. There was one person on shift at the camp at all times, not so much to be a sherpa but to help camp members with requests like organizing a group to move heavy objects. The lowest paid was making $150 a day, and the highest paid made $350 per day. Travis himself earned $13,450 for working May through September on the camp – hardly a fortune. Nevada minimum wage is $8.25 per hour; assuming Travis worked 40 hours per week for 20 weeks, for him that works out to $16.81 per hour. No-one could accuse him of trying to get rich off Burning Man – this is slightly above what he could get at McDonald’s. It is, though, significantly more than what most DPW workers earn.

Most DPW and Gate workers are volunteers. They get a free or discounted ticket, and food from the commissary – except once Burning Man actually starts. Then, they are expected to fend for themselves. This is pretty impractical, it’s not like people who are living on the Playa for a month can pop out to Whole Foods to stock up on supplies. BMOrg spends $1.4 million a year on food, so it seems a little stingy that their workers have to starve once the event is underway – while First Camp dine on fresh produce brought in every day.

There are about 400 DPW workers. If they were all paid minimum wage for an average of 4 weeks at 40 hours per week, that would be $528,000 – $7.76 per ticket. This is about the same as what BMOrg charge as a ticket processing fee, and less than what they charge to mail tickets or hold them at Will Call. It’s about the same as what BMOrg spend on travel and costumes for themselves every year.

 

 

Camp Costs Are Increasing

Once Burning Man was sold out, and became the latest “bucket list” destination, the vendors increased their fees massively. A camp that provided a generator, kitchen trailer, and A/C unit, supporting 15 RVs, used to cost $5000 per head. The generator rental and drainage with United for this camp used to cost $7900 2 years ago, now it is $33,000. This means the camp costs are now $7000 per head. Renting a C-class RV for the week used to cost $3500, now it’s $5500. BMOrg implemented a Vendor Approval Process which was used by vendors as an excuse for massive price hikes.

Even camps that don’t make a profit, where everyone chips in to cover expenses, are faced with increasing costs due to supply and demand. Only a small number of vendors are allowed; the lack of competition means vendors can price gouge. One suggestion was that vendors should have to open their books and disclose their profit margins to the community – this would be a good idea for The Burning Man Project too.

 

Principles vs Laws

MOOP #fail

MOOP #fail

Back in the day, Burning Man had 2 immutable laws. “No Commerce” – you couldn’t buy or sell anything on the Playa; and “Leave No Trace” – you have to pick up after yourself. Violate either law, and you could be kicked out of the event. Since the Principles were introduced in 2004 as “guidelines”, the rules are now more rubbery. So we get multi-million dollar camps like Caravancicle/Lost Hotel leaving vast swathes of yellow and red on the MOOP map, and every year sees “commerce creep” with the introduction of a new money-making item – merchandise in 2013, gasoline in 2014.

Burning Man’s Chief Philosophy Officer, Larry Harvey, has spearheaded their “10 Principles” series of blog posts – 21 so far. The mere fact that they have to devote so many words to trying to explain these things, suggests that perhaps there are a better set of community credos we could come up with. I mean, “thou shalt not kill” is pretty frikkin’ clear. “Decommodification”, on the other hand, gets pretty confusing when the owners create a company called Decommodification, LLC to earn royalties from the event – potentially $1 million a year or more.

Here’s what Larry Harvey says about the Principles:

they utterly lack the imperative mood; they are not commands or requests—they do not give permission or withhold it. For example, Leaving No Trace is not a commandment. Although it speaks of what we value, it does not demand allegiance

…the Ten Principles employ the language of prosody. The principle of Participation states, ”We make the world real through actions that open the heart.” Such language often has the property of meaning many things at once, and this is because it is not produced by following a linear series of logical propositions. Instead of explaining, as if unfolding the planes of a box, poetic language does the opposite.

So the Principles aren’t commandments, mean many things at once, aren’t logical, and are deliberately designed to obscure, not explain. BMOrg can use whatever poetic language they like: Commodification of our culture for money is against Burning Man.

It seems that million-dollar camps are getting preferential placement, as many tickets as they want, and a blind eye turned to blatant violations of the 10 Principles. More than anything, I think this is the problem with Commodification Camps that upsets the community the most. If we’re going to have rules, they should apply to everyone equally.

 

Radical Inclusion Means Preferring Virgins and Shafting Burners

Back in the day, it was rare to meet a first-timer at Burning Man. There was a community of mostly hard-core Burners, people who went out there every year, spending all year planning what they were going to bring next time so they can give even more. These days, 40% are Virgins, and only 29% have been more than twice.

The problem with this unquenchable thirst for fresh meat is Burners who have been contributing for years no longer feel welcome. It’s hard for them to get tickets, and every year it will get harder.

If the population cap stays the same, and we continue with the ratio of 40% virgins, every year it becomes more difficult for people who’ve been to Burning Man before to return home.

virgins and non virgins

“% Non-Virgins” is calculated by comparing the number of non-virgins to the total number of Burners to date. A non-virgin means “been once or more”, as opposed to Veteran which we define as 3 or more Burns.

A city that truly valued the Communal Effort made by its citizens, would see the % Virgins decreasing every year. It should be a challenge to go to Burning Man if you’re not a Burner, and Burners who’ve put in the hours should have more chance to get a ticket than someone who has contributed a total of 0 to the community.

 

 

Self-Reliance Doesn’t Apply To The Wealthy

Some wealthy people will only come to Burning Man if they can be coddled. Driving their own RV from Reno is too much of a hassle for them, taking their own trash out is too much trouble, they need to pay someone else to do that so they can just fly in and out – or they’re not going to bother coming. I ask you: so what? Do we really need people who aren’t interested in Self-Reliance? How is that making the party better for Burners? There are plenty of rich people there who help set up or clean up their camps, pick up after themselves, and contribute to art projects. Why do we need those who don’t?

Some argue that it is so good for the world for the cash-rich and time-poor to experience Burning Man, that we should overlook all of the Principles for the sake of “Rule #1″: Radical Inclusion. A camp producer gave the example of a CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation who was inspired by Burning Man to donate money to arts programs for schools. Their camp spent $180,000 on donations to Burning Man art projects last year, and $230,000 this year. To put this in perspective, BMOrg themselves spent $800,000 – so just one camp can fund a third as much art as BMOrg who rake in $30 million annually. To make sure that money actually goes to the artists, this particular camp facilitated direct donations, rather than going through Burning Man Arts who absorb most of the money donated to them in overhead.

I can see that it might be beneficial for the world if powerful people have a transformational experience at Burning Man, and I believe that can happen. How many, though, just have a great time and then go back to their normal lives? 50%? 90%? P.Diddy – the world’s richest rapper – went last year for the first time, and had a life changing experience.

How did that help the world? Well, it inspired him to make a Burning Man-themed Fiat commercial.

 

need lsdIf they don’t experience Self Reliance, Leave No Trace, Gifting, Communal Effort, Participation, or Civic Responsibility, then how was it a transformational Burning Man experience? This is like saying “acid is great because people can get deep insights”. Maybe some do, but does that mean anyone can just ignore all the Principles and rules, because it is so important to the world for them to take acid?

The more staff that Commodification Camps hire, the fewer Burners get to go. They get replaced with minimum wage workers who barely get to leave their camp and whose very survival is threatened if they want to quit. Self-reliance means 1 Burner, 1 ticket; Radical Wealth Reliance means the tourists also need tickets for the sherpas who contribute to their burn, but not ours.

Here’s an idea: why doesn’t BMOrg throw “Radical Inclusion” events off-Playa? They can invite all the underage children, politicians, frat boys, and trailer park tourists they want – all 7 billion people in the Default World. Removing the need for Radical Self Reliance will make it possible to acculturate a much wider audience. They can use these “Rely On Others, Gift Nothing, MOOP away, Express Conformity” Commodifcation events to educate the masses. Maybe some of them will then want to become Burners and come out to the Playa to pitch in and create Black Rock City with the rest of us. BMOrg could take some of the profits made from commodifiying Burner culture and blending it with the Default world, and invest that into more art at Burning Man. I think most Burners are OK with the owners making a profit from the event (although they tell us it’s a non-profit), but not OK with less art every year.

 

The Bottom Line

If a camp gets placement, it should have a public, interactive component. Each camp needs to gift something to everyone: all Burners should be welcome at any camp at Burning Man. I would rather burn with 70,000 Burners than 20,000 Burners and 50,000 tourists, no matter how rich or famous they are. If they can’t go without being coddled, then maybe we don’t want them – let Burners who get the Principles and make a Communal Effort take those spots. Making Burning Man into the Default world does not make it better, it makes it lamer.

What’s the point of Burning Man, anyway? Fun? Profit? Brainwashing? Building a corporate brand?

Dennis Kucinich lectures the IDEATEs

Former Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich lectures the village Ideates

Is Burning Man something provided by BMOrg for the purpose of acculturating strangers; or is it something Burners provide to each other by bringing the art, music, costumes, food, and drink? In the former scenario, experienced Burners just get in the way. Dennis Kucinich couldn’t even be fucked putting a pair of cargo pants on, but he had no problem giving media interviews and political speeches out there. How did that help make the world a better place?  At least Grover wore some kind of pouffy bandanna and a blinky light…and he’s been milking that in the press ever since.

I’ll leave you with a comment Mortician made at burningman.com, which I think is an excellent expression of the Commodification Camp problem:

Participants (and I am using that term loosely) who live in walled off camps, who do not interact – or negatively interact- with their neighbors, who have roped off VIP areas and private art cars which exist only to exclude, who use the Playa as a networking opportunity, a private nightclub or rave, a chance to package and sell the efforts of others, or a questionable employment backdrop within their camp create a negative experience for everyone around them.

I don’t personally think it matters one bit how much money someone has as to whether they can create positive or negative experiences for the community. I also don’t believe that everyone who comes has to participate in every single aspect of their camps to be a positive contributor. Its fine if a camp, say, has some people come early to set up and another group sticks around at the end to strike. The question in my mind is not related to someones net worth or how many rebar stakes they have pounded. It is completely about whether someone is coming to actively be a part of the city and open to interaction, or whether they are coming to violate the community by co-opting others contributions, treat those same contributors with active rejection, derision, and exclusion from behind velvet ropes and wristbands, and do everything possible to separate themselves from the general community via handlers, sherpas, and walls.

If the more egregious PnP camps need that much hand holding and separation from the general community, why don’t they just either go down to Vegas for their long clubbing weekend where the entire town exists to cater to that need level, or come out to the playa and set up their camp at some other time when there is no one else out they need to keep out?

 2014 laser harp psyclone tp drum wall psyclone tp psyclone front tp

Social Alchemist Seeks Sherpa for Startup Shenanigans

This year, just before Burning Man, the New York Times published an expose on rich people trying to one-up each other at Burning Man with luxury camps and paid employees. They featured an interview with an insider, Tyler Hansen, who worked for a large luxury camp as a sherpa. Not a Big S Sherpa, one of the noble mountain people of Nepal; a small s sherpa, someone employed as a guide. Before this high-profile NYT article, I had never before heard the word sherpa in conjunction with Burning Man. Now it seems every Commodification Camp has a team of sherpas. How did this word enter Burning Man’s lexicon?

After Caravansiclery wrapped up, we heard from another sherpa who worked at the luxury plug-n-play camp created by mega-rich Burning Man Director Jim Tananbaum. According to documents from Megas Inc, camping spots cost $13,000 per head. According to the whistleblower, it was $17,000. What was the difference – tips? Or were some “products” provided that weren’t suitable to be listed in the contract?

This mountain looks pretty big...where's my sherpa?

This mountain of “ice cream” looks pretty big…where’s my sherpa?

The camp featured Mistresses of Merriment, some of whom claim “playmate“, “pasties”, and “no pants” in their profiles.

2014 alyssa arce caravancicle 2 caravancicle tweet

2014 bella hunter2014 bella hunter wig

2014 amber nicole

KBand published a list of people involved with Caravancicle, something we have decided not to re-post as it could be considered “doxing”, an online practice that is frowned upon. You can search out the list for yourself. We reference it because it contains a link that inspired this story – one that connects Commodification Camps, BMOrg, and Sherpas.

Burning Man’s Social Alchemist and Global Ambassador, Bear Kittay, is named in the list of Caravancicle associates. What was his role in the camp?

Despite being paid to be a Social Alchemist, Bear is not permitted by his employer to make an on the record statement to social media. He camped at First Camp, and doesn’t know why he is named in the Caravancicle list.

A silent ambassador? Sounds more like a secret agent to me. Why does BMOrg need secret agents to spread its culture, if it’s all for charity?

Bear’s mentor is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist whom he brought out to the Playa to do deals. Shervin Pishevar,  formerly of Menlo Ventures, has now branched out on his own with a new $154 million startup. Its name? Drumroll please…

Sherpa Ventures. @Sherpa.

 

Is this merely yet another ironic coincidence, like BMOrg Directors selling luxury elite camps on K Street while brochures for the same type of amenity-laden retreat are being handed out in the Souk? How many more coincidences do there need to be, before all these connections seem like more than just random chance?


 

Here’s some of the back story. Who is Bear Kittay?

From About.Me:

Bear Kittay is a social alchemist who exists to activate human potential. As Burning Man’s Global Ambassador, Bear initiates global experiences with cultural pioneers from the realms of entrepreneurship, government, science, and art to accelerate innovation and cultural transformation. As an entrepreneur, he’s founded, discovered and currently advises several venture-backed Silicon Valley technology companies, including Shaker, Organizer, and Sponsorfied. He’s raised more than $20M in early stage venture funding from top tier firms including Founders Fund and Menlo Ventures. A singer and multi-instrumentalist, Bear’s secret sauce is his music. He’s studied and performed music in venues throughout the world and founded Music for Democracy, a PAC organizing musicians for progressive causes

From The Burning Man Project:

Bear Kittay serves as Social Alchemist and Ambassador for Burning Man Project, visiting burners around the world, capturing their stories and sharing information from other groups  creating positive change around the world. So far Bear has attended AfrikaBurn in South Africa, KiwiBurn in New Zealand, Nowhere in Spain, and visited burners in Australia, Maui and London. He has represented the Project at the SXSW premiere of Spark, at a festival on human rights in Croatia and at a social innovation festival in Oaxaca, Mexico. He’s just recently returned from a whirlwind trip that included KoreaBurn, Burning Japan and Burning Seed in Australia.

He was also sent this year to Midburn, a Burning Man event which humbly aims to bring peace to the Middle East.

In 2010 I brought two of my best friends to Burning Man for the first time, after trying for about a decade to convince them to go. They absolutely loved it, we camped with Villains and Vixens and Overkill. Bear was not so close a friend, but I had previously entertained him in my home in Australia and suggested he should go to Burning Man and experience for himself magic happening in real time. 2009 was his first burn. In 2010, he came to visit our camp in some sort of wetsuit with his dick hanging out of a flap in the front. Wetsuit cocking, a new one to me. Millenial innovation, no doubt. Luckily he brought a beautiful woman with him. She was immediately whisked into the fanciest RV on the Playa, while Bear remained with us drinking at our camp’s fully stocked bar. And yes, we too had top shelf vodka – $29 for a bottle of Grey Goose at Safeway, fancy. Show up, and we pour you a drink. Doesn’t get much more Radically Inclusive than that – although, if you want to use the bathroom in my RV, you’re gonna need a wristband.

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Bear and Dr Molly – not a couple! Photo by Snorky

In 2011, Bear created a Burning Man camp called Kundavi. It was tied to a real estate venture in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I joined them and pitched in where I could, mainly contributing the sound system. This was the first year I’d brought my own RV, an old one I found for a steal off eBay, an economical alternative to the nicer vehicles I’d rented previously. Bear brought out his parents for their first Burn. Dr David Kittay, a lecturer on religion and technology at Columbia University, later would host the infamous “The Founders Speak” panel discussion in New York with Larry Harvey, John Perry Barlow, and Peter Hirshberg, the recordings of which mysteriously went missing despite BMOrg’s promise to share them with Burners.

Bear brought some friends to Camp Kundavi that he wanted to get together for business reasons. Earlier in the year, Bear had asked Shervin, his mentor, what he should do with his life. Shervin had said “go and travel the world, and if you find any interesting startups, bring them to me”. In Barcelona (or was it Tel Aviv?), Kittay randomly met some young Israeli entrepreneurs with a social media startup called Shaker.

Shervin was the guy who did the Uber deal for Menlo Ventures, which turned out to be such a stellar success that he can probably trade off that one deal for the rest of his life. He brought celebrities like Ed Norton and Burner Will Smith in as investors in their Series B round.

Bear saw an opportunity – here was a deal he could broker for Shervin, and maybe get a piece for himself. And it could all go down at Burning Man.

shervin uberShervin showed up fresh from Las Vegas. It was his first trip to the Playa, and not his natural environment, but he was an “out there” VC, prepared to do whatever it took to close on the next big deal. He would shave Uber into his hair if that was what it took. Before hopping on his Black Jet he had spent 3 hours in the hairdresser, getting his jet-black locks turned into a rainbow mohawk.

Shervin was frustrated because he was in the closing stages of an $800 million deal, and his Blackberry reception was patchy. I lent him my satellite phone but it wasn’t enough, he needed to get back to Vegas to close this deal. Time was limited. Bear seized his opportunity to bring his mentor and his protegés together.

Here’s SF Gate examining Burning Man’s new role as a deal destination for the captains of tech:

Burning Man founders are happy about the changes – even courting them. Those captains of tech also fund the enormous temporary art installations in the city center and support the Burning Man nonprofit efforts.

“What we’re seeing are many more of the Fortune 500 leadership, entrepreneurs and small startups bringing their whole team,” said Marian Goodell, Burning Man director of business and communications.

Like a corporate retreat?

A little bit like a corporate retreat. The event is a crucible, a pressure cooker and, by design, a place to think of new ideas or make new connections.”

She said that, contrary to what people may think, she is not particularly liberal and, as a sign of her conservative cred, added that “my sister’s godfather is Antonin Scalia,” the staunchly conservative Supreme Court justice. “Burning Man on the outside has very liberal and socially strong principles, but I’ve been running it with very fiscally conservative policies.

These new burners, she said, are to be celebrated.

“If you’re in the longtime Burning Man community, maybe it’s easy to frown on certain types of people coming. But the more we have a variety of influencers – folks from London and New York – the better off we will be and the better off the Burning Man Project.”

shaker 2011 disruptWhen Bear Kittay, 26, who runs a camp with an innovation theme, met five Israeli entrepreneurs in Barcelona, he told them to come to the desert. On the spur of the moment, the young men, founders of a virtual reality startup, took time off work and joined him.

On the playa, Kittay introduced them to Shervin Pishevar, managing partner of the venture capital firm Menlo Ventures. And there, coated in desert dust, Pishevar agreed to lead the first round of funding – $15 million.

That company, Shaker, won the prestigious TechCrunch Disrupt conference award for best new startup in 2011.

“It’s a big testament to Burning Man,” Goodell said

Typical BMOrg, claiming credit for any thing any Burners do any where. We’ve gone from “commerce is banned at Burning Man” to “we never said we were against commerce” to “if commerce happens that’s a big testament to Burning Man”.

The Burning Man component of the Shaker deal was no more than 5 minutes of conversation. Here’s how it really happened.

Bear brought Shervin and the Shaker team together, in the shade provided by my RV. Perhaps it was a coincidence that the meeting went down right outside the window of the main early-stage tech investor in the camp, or perhaps this was all part of some master plan. Later, off Playa, I did offer to make a token investment into Shaker but by this stage I was small fry, they were on to bigger and better things after winning Tech Crunch Disrupt and a $15 million round led by Menlo Ventures. Like most of these Millenial-led tech companies that boast how they don’t need anyone’s advice or money, they haven’t amounted to much. They did a partnership deal with Live Nation, whose biggest shareholder owns QVC (Home Shopping Network), home of Burning Man Director Matt Goldberg. Last I heard Shaker had “pivoted”, and is now an online gaming play.

Shervin didn’t actually do the Shaker deal in Black Rock City, but he made plans to meet with the guys in San Francisco the next week. Tech Crunch Disrupt, which was featured in Mike Judge’s hilarious Silicon Valley show, occurs the week after Burning Man. As arranged on the Playa, Shervin met the guys in the morning before the competition and at the end of the meeting they shook hands on a deal. Later, when they presented and won, Tech Crunch founder Michael Arrington said he wanted to invest also.

Here’s Shervin describing how it all came about to Uncrunched:

here’s the crazy story of how I met them. I was working on scouting a Jedi Council retreat in Cabo. I met these amazing guys from Mexico at Summit Series who are were working on an entrepreneurs resort. I began mentoring one of them, Bear. He wanted to learn how to become an investor and VC in the future. My advice was to go forth and travel around the world scouting for amazing startups and bring it back. I didn’t expect to hear from him for months. Instead, a mere 3 weeks later he had traveled to Egypt and Israel, and I flew into Burning Man. He said, “Shervin, I listened to you! Thank you! And I found this amazing startup, Shaker. And they are flying into the Playa tonight and they are competing in Techcrunch Disrupt!” That night I met them and was very impressed with them and their vision. But with no connection I had to wait until the following Tuesday to get the demo at a Samovar in San Francisco. Within a minute, I knew what I saw was the future. I had been looking for this for years. Their product execution was nearly flawless. A very hard feat to accomplish given the vision. The next day I brought them in to meet the rest of the Menlo partners. They agreed and we were off! Meanwhile, while we tried to come to an agreement on an investment, Shaker won Disrupt! I actually got the term sheet done and signed from the streets of Haiti the following weekend while I was volunteering in Haiti for jp/hro! Hopefully, there will be karma in that and all of the serendipity that brought us together.

Pre-planned serendipity and engineered karma: is this Social Alchemy in action?

This year, Shervin has launched his new venture, called Sherpa Ventures. From Business Week:

Here’s what happens when you set out to profile Silicon Valley venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar.

On Monday, July 7, Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber’s manager, calls at Pishevar’s request to attest that the Iranian-born entrepreneur has brought him several high-profile investment opportunities and had a hand in introducing him to his future wife. On Tuesday, DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg rings to praise Pishevar as “a great networker” and says, “There is nobody more loyal.”


On Wednesday, Elon Musk, founder of electric-car company Tesla Motors is on the phone recounting how the pair traveled to Cuba last year with Sean Penn and ended up negotiating (unsuccessfully) with the Castro government for the release of an American imprisoned there. On Thursday, it’s Edward Norton, who says Pishevar advised the actor and his wife on building their charitable-giving website, CrowdRise, and later persuaded Norton to make an investment in the booming ride-sharing startup Uber. Finally, on Friday, New Jersey junior Senator Cory Booker calls to explain how Pishevar has become a crucial link between Washington and Silicon Valley—bundling donations for President Obama’s reelection campaign and spearheading an effort to create a new kind of “startup visa” for foreign entrepreneurs. “There are guys that can write big checks, and there are guys that can bring people together to write checks,” Booker says. Pishevar “inspires people to give and does it in a way that is not icky.”

shervin-pishevar-haircut-fab-summit-basecamp-via-chester-ngPishevar, in case it’s not already clear, is one of the most excessively networked guys in Silicon Valley. The former tech-entrepreneur-turned-investor has backed Uber, e-tailer Fab.com, and eyeglass purveyor Warby Parker, among other startups. Now he’s running his own venture capital firm, SherpaVentures, which has raised $154 million from a group of investors that includes Condé Nast and the private equity firm TPG Capital. In the process, he has turned himself into one of the most visible members of the California technology and media scene, frequently showing up onstage at tech conferences and backstage at Hollywood awards shows. When Obama met with a select group of technology executives last December to discuss revelations about National Security Agency surveillance, Pishevar was at the White House, standing Zelig-like next to tech luminaries, including Tim Cook and Marissa Mayer.

Pishevar, 40, embodies a new kind of venture capitalist, bringing contacts and visibility to his startups in addition to—or perhaps instead of—operational or technical know-how. A tireless self-promoter who prefers a Los Angeles-style hug over a handshake, he’s based in fashionable San Francisco instead of the stuffy suburban enclave of Menlo Park, the traditional cradle of the VC industry. He’s also known for his public displays of enthusiasm: He once shaved the initials of several of his portfolio companies into his hair.

His exuberance and ubiquity have come at a price, though. The gossip website Valleywag once referred to him as a “humble-bragging, attention-grabbing startup financier” and suggested he’s obsessed with being liked and famous. Pishevar admits that a rival investor once called him “a clown” to his face.

A new kind of venture capitalist: the Burner capitalist. Burner Shervin even purchased a trip to space with famous pal Ashton Kutcher, who is also now a big-time tech investor in AirBnB and others.

The name TPG Capital has come up in this blog before. They recently invested $300 million in AirBnB, which now advertises rooms in Burning Man camps and boasts 2 of Burning Man’s 18 Directors as its full-time employees. So they’re backing both Sherpa, and AirBnB. A very powerful behind-the-scenes player.

What does Sherpa do? They’re “vague by design“. This slide from a recent presentation gives a clue to the opportunities they see:

sherpa ventures new market

From the Wall Street Journal:

Sherpa, in many ways, is representative of a new class of boutique firms: young, city-based, and striving to differentiate themselves from earlier generations.

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown — many miles from the famed Sand Hill Road where many venture firms reside — Sherpa’s office of roughly a dozen employees is filled with plush Herman Miller chairs and black-and-white murals by local artists.

…Half of the group is an investment vehicle, SherpaVentures, and the other half is SherpaFoundry, a vehicle to incubate new companies and to connect their portfolio companies with larger, often public, companies.

“We felt like there was an opportunity to create a guild-like model,” says Stanford. “It’s our name. We like to be in the background making magic happen–hauling the bags up the mountain, enabling great success, the ones behind the camera at the summit.”

The Burner Capitalists are pouring in to the Playa – which is also by design. In 2012 Bear co-founded IDEATE, “Burning Man’s tech innovation camp”. Although the camp was conceived at the last minute, and chock full of virgins, they had no problem getting prime real estate next to First Camp, and all the tickets they wanted.

Here’s some recent coverage from Recode:

In yet another “cuddle puddle” — a sort of non-sexual group snuggling that seems to be the favored daytime activity at Burning Man — entrepreneur Tim West explained to me the mission of the 200-person tech and innovation camp, Ideate. (I’m also camping here at the annual Nevada desert festival this week.)

“It’s about bringing tech people to Burning Man, and helping them understand it,” said West, who was wearing an Air Force jumpsuit and carrying a headless Barbie in his pocket. “And then bringing Burning Man back to the default world.”

Some Ideating going on at Burning Man

The special relationship between Burning Man and Silicon Valley is not an accident — it’s by design. A group of young tech entrepreneurs created Ideate three years ago, in collaboration with the Burning Man founders, to support the concept.

Its members are meant to serve as liaisons and teachers to the flood of new tech workers — and tech money — coming into the festival. In some ways, the camp was born out of an anxiety: The Burning Man founders are aging, and they needed to find a core next-generation troupe and ideas for the weeklong event’s next chapter.

What’s perhaps most interesting is that they chose a group of young people who are explicitly focused on entrepreneurship.

“The most important piece of why Silicon Valley exists in the first place is Burning Man — this is a place people go to confront problems and make solutions and prototype,” West said. “Why is innovation happening here in Silicon Valley more than anywhere else in the world? Burning Man.”

…”Ideate is where we can think of and test these ideas, and then bring them to the world. And people are ready for it.”

“Burning Man is not a sub culture anymore,” Delaune said.

“It’s the dom culture,” Hanusa added.

The Peninsula Press discussed Bear’s big role in Burning Man’s future:

While transitioning the project to nonprofit status, Burning Man’s directors are exploring ways to expand its culture globally, focus more on technology and innovation, and lean heavily on the ideas of young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. “We’re at an absolutely critical time in our change and our morphing, and we’re going to be relying on others to help us,” said Marian Goodell, one of the six project owners since 1996.

Conversations about the future have been brewing for months. Bear Kittay, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and musician, has taken the lead in organizing meetings for up-and-coming Bay Area start-up types with Larry Harvey, the founder and director of Burning Man, and Goodell. Kittay is also helping figure out how to spread the project’s 10 principles to other parts of the world.

Goodell calls Kittay their “hyper-connector.” His resume includes being the co-founder of a company called Organizer, which created a clipboard-like mobile platform for use during political campaigns, and a partner (and designated “social alchemist”) in the Avalon Hot Springs eco-resort north of Napa Valley.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Kittay organized a retreat at Avalon. He invited Harvey, Goodell and about a dozen others…

There are longstanding cultural ties between Burning Man and Silicon Valley. It is no secret that Google’s founders are avid “burners,” with entire walls at the company’s Mountain View campus covered in photos from the festival…

But the Avalon retreat initiated an active conversation between the two cultures and two generations of burners — baby boomers and millennials.

Those talks continued and led to the formation of the IDEATE innovation camp, which participated in this summer’s festival. Each camp has a different focus, such as dance, meditation and clothing swaps. IDEATE differed from typical camps, as it operated with an unprecedented mission: to be “an [ideas] incubator in the center of Burning Man,” according to Kittay.

Kittay said IDEATE brought together bright minds to figure out how to offer the tools of Burning Man culture, including collaboration, sustainability and inclusion, to start-up projects around the world.

Burning Man founders paid special attention to IDEATE, which was given a block of tickets even though the idea emerged long after tickets were sold out. Goodell placed the camp close to First Camp, where the founders make their desert home each year.

Goodell said her thought was, “We should take all this brain power around us in San Francisco—dot-com and entrepreneurs…[who] care about Burning Man, and let’s get them all together…and see whether anything could come of it.”.

The majority of the 210 people who camped at IDEATE were new to Burning Man and were young entrepreneurs from companies such as TED, a nonprofit committed to spreading worthwhile ideas; Summit, which hosts an annual four-day event for 1,000 of the world’s leading change makers; and Singularity University, which seeks to educate a new generation of leaders in technologies that will exponentially advance human capability in years to come.

So did anything come out of it? Well, Shaker got funded, IDEATE is still going and people there still have ideas, and now we have sherpas, Sherpa Ventures, Caravancicle, ironic real estate sales, real hotels, ironic AirBnB sales, real AirBnB sales, real gasoline sales, and a dedicated Burning Man staffer to manage the booming new market segment of Commodification Camps.

It seems that the starry eyed young Millenials see Burning Man as the next breeding ground for their commercially questionable deals, while the Baby Boomers who back them provide the financial clout and ostensible gravitas to underpin their shenanigans.

I believe the children are our future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way. From Peninsula Press:

The need for collaboration with the younger generation of burners was clear to Goodell, especially as Burning Man moves from being for-profit to nonprofit. The work to become a nonprofit organization by 2013 has been ongoing for two years, according to Goodell.

Serving the public good in this age of digital technology and rapid communication, she said, requires the input of the millennials, who have what Goodell called an entrepreneurial spirit and a thirst for sharing ideas. They’re also the ones who are representing more and more of the Burning Man population each year. In 2011, almost half of Burning Man participants were under 30, according to the Black Rock City Census.

Larry Harvey is in his sixties; Goodell just turned 50. She said the founders should look to hire young people, and young people should step up and “infiltrate the organization and be ready to take things over…and change the world.”

Goodell described Kittay as “not unlike Larry.” She called them both “pied pipers,” saying that, although neither is likely to be “the first one to hammer up a tent stake,” they both “can get really enthusiastic around ideas, and then people want to gather around and help.” 

Goodell issued a caveat concerning IDEATE and the millennial entrepreneurs as a group: They will be given more influence in the organization only if they do something with all their ideas. They need to maintain momentum and prove themselves as able to make it happen, rather than just talk about it, she said.

cevri kaptan 2After the desert festival, which is held from late August to early September, Kittay traveled with Harvey and Goodell to Turkey, where they considered ancient history and its ties to modern life and talked about ways to make global expansion a reality.

There is talk of bringing Burning Man ambassadors to design projects and businesses across the world; holding urban and rural retreats in addition to the existing “regional burns,” or smaller-scale festivals; creating a social network for burners; crowd-funding design endeavors and sharing technologies that will help the world utilize some of Burning Man’s principles as tools, such as “radical inclusion” and “leave no trace behind.”

…Traditionally the project has been “below the radar,” said Kittay. But now is the time that Burning Man is ready to reveal itself as more than just “electronic, dubstep, naked—whatever associations that people have had superficially with it, and move into much more the space of what it truly is at its core,” he said. That core, according to Kittay, is built around “the philosophical principles of collaboration and of incubating human culture and community and experience.”

Although the organization as a whole supports change, some staff members have been a bit hesitant to make any big leaps, including Harvey himself…As the project expands globally into “a capitalist world,” Kittay cautioned, “it could so quickly lose its essence.”

…Goodell calls this moment pivotal. “There’s before IDEATE, and there’s after IDEATE, and then there’s 2013,” she said.

So, Burning Man’s Director starts a multi-million dollar Commodification Camp, employs sherpas, who are terribly mistreated. Burning Man’s Social Alchemist brings his VC mentor to Burning Man to do deals; after doing a big deal at Burning Man, the VC starts a venture called Sherpa. The big money behind Sherpa Ventures is also the big money behind AirBnB, who launched their product into Burning Man this year and directly employ two of BMOrg’s Board of Directors. Sherpa Ventures sees hospitality entrepreneurs as the new future trend to back.

The bottom line? Plug-n-Play is here to stay. Rather than being a fringe practice at Burning Man, it seems that this is BMOrg’s grand philosophical vision for the next century of Burns. Plug-n-play is what will attract all the New York and London moneyed set, who they need for The Project. Is it their money, their minds, or their souls that Hellco BMOrg are most interested in capturing?

Sherpa Ventures, Pied Piper, Tech Crunch Disrupt, Elon Musk…Burning Man IS Silicon Valley…the coincidences continue. The invisible guiding hand of Total Randomness strikes again. Just remember, sheeple, there’s no such thing as conspiracies, they’re merely theories made up on the Internet. No-one in history has ever been part of any kind of plot. No politician has ever lied. Eat your GMO food, drink your fluoride water, and jab yourselves with all the vaccines you can get your hands on, it’s great. The government really cares, that’s why it’s called the Affordable Care Act.

C’mon Millenials! Save Burning Man from losing its essence as it expands globally into a capitalist world. It’s a do-ocracy…so just fucking do it already.

Please.

Get Your Timeshare Slot In The Sultan

If this is a troll, it’s the most elaborate one I’ve ever seen. It’s either real, or an ironic “seeding of the market” like the AirBnB listings. They can put the brochures in the Souk and test the appetite and interest level, measure how many outraged reactions there are (if any)…all the while pretending it’s not really happening in the name of irony. Except this IS really happening. Playa hotels are really happening, commodification camps are really happening, so is Burning Man ephemeral real estate leasing really happening too? Or is it just a mirage? A big farce?

From occidentaloasis.com:

Experience™ Black Rock City like you never have before with a choice of accommodations and services ranging from opulent luxury for the refined individual to comfort and convenience for the seasoned adventurer.  

Occidental Oasis is the preeminent Experience™ ownership and Experience Club™ membership program in Black Rock City. Ownership of a deeded real estate interest provides Members with a lifetime of unsurpassed experiences via the most innovative and flexible club in the industry. Experience Club™ members choose when and where to travel, enjoying the comfort and convenience of residential-style resort accommodations in select, renowned festivals throughout the United States and world. Each Experience Club™ property provides a distinctive setting, while signature elements remain consistent, such as high-quality guest service, spacious residences and extensive on-property amenities. From exciting Black Rock City, Nevada and dynamic Forgotten City, Las Vegas, to the laid-back lifestyles of Saguaro Man, Arizona and Soul Fire, California, or the frozen landscape of Frost Burn, we take pride in offering our guests a superior Experience™ ownership program in the world’s most celebrated locations. For those aspiring to the good life, Occidental Oasis offers a passport to endless opportunities for radical self-expression.

Since its formation in 2010, Occidental Oasis has worked closely with the Burning Man Organization (BMORG) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to finally bring this exciting opportunity to Burning Man participants in 2014.  In a market where large, publicly held theme camps have recently begun to dominate the landscape, Occidental Oasis has carved out a niche deep in the playa. 

Our Black Rock City sales offices are located in the 6:00 Souk Tent Suite D2 at The Man.  We are open daily from 10am to 2pm.

Occidental Oasis is an inclusive resort property  located deep in the playa of Black Rock City, Nevada.  The resort caters to Burning Man participants that want a unique experience tailored to their individual desires.  Occidental Oasis provides participants with a choice of accommodations and services ranging from opulent luxury for the refined individual to comfort and convenience for the seasoned adventurer. 

The Oasis is located just beyond the temple and extends deep into the playa.  Our fleet of private art cars and bike pool allow guests to quickly get from the oasis to all the action in Black Rock City.

BLACK ROCK ESTATES

Enjoy Black Rock City from the luxury, beauty, and warmth of our private villas surrounded by miles of pristine playa and mountain views.  Indulge in all the luxuries of home and enjoy a haven of rejuvenation where friends can revitalize and enjoy unforgettable moments in paradise.  Renew your spirit and inner child with spa treatments and five-star hotel services.

BLACK ROCK ACRES

Black Rock Acres is a private oasis offering its own unique experience within the Burning Man event.  Relax in your private accommodations, take a break in our dust free clubhouse with live HD coverage of the event, or express yourself in our exclusive theme camps and works of art.

BLACK ROCK PARK

Our basic accommodations in Black Rock Park provide an accessible entry point for those adventurers seeking a solid foundation to launch their daily excursions into Black Rock City.  Enjoy access to our private fleet of art cars as well as many other services that will make your burn an experience to remember.

 Whether you choose the luxury of Black Rock Estates, the comfort of Black Rock Acres, or the conveniences of Black Rock Park just remember that our home is your home in Black Rock City.

Packages:

Occidental Oasis creates unique and unforgettable experiences for the discerning Burning Man participant.  Each participant works with one of our highly trained Experience Associates™ to develop an Experience Profile™ that determines their desires for self-expression and appraises their self-reliance needs.  After completing an Experience Profile™ a participant will work with an Experience Agent™ to tailor a package of services and amenities that will deliver an unforgettable Burning Man experience.  The Experience Agent™ will work with the participant to finalize the necessary documents and secure a reservation at Occidental Oasis

 


Sparkle Pony

  • 6 day standard accommodation in BRC
  • Non-refundable, non-transferable
  • 1 emergency extraction to Reno
  • IV hydration package
  • Discount medical and legal services
  • All inclusive meal and beverage plan
  • Bicycle plan

Shirt Cocker

  • 3 day basic accommodation in BRC
  • 120qt cooler
  • Bud Light, Coors Light, or Miller Lite
  • PBR / Tecate (additional charge)
  • Ice service

Veteran

  • 10 days Black Rock Acres or Black Rock Park
  • Early entry and vehicle passes
  • Theme camp setup/teardown
  • Theme camp staffed by Occidental Oasis

 


Executive

  • 7 days Black Rock Estates
  • All inclusive (wardrobe, dining, entertainment)
  • VIP access
  • Personal art car with driver
  • Satellite Internet
  • Express entry/exodus
  • Chartered Flight RNO/SFO (additional charge)

Wanderlust

  • Regional events package (US only)
  • Tent/RV services
  • Travel arrangements
  • VIP Access

Ambassador

  • International events package
  • Travel and luggage services
  • Medical and legal services

 

They were recruiting paid employees for their venture:

Join the Occidental Oasis Experience Team™


An in-house Occidental Oasis Experience Team™ member is responsible for presenting the Occidental Oasis Experience™ ownership products and services to our guests and owners to generate maximum net sales volume while maintaining a professional and ethical representation of the company.

WHAT WILL I BE DOING?

As an Occidental Oasis representative, you would be responsible for presenting the Occidental Oasis Experience™ ownership products and programs to Owners, Exchangers, Owner Referrals, Courtesy Tours and our guests in order to generate maximum net sales volume while maintaining a professional and ethical representation of the company. You will take guests and owners on resort tours, present our products, and follow finance guidelines. You will also commit to the company’s operating policies, principles, sales and customer service philosophies.

WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?

Every Burning Man participant is a very important person at Occidental Oasis, and it’s our promise to potential owners that they will enjoy the best of everything with us. That’s why the Experience Team™ is responsible for converting each participant into club members by providing them with information about our club point packages. Team members also provide additional knowledge and details regarding our ownership programs in order to help generate optimal sales volume from every participant.

WHAT BENEFITS WILL I RECEIVE?

Your benefits will include a competitive starting salary and, depending upon eligibility, a vacation or Paid Time Off (PTO) benefit. You will instantly have access to our unique benefits such as the Team Member and Family Travel Program, which provides reduced rates at many of our properties for you and your family, plus discounts on products and services offered by Occidental Oasis and its partners. After 90 days you may enroll in the Occidental Oasis Health & Welfare benefit plans, depending on eligibility. Occidental Oasis also offers eligible team members a 401K Savings Plan, as well as Employee Assistance and Educational Assistance Programs. We look forward to reviewing with you the specific benefits you would receive as an Occidental Oasis Experience Team™. The above information is provided as a highlight of the major benefits offered to most full-time team members in the United States. All benefits listed may not be offered at all locations. This is not a summary plan description or official plan document.

Their Facebook page only has 43 likes.

It has reviews, which suggest the (ironic) experience being sold now will be available next year. If enough Burners were fooled and signed up, then perhaps it will:

  • Turner Rentz

    Survival camping in harsh environments really requires the best from me, and I’m proud to let Occidental Oasis become a member of my team. My friends who roll in, in nice, expensive RV’s and even those that use their own chef and only come out at night to avoid the harshness of the environment … should all seriously look into this experience(tm). I especially love the idea of having someone do all the bothersome design work of my own, unique art car that really helps express who I am! When it comes to self reliance, I rely on Occidental! What an AMAZING service!! FIVE STARS!!!
  • My Experience™ Agent Frank set me up with the perfect little EconoPod™ in Black Rock Park. As a bonus for signing the deal before the event he threw in a free Shirt Cocker and Sparkle Pony package. I went for the 30 year agreement which also gives me preferred scheduling for my vacation reservations. I can’t wait to take my first trip to the Oasis in 2015!
     
  • I’m so excited that time shares are finally coming to Black Rock City! This will be my 11th year, and frankly I’m ready for a little luxury. My 2015 Experience™ will be the best yet!
     

On August 15 2014 – before the Gentrification and Sherpagate scandals broke out – they posted:

Have you ever wanted to make a little piece of the Burning Man Experience™ your own? Now is your chance to own 1/70,000 of your home away from home. The Occidental Oasis is the preeminent vacation ownership and timeshare program in Black Rock City.

Stop by The Man and visit us in the 6:00 Souk tent. One of our Experience™ Agents will work with you to find the perfect property and activities package.

The Occidental Oasis sales office will be open Monday through Friday 11am – 3pm. If you are interested in becoming an Experience™ Agent we are holding a job fair on Monday August 25th from 12:30pm – 3pm.

Do not miss this opportunity to secure you own Burning Man Experience™ for years to come!

Visit Occidental Oasis online at http://www.occidentaloasis.com/

occidental oasis

 

 

 

Own your own piece of the Burning Man Experience™ at the Occidental Oasis. Whether you choose the luxury of Black Rock Estates, the comfort of Black Rock Acres, or the convenience of Black Rock Park, the Occidental Oasis Resort will provide when the playa does not. Units are selling fast. Stop our sales office at The Souk M-F 11-3 to speak with an Experience™ agent. Visit us online at http://www.occidentaloasis.com/

 occidental estates occidental oasis square tents

Our units provide an accessible entry point for those adventurers seeking a solid foundation to launch their daily excursions into Black Rock City. Enjoy access to our private fleet of art cars as well as many other services that will make your burn an experience to remember.

Black Rock Acres is a private oasis offering its own unique experience within the Burning Man event. Relax in your private accommodations, take a break in our dust free clubhouse with live HD coverage of the event, or express yourself in our exclusive theme camps and works of art. — at Black Rock City

Black Rock Acres p3 Black Rock Acres p5 Black Rock Acres p2 Black Rock Acres p1 Black Rock Park p2 Black Rock Park p3 Black Rock Estates p2 Black Rock Estates 1 2014 black rock park burning man the siesta occidental oasis 2014 the herdsman black rock park occidental oasis occidental oasis econopod black rock park

 

Black Rock Estates

Black Rock Acres

Black Rock Park

Adherence to the Principles is done for you, as well as Principle # 11, Sherpa Reliance:

Communal Effort

Occidental Oasis employs many  creative and generous people that provide services and artwork to the greater community.   You can rest easy knowing that your membership in Occidental  Oasis is a valuable contribution to the greater experience of those in Black Rock City.

Public Art Installations

Unique Theme Camps

Volunteer Sponsorship

Civic Responsibility

Occidental Oasis provides trained  Experience Guides™ knowledgeable of
all local, state, and federal laws. 
Our guides will monitor your behavior in a non-intrusive manner providing
timely feedback and intervention with the community that will allow you fully
express yourself without consequence. 
Occidental Oasis also provides professional legal services on-site and
after the event.

Knowledgeable Experience Guides™

On-site Legal Support

Leave No Trace

Occidental Oasis provides full trash service as well as single stream
recycling allow you to consume what you need
when you need it without worrying about the bits you leave behind. 

Trash Service

Single Stream Recycling

Post Event Cleanup


 

Radical Inclusion

 

Everyone is welcome at the Occidental Oasis.  Stop by our sales office at The Souk to speak with one of our Experience™ Agents.

 

 

Gifting

Occidental Oasis Gift Scouts™ will scour the playa in search of only the very best gifts for our guests.  When possible scouts will collect and return to the resort with the gifts that best match our guests’ requests.  Scouts will arrange transportation in our fleet of private art cars to experience those gifts which the scouts cannot hand deliver.  

Our resorts ofter gifting packages and professional gift coordinators that will help provide our clients with gifts for giving.  Gifting packages can also include gift distributions which can be schedule to provide maximum impact to the greater burning man community and relieve our clients of the burden of gifting.

Gift Scouts

Gifting Coordinators

Gift Distribution Services

Custom Gift Packages

 


Decommodification

Occidental Oasis is a cashless facility.  Your initial investment along with your annual maintenance fee provides you unlimited access to all the resort has to offer.  All inclusive packages for meals, drinks, and entertainment are available and can be arranged when you reserve your stay.  Just contact your Experience Agent™ or the on duty Experience Concierge™ to make your selections.  

Al a carte and premium services chosen while at the event will be billed directly to your account.  Just sit back and relax knowing that it is all being taken care of for you.

Cashless Facility

Direct Billing

24 hour Experience Concierge™

 


Self-Reliance

Occidental Oasis makes your journey to the playa as easy as a first class flight to the Riviera. 

We provide around the clock access to beverages, meals, consumables, transportation, entertainment, and support services.  Our facilities include onsite medical care and emergency transportation on/off playa should you encounter pressing needs to come and go from the event.

 

24 Hour Dining

Private Showers

Art Car Fleet

Wardrobe Services

Onsite Medical Care

Emergency Transportation

 


Self-Expression

Occidental Oasis provides professional self-expression consultants that will help you choose from a variety of packages that express your unique self.  Choose from an assortment of costume, makeup, and bike options.  OurSelf-Expression Packages™ have been rated as some of the best on the playa. 

Our professional photographers will be sure to catch your most expressive moments.  We have a range of photo packages to choose from that will allow you to impress your friends. 

Our consultants can also help you manage your online presence after the show to ensure your experience will be remembered by others for years to come.

 

Wardrobe Consultants

Makeup Artists

Professional Photographers

Self-Expression Packages

Memories Packages

Post-event Support

 


Participation

Occidental Oasis pampers our guests with VIP access to the big burns and events on playa.

Party with similar minded people in our exclusive theme camps, art cars, and outings. 

VIP Access to The Burn

Exclusive Theme Camps

Private Art Car Fleet

Special Events


Immediacy

Occidental Oasis has its fingers on the pulse of Burning Man.  We know exactly what is going on when and where and how well it matches your Experience Profile™. 

We provide a daily briefing and a schedule of suggested experiences that may be of interest. 

Simply contact the on-duty Experience Concierge™ to select the activities that interest you most and our fleet of private art cars will be dispatched to pick you up and shuttle you to the event. 

Each guest is provided with a high precision GPS transponder and communicator that will allow us to locate you, confirm your desires, and get you to the next event. 

Personalized Event Schedules

24 Hour pick-up/drop-off

Radio Dispatched Art Cars

GPS Tracking Services


Civic Responsibility

Occidental Oasis provides trained Experience Guides™knowledgeable of all local, state, and federal laws.  Our guides will monitor your behavior in a non-intrusive manner providing timely feedback and intervention with the community that will allow you fully express yourself without consequence.  Occidental Oasis also provides professional legal services on-site and after the event.

Knowledgable Experience Guides™

On-site Legal Support


 

Their web site hosts some glowing testimonials from satisfied Occidentists:

“We had an outstanding trip. Our Experience™ could not have been better. Frank was technically an exceptional Experience™ guide and we always felt safe. Prior to our visit he was very accessible which made us feel more comfortable. As the burn continued I think we got to know him personally and had some very meaningful evening discussions.”

— Dirk Hainey
 

“Frank was a very accommodating guide. I felt like everything happened very smoothly and with precision. I would highly recommend this Experience Team™ and a stay at the Roca Negro Villas. The private art cars were always very clean, overall a great experience. Would go again. ”

— Sandy LaPlage
 

“Jess, our self-expression consultant, was creative and delicious. She had obviously reviewed our Experience Profile™ and her costuming was great.

The villa itself met our expectations and was very clean and comfortable. We are already thinking about next year.”

— Seymour Glass
 

“Wow!”

— A & P
 

“To have enjoyed this extraordinary experience any other way is unthinkable. My stay in The Sultan was truly opulent. The private access road make entrance and exodus a breeze. Occidental Oasis transformed my trip into the experience of a lifetime. ”

— Buckminster C.
 

“It is what I would call a solid 4.5 star experience. In other words, I give it a 9 out of 10.”

— Quentin

 

They started the week with an officially promoted on burningman.com Playa event, a job fair recruiting PAID workers to sell the real estate.

Occidental Oasis Job Fair!

Date/Time(s): Monday, August 25th, 2014 12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Hosted by Camp: SizzleVille
Location: Occidental Oasis – Souk @ The Man Base
URL: http://www.southbayburners.org/

Description

Get in on the ground floor as a first-round employee of Occidental Oasis Holdings, an exclusive timeshare resort offering 1/70,000 ownership in BRC! Opportunities at BRC, with future expansions across the US and at international burns too! Highest commissions in the industry! Short hours, you can even learn to work from home! Learn about the BRC Properties: Hex Village, Yurt Villas, and Black Rock Estates. These gated communities provide free Wi-Fi and HDTV broadcast of the burns, two-bike garages, and plumbing in the BRC-Municipal Utility District (MUD). Package levels available: Sparkle Pony, Shirt Cocker, Veteran, Wanderlust (at regional events), and Ambassador (at international events). Optional package add-ons include sky diving arrivals, helicopter exodus, personal art car, plus more! If sales isn’t your thing, become an Occidental Oasis concierge! OO Resorts’ concierge service has its fingers on the pulse of Burning Man. We know exactly what is going on when and where and how well it matches our guests’ personal profile. We will provide a daily briefing and a schedule of suggested experiences that may be of interest to our honored sales prospects.

The South Bay Burners give us a hint that it might be a prank. 

From burningman.com

South Bay CORE/Occidental Oasis Job Fair

In classic cacophony style, we’d like to invite you to join us as the “staff” of the Occidental Oasis! Come for a job interview, and stay to help be a part of the most interactive Man Base in history! The South Bay’s Souk will be located in the south-east quadrant of the Man pavilion. For more information, visit http://www.occidentaloasis.com/events/2014/8/25/job-fair

The South Bay’s Occidental Oasis will offer a 1/70,000th share in the playa, offering ownership of a part of the future of an expanded Black Rock City. Come in, relax, and sit through our time share presentation to hear about the opportunity to own a permanent location in 2015′s 360-degree BRC township. Get brochures for special activities and freebies, plus a CERTIFICATE OF OWNERSHIP!

Selling out the Playa. Could it get more commodified? I guess the answer is yes, unfortunately.

In light of Sherpagate, Signgate, and general gentrification, the irony now seems a lot less funny. What they’re promoting as a joke in the middle of the city, they’re pretty much doing at its fringes. Or maybe this is real, and yet another Safari Camp earning millions monetizing our spectacle.

BMOrg have now publicly established, via the New York Times and others, that people will pay $13,000-$25,000 per head for luxury Commodification Camps. What would they pay for ownership of Real Estate, and access to luxury villas with pools and private access roads? The number of units is not even close to 1% of the population, so plenty could afford it. This semi-professional looking sales effort is placed in the most prime real estate of all for marketing, in their marketplace, the bizarre bazaar in the middle of their event at the base of The Man, the main attraction of the whole shebang. Is Burning Man really putting these sales brochures there because this is a hilarious joke? Because some of their Directors are selling exactly this on K Street, is that the joke?

Or are they, with the help of their AirBnB luxury boutique hotel Commodification Camping Millionaire and Billionaire Directors, testing the market to see if this idea could really fly for next year? Preparing the pitch for the Home Shopping Network?

What are Burners supposed to respond with, when receiving a real estate pitch at Burning Man, being handed these brochures? Some would be fooled into going along with the prank and responding positively to the sales pitch, just like in classic Cacophony style they were fooled into selling their souls to Satan via Helco, in BMOrg’s 1996 affairs. Others might think it’s now fine to hand out brochures for whatever cause or company you want to promote at Burning Man, in the big mall they have at the middle of it.

A prank can be ironic if you’re not actually doing it, you’re just joking; but if you’re actually doing it then which bit of it is the irony again?

First, sow confusion. It plants a seed, mixing possibility with plausible deniability. Next, sprinkle chaos. Finally, when the seedling grows, start harvesting. Sell that annual crop for cash.

Burning Man timeshares...not coming soon, already here.