Conspiracy Theories, meet Burning Man

[Haters?  Don’t bother reading. This is one of those Burners.Me posts that you’re not going to like. You’ll probably even want to comment about it and call me names. Wonder why I’m always negative, or bashing BMOrg. Let me save you time, it’s terrible, just skip to the comments and start bashing me. Thanks very much. I say this because I think it needs to be said. Is this our party, or not? – ed.]

Last year’s bizarre ticket lottery system caused a lot of controversy amongst the Burner community. It was sold out. Then more tickets were permitted, and they sold out. Then all of a sudden it wasn’t sold out. Then tickets started going below face value. A sign on the way in said “SOLD OUT EVENT – GO BACK IF YOU DON’T HAVE TICKETS”. Then tens of thousands (supposedly) left before the Man burned. Newbies who couldn’t handle the dust, perhaps? The event survived, but ultimately with shrinking numbers.

mother tripThis year – as far as we know – an officially funded and promoted Burning Man documentary is not being shot inside BMHQ. Telling the story of “only 50,000 can go, but 150,000 wanted to, it’s the hardest to get into party on earth with the World’s Biggest Guest List” is less of a strategic objective in 2013. The media blitz has happened, mostly fuelled by the controversy. Burners got pissed, major camps pulled out, attendance started to shrink. Some of the press even started heralding “Burning Man on its Last Legs“, “RIP Burning Man“. “Jumped the shark” became the new “Fuck yer day”. Whoops-e-daisies! Time to change tack. So, they changed the guard, got a new CEO for the event, and went with a more conventional and less controversial ticket system. A good thing. Higher prices, more tickets. Still some low-income tickets. But these days this is mostly an event for rich people. Minimum $1000 and a week off work to go, more realistically $2000. And many individuals and couples spending above $10,000. A hundred or more, perhaps, spending over $100,000. Every year.

It’s officially sold out, with a waiting list for tickets. There will be a last-minute release of tickets: 1000+ according to the official announcement. They have re-cycled their ticket re-cycling program, called only we can be scalpers STEP – you can still enroll in this any time up to July 31, 2013.

1000+ huh? “Plus” any tickets that didn’t get sold through STEP? Or “plus” any tickets that insiders couldn’t scalp sell at face value only to friends?

burning man tickets 2013I got an email today saying my tickets have shipped. Here’s a quick look at the current aftermarket situation:

StubHub 317 tickets, starting at $574 each; you can buy as many as 86 tickets at $5000

eBay – 41 tickets, starting at $400 going up to over $1000

Craigslist just has a few wanted ads. But, it seems like it’s not going to be too hard to get Burning Man tickets this year. Just like the last few years have been.

You know, as I’m writing this post and putting in these hyperlinks, re-reading some of our old stuff from last year…I think I’m putting two and two together. I’m listening to as I’m writing, so maybe I’m just on the conspiracy wavelength. But the extreme increase in census taking seemed over the top. And we called them out on it. And then what they announced they were going to do with the data seemed like number-fudging. And we called them out on it. But now, everything seems to make sense. They want the numbers to suit the story, and they want the story to support a different set of numbers. Spreadsheet numbers, Powerpoint numbers. Valuation numbers.

The Powerpoint-ization of Burning Man. Has it really come to this? Can anyone really think the 10 Principles have credibility anymore? Most Burners can’t recite them, most people can’t remember more than 3-5 things…so why bother?

If Burning Man’s audience is the new young future of Silicon Valley, then it’s more likely that Google or a consortium led by their founders might buy Burning Man. These guys don’t want basketball teams (like Burner Chris Kelly, former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer who’s now the third major sports franchise owner I know who’s been to Burning Man) or America’s Cup teams (like Lanai Luau Larry). Burning Man is the ultimate billionaire’s trophy prize, the ultimate island. For at least a couple dozen billionaires in the world anyway, who pretty much all happen to be tech billionaires. And you can bet they’re big partiers, if they like Burning Man.

solar cartThe founders want to cash out. Good on ’em, they deserve it. They’re going to IPO – or trade sale, to Google or one of their other HNWIs. Philanthropy is opening the doors for them to some real money. Like “affluent kid” David de Rothschild, who camps with them at First Camp. The owners of AOL and the Empire State Building are around somewhere, ensconced in their Plug-n-Play ecstasy. Lots of big money, this is one of their few playgrounds where the famous can be anonymous.

There’s a nearby land parcel they want to buy with a hot springs. They need to raise funds for that, so maybe they can package up a permanent location as part of the deal. They want to keep having the event on Federal land because everything’s pretty good with the BLM. Their guys are on various boards of various important political bodies in the region, and they’ve spent decades building personal relationships in the area and with the various agencies.

So, they set up a 501(c)3. They can dump profits into that and get the tax write-off at the same time as their projected windfall. Then, as with many private philanthropic foundations, they can find a way to funnel the money back to themselves in future salaries, directors fees, and travel expenses. Overseeing their global, crowd-funded, “Burner Empire”. And now as they travel, paparazzi camera crews in tow, they get to tell the story of everything Burning Man is doing to save the world, instead of just telling the story of “free beers and hot chicks and cranking tunes in the dusty Wild West sun at Distrikt”, that you might hear from sites like this.

They team up with a film crew keen to make a movie, and come to a financial arrangement with them. They get a share of the profits, and the film crew will get an unprecedented inside look at Burning Man in this time of transition. They’ll present a couple of alternative viewpoints in the movie so no-one could accuse it of being a puff piece. But, like any good reality TV show, the producers want to crank up the controversy. “501 c 3 does not make good TV”

hipster-evolution-brendan-mccartanThey need to get Wall Street’s attention. They want Wall Street thinking “Burning Man = Money”. They need some good demographic data, to present to Wall Street. The current data of “a lot of us lost our jobs when the Great Depression hit”, or “we’re artists and don’t make a lot of money”, or “we’re not from around here”, or “we all grow weed up in Humboldt and don’t have bank accounts or drivers licenses”…was not as valuable to them. New data would be needed, that better supported the story of “Burning Man and the tech industry are intertwined, and have developed together”. The ideal, saleable demographic would be “we’re young, college educated, live in SF Bay Area, work in tech”. In our city, this is known as “hipsters”. And sometimes “yipsters”. And I won’t tell you the word my friends and I actually use to describe them. But we’ve all seen the type. Hint: lives in Dogpatch, rides bicycle, eats raw food diet.

Yes, that would be a much better demographic. But how to change things? How to change the demographics, appeal more to Wall Street, and create a story for the movie”?


….are you with me here readers…

Here’s how the plan went down…hypothetically, of course. Because this blog is nothing but unsubstantiated, hypothetical speculation…troll food, for the haters. We never back up our claims with references, we’ve never been right when BMOrg has been shown to be wrong. BMOrg is always right. They are above criticism. They are like a flawless pearl, too good to even be made into a necklace.

OPERATION HELLCO – How to sell out and pretend not to sell out

Hector_Santizo_Burning_Man2We need to start with a step. A step, and a spark.

STEP 1. Create a ridiculous new ticket system that makes little sense. In classic Bernays propaganda techniques, say that this system is to help Burners. How does it do that? By “giving them a more fair chance to go, and combatting scalpers”. In itself a nonsensical statement. Scalpers are the ones that help Burners, by letting them go to the party if they want to but didn’t win the lottery. And scalpers are 1%, an irrelevance.

The result? “Quelle surprise! 150,000 people wanted to go, our servers were overwhelmed”. Their mysterious black box algorithm ultimately comes down to “the software guy says this”, which is a Book of Mormon style trust to take in truth.

Burners were quite surprised that so many wanted to go. It had sold out for the first time ever the year before, 2011. But not until August, just before the event. It had never, ever been a big deal to get tickets in the history of Burning Man. Which meant, scalpers had never been a big deal either. Once the dust had settled, BMOrg admitted scalping was only 1% of tickets at most. But scalping did exist – for a few months, the only tickets you could get were on the secondary market, at $1000+.

We tracked the price of tickets through the year. Then, there was a mysterious continuous supply of high priced tickets for a few months. We broke the story that there might be more tickets, and the after market price plummeted (3/19). Burning Man quickly issued a panicked denial as the price looked like it was going to sink back down below $1000 (4/10), swearing black and blue that there would not under any circumstances be more tickets. Then the prices went up again, until as Burners.Me predicted more tickets were announced…and then all of a sudden the price collapsed, first to $500, then below face value, then you couldn’t even give them away. It all smacks of manipulation to me, and I said so at the time.

stubhub pricesWe’re supposed to believe that demand tripled from one year to the next? But then vanished when the event actually came around? And this was because of a YouTube video? And the unprecedented media blitz of Burning Man during the year didn’t increase the demand in any way, or even maintain the existing demand – only Dr Seuss could do that? And that this year, even though the Hula-Hoop video is 4 times as popular as Dr Seuss was, numbers are back down to normal and there’s plenty of tickets going on the secondary market at near face value? But all of this is just natural, or coincidence, and nothing to do with the Spark movie? The first rule of Sinister Master Plans is, THERE IS NO SINISTER MASTER PLAN. You’re just paranoid, you crazy conspiracy theorist.

Were there ever 150,000 that wanted to go? Perhaps the extra 50,000 buyers wanting 2 tickets each were all Burners applying for friends and family, and not winning the lottery, or winning only to recycle them through STEP. Except that only 500 tickets went through STEP. We’ll probably never know, it’s all black boxes, but I don’t believe the official line. To believe that, you have to believe that out of 100,000 people who wanted to go at the start of the year but missed out on tickets, almost none wanted to go when it was actually the time of Burning Man? It doesn’t make sense. More likely, the 150,000 is a questionable number.

Curatious George, the curatious little Door Bitch

no, not this one

take a Burgin under your wing

This ticket lottery system achieved a lot of things at once. First, they got to decide a “Burgin Ratio” and apply it, cutting through the established Burner community. We don’t know whether this was done on a one-by-one basis to give them the demographics they were seeking, or by an arbitrary algorithm. Remember we had to fill out a questionnaire with our application, then we found out if we “won” the chance to give them hundreds of dollars, and spend thousands to participate in their event. I know I didn’t win (but still ended up there of course). What sort of Burgins did they pick to win? How much curation went on? This could have the result of stuffing the demographic with people to answer surveys at the gate – collecting a data set that would be used to fudge adjust the numbers from  10 previous years of detailed census information. This is their right, it’s not like this is a Presidential election or anything. But why would they even care – unless they needed that dataset to make their case to someone? And who could that be? Whoever is buying it.

Bringing such a high proportion of Burgins in was sure to create controversy. For every one that was allowed in, someone else (who had been before, at least once) was not invited back. At the time I likened the situation to standing in the line outside an empty club. In hindsight, perhaps it was more like a change of security at a club – the new bouncer knocks back the people who’ve been coming there for years.

They got to create, and curate, the World’s Biggest Guest List. I keep harping on about that but I really think it is, it’s way bigger than the Oscars. Bigger than any club, or Vanity Fair party. The guest list I’m talking about is the 10,000 tickets that they got to allocate to specific theme camps. Of course if you are a celebrity or wealthy tech titan you will get on the guest list, no problem. It’s not that exclusive. But if you piss off the door bitch, it could be curtains for you. Oh, you lost the lottery again? Oh dear. What a string of bad luck you’re having.

This curation presents an interesting paradox for BMOrg though. Do they curate based on the 10 Principles? Or does celebrity or vast wealth carry more weight? Do you get in, based on what you give? If you don’t participate, if you just spectate, should you be invited back? What if you own the Empire State Building? What if you’re the President of the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco? Should the same principles apply, or is there a VIP list that’s beyond the officially stated principles? Some “old school Burnier-than-thou” types were very much against Plug-n-Play camping. Oh, the wailing, the gnashing of the teeth! At the same time, these “high rollers” are the Wall Street crowd that the Burning Man founders want to attract to their event. I hear that the head of PlayaSk00l gets skewered pretty badly in Spark for even having a Plug-n-Play camp. Now they’re completely allowed, you just have to pay a 3% tax to BMorg.

vintage-social-networkingYou could say “the spark of controversy of the ticket lottery, with the kindling of the wunderkid Burgins (chosen ones, by door bitch or by BEAST), and the fuel of the old timers who were then vocal on social networks, ignited a firestorm of media coverage of Burning Man around the world. Just as the movie was coming out.”


Ich Habe Ein Blitzkrieg!

I’m going to list the press coverage again because it was astounding to me when I started to put it together:

Wall Street Journal,


New York Times,

LA Times,



Washington Post,

rolling_stone_titleRolling Stone,




Town and Country,

San Francisco magazine,

New York magazine,




burning-man-cars-wingsHuffington Post,



Fast Company,

Business Insider

Popular Mechanics

Delta Airlines in-flight magazine

Financial Times

Times of London


Daily Mail

Russia Today

Australian TV

What a brilliant move. The ticket lottery didn’t make logical sense at the time, and many Burners wondered why BMOrg were ignoring our pleas for reason…but now it makes perfect sense. They get to carve up the database anyway they want. And we take their word for it that there were 150,000 applications for tickets. But if that were true, then surely the event would have sold out? Surely all this media attention would have increased demand over the year, not decreased it? And what about 2013? Where were the 150,000 applicants this year?

hipster-hotties-0This certainly explains all the censi, questionnaire after questionnaire. And the statistically bizarre move of adjusting the long-form surveys from Center Camp over 10 years with the random sample at the gate from 1 year . They wanted to profile us as well. And they made sure that anyone with a smartphone – so, everyone – signed the photo rights over to them.

The Powerpointing of Burning Man

All this demographic data will be very useful in the Powerpoint presentation to Wall Street and Sand Hill Road. Especially if it says “yipsters”; less so “unemployed hippies, weed growers, artists, tradespeople, people from out of State or overseas”.

So, they applied the algorithm, whatever that was the result was yipsters up, old timers out, controversy created, ticket prices jacked to extremes on after market, global media blitz going on. Film producers happy, they have a story line they can work with, without getting into the complexities of the financial chicanery transactions between all the various entities, sub-entities, actors and advisors. It’s scandalous, but it’s not really a real scandal. It’s one of those “nice to have” problems, oh, people can’t get tickets, hundreds of thousands want to go and are missing out. Oh dear. Film film.

Fusion art car, 2012

Fusion art car, 2012

“How else can we get Wall Street’s attention?

How about we burn it!

Yeah! Great idea! How about we link it to the #Occupy Movement, and burn it!”

Which happened. With an Honorarium grant, free promotion for his project on the Burning Man official site (something most artists would love to get), an apparent leave pass for the artist to do as much press as he wanted talking about Burning Man, and a lot of funding, including a rumored 6 figure check from a JP Morgan executive. If JP Morgan gets the IPO, that would give a lot of credence to that particular playa rumor.

And it worked. #Occupy was pre-occupied by Burning Man. They’ve been pretty quiet in San Francisco and Oakland ever since. Wall Street paid attention. Bloomberg covered Burning Man then, and they covered Burning Man again last week at Le Web in London.

Bloomberg called it Silicon Valley’s hottest startup. That is a pretty big call. Especially for a company that is 16 years old and a partcipant-created event that we’ve been making for 25 years.

Other Bloomberg Burning Man coverage:

Burning Man at 2:01…

The discussion twixt Larry and Marian revealed in Scribe’s story, about the difference between ownership and control, the idea that although they would be relinquishing ownership to the masses, they would be retaining control more tightly than ever – had a whiff of the Popes lining their silk robes with lucre – as in Lucretia – in the Borgias, or the “Illusion of Control” as allowed to Joffrey by the Lannisters in Game of Thrones.

If Burning Man are going public or selling out to a bigger fish, then I applaud them; but the ends don’t justify the means. Dicking around your community for the sake of a movie you’re making money from, just so you can get some publicity, sucks. Making us suffer through that so you can get better numbers for your powerpoint slide, really sucks. And the end goal of all of that being, to maximize profits no matter what the impact on the Burner community…well, that would be one of the worst things they’ve pulled on us yet, way worse than just the lottery in itself.

Burners should get to participate too in the windfall to come. Let people in the ecosystem license the brand – make money with them. Help the Burners, Burning Man’s long-term survival depends on their prosperity. Anyone can sell tickets to spectators, but we’re not spectators. We’re the biggest fans, the people who love this party and come to the middle of nowhere to make it and take it away, every year. Let us buy a share when we buy a ticket. Start issuing some stock options to the people who’ve put in the years and the tears – don’t think of it as you making less, think of it as seeding a community to flourish over the long term, so you can continue to make money into the future. A rising tide lifts all boats, Burners don’t begrudge the founders getting the biggest boats, but we’re the tide. We want boats too!

thunderdomeI doubt that’s gonna happen. Instead, I predict annual ticket price increases, and expect all the Intellectual Property policies to be much more strictly enforced. The brand will be licensed more widely, as “decommodification” gives way to “only we make the money”. There will be lawsuits, and Burners would be blamed for any dips in the stock price.

If it gets bought by some tech guru, then perhaps Burning Man could be an experiment in the kind of “benevolent dictatorship” that is supposedly the best model for humanity to live in harmony and prosper under. Singapore, who are usually held up as a shining example of this model, was recently measured as the world’s unhappiest country. The new King would need to support and believe in the freedom the desert invites, rather than the NSA spying that Google and Facebook support. You don’t want to turn people who know how to burn stuff into rebels! Have you been to Burning Man? These people look like Mad Max and have flamethrowers and lasers.

40 comments on “Conspiracy Theories, meet Burning Man

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  4. My camp mate bought extra tix (theme camp last 10k tix) as the lead of our placed theme camp and ended up having to sell the tix at less than face value to not lose a couple thousand because she was concerned that members wouldn’t get tix. The tix hype was ridiculous and in the end it was somewhere around 54k in the city but if I’m not mistaken less than 2011. Way below the projected 60k tickets/attendance. What we don’t know is if they truly sold 40k tickets on day one or if this was all part of a larger plan to drive up publicity and hype on BM. Just a thought not an accusation or theory. I know we all want transparency but BMORG is a private company and they aren’t obligated to disclose their numbers. They do so to satisfy the community but only what cost is. If they want to put their money where their mouths are they would disclose their revenue from the event, other active revenue streams, and salaries for the 6 LLC holders. 7.8 million in payroll for 2012 is a lot for such a small company using a lot of free volunteer hours to pull in 18-20+ million dollars; including my own. If I charged them for my services it would easily pay my tix cost plus some other expenses for going since I volunteer what I do professionally as a gift back to the playa. I enjoy volunteering on the playa but it is work regardless if I’m on the playa or not and when it’s work it’s time not spent playing. I would rather them tell us the truth so we as a community can choose to support or not with that information rather than be sneaky and only present half the real story and preach that their intention is community and not profit.

  5. I’ve been talking with other burners about these same issues for quite some time and your blog post took it even deeper which I very much agree with. I have issue with BMORG (Black RockCity LLC) being a for profit company but parading as a non profit. I have nothing against making a profit. I’m self employed and work in the events industry (events up to 300k+) so I’m well aware of what logistics, equipment, permits, etc it takes to put on BM. BMORG is actually a small company with a small paid staff. To build and maintain BRC there are logistical cost associated to the porta potties, generators, heavy equipment, building the man which are all core infrastructure. This is what Black Rock City LLC does. They build a skeleton of infrastructure (as a guess less than 25% of BRC) for the rest of the community to come and build; which by the way is not a cost to them. BMORG does not supply art cars, theme camps, art, and a vast part of the entire experience. This is all built and provided by the community including the temple which fund raises a lot of their own funding. They build the city by laying out the streets, build the man and Center Camp, and other core infrastructure. Most of Black Rock City LLC’s labor to build BRC is volunteer. I volunteer as an an audio engineer in Center Camp to provide music to the city so the core volunteer staff doesn’t spend their entire burn working and have built theme camps, helped with art projects, and participated in fire conclave for the man burn as well. I’ve watched ticket prices soar and for what reason? Is inflation really rising that fast? In the past those of us who committed early and bought tickets 6 months in advance paid less because we committed our money early. The great ticket debacle brought a lot of greed (IMO) to the forefront of BMORG’s agenda and the rumors of BMORG’s leaders/founders wanting to cash out for retirement, buy land, etc; and though I registered did not get a ticket through the lottery. Last year when tickets sold out in one day for the first time BMORG brought in a lot of money in one day. As a general set of numbers here is the breakdown from 2012.

    Pre sale
    3,000 x $420 = 1.26M
    Regular sale/Lottery
    10,000 x $240 = 2.4M
    15,000 x $320 = 4.8M
    15,000 x $390 = 5.85M
    Total 13.05M
    Last 10k tix which went to theme caps and big art cars, etc plus low income tix
    10,000 x $390 = 3.9M
    3,500 x $150 = 525k
    Total 4.425M

    Total 18.456M
    This also does not include working tix which are $150 and the extra $20 tix fee.

    On day one of ticket sales BMORG brought in roughly 13 million dollars. Most of their cost is not for another 6 months. So minus administrative cost they pocketed a lot of money which went into an account somewhere and made a lot of interest. Porta potties for one week, generators for a month plus, boom/scissor lifts, fork lifts, fuel, food etc is a sizeable cost but that much money compared to the scope of the event and ticket sales. BLM charges a sizable fee(1.8 million) to use “OUR PUBLIC LANDS”. Sure an event for 50k+ people will cost a lot but BMORG brought in roughly 18.5 million or more in gross revenue. Take out 8 million in cost (which in my opinion is unreasonably high but the afterburner report numbers say 8.1 million for the event and we are still looking at 10 million or more in profit. Sure there’s an office in SF and the ranch in NV. Sure there is a staff of maybe 20-30 full or part time. Some money goes to art grants ($681,930) but that is also cost. There is definitely a lot of fat that could be trimmed out of their budget. BMORG states total cost of doing business in 2012 at 22.1 million which means that it costs an additional 14 million in administrative cost to put on BM and run BMORG across the other 11 months of the year. A whopping almost 7.8 million in salaries/payroll for a small company. If it cost 22.1 million to run activities of Black Rock City LLC in 2012 and they brought in (let’s assume 19 million) did they operate at a loss? What I would also like to know besides their cost is their revenue. Those numbers don’t seem to be readily available. I’m not against BMORG making a profit. They are first and foremost a for profit company. They are in the business of making money but state their goal is to promote community and rely heavily on volunteers and the community to achieve their activities. My opinion is that these actions are hypocritical to what their intentions are and how BMORG operates.
    I have one other beef with BMORG and that is the 6 founding members with Larry Harvey and Marian Goodel at the reigns. Larry Harvey gets all the historical credit as the so called founder of BM. He didn’t start the parties at Baker Beach and he didn’t choose the Black Rock Desert. He might have been one of many individuals that started it but it was not solely his idea. Until the creation of Black Rock City LLC in 1996 BM operated for 10 years or so without BMORG. What gave the founders the exclusive rights to run and govern something that was community driven. The Rainbow Gathering has been operating for 40 or so years for free on public lands without any leaders with attendances from 10k-50k every year. Everybody has a say if they choose to. Having been to several myself I’d like to see burners hike all their gear 1.5-2 miles into a national forest and survive for a week with no electricity. This is the same hippy philosophy but on the other end of the spectrum with out all the bs.
    The only real solution is to split from BMORG and do it without them; which includes growing regionals. My wife (a long time burner) is disillusioned with the direction BM has taken and goes with me because I enjoy this event more than any other. Since I work in events and have attended and worked such a diverse array BM is my retreat no matter how much work I put in. It’s hands down the coolest and best event I’ve ever been to. I try to forget about the BMORG bs and focus on the great community we have.

    Burn on!

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  8. A very interesting & thought provoking assessment Mr. Sxxx. There was a palpable shift in the winds last year. With no alternative, or challenger, when Burning Man collapses, what’s left?

    Please host a conference this year and invite representatives from the most prominent stakeholders. Opulent pulled a while back (major loss), is it plausible that Disorient, Death Guild, Distrikt, Fractal or any other major players would capitalize the value of this property for free when the fundamental tenet underlying the social contract has been betrayed by the originator?

    The submission period for events is presently open. Nobody wants to listen to a patchouli drenched yogi deliver a sonnet about the virtues of tofu. But concerned folks would like to know about the future of the event.

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  10. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger.

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  13. It’s so cool that Larry and the rest of the BMorg have kept this party going for 20 some years now, that really took some doing. Thanks and congrats to them and everyone who contributed to this event! They do deserve a significant payout, and an eventual comfortable retirement.

    A few items:
    – The BMorg doesn’t need “to get Wall Street’s attention”, they already have it. Robert Sillerman, the billionaire concert promoter/aggregator, said in a NY Times article last year that he has $1 billion allocated to buy big electronic dance music (EDM) festivals and clubs, of which he had tentative agreements with 15 at that time, and was talking with 50 more.Other corporate titans are in on it also. I trust the BMorg told them to stuff it.

    – If they wanted to raise additional money for their well deserved payout, the 2012 ticket lottery situation worked very much in their favor. There was massive bidding for the lower tier $240 tickets, creating an artificial shortage, while the higher tiers were in a more reasonable supply/demand balance. It provided great support for raising the price to $390 + fees this year. For 2013 tickets, the BMorg did a good job of keeping the publicity from building into a frenzy while tickets were being sold. Which left $390 the optimum point on the supply/demand curve, especially after getting the first 10,000 tickets to contributors, all tickets were sold without large numbers of po’ed burners.

    – As Steve Brown, the director of “Spark: A Burning Man Story” said in the interview with Steven Jones in the sfbg article you linked, in regards to the LLC gifting the ownership of Burning Man back to the community via the transfer to a 501(c)3: “Brown also told us that final phrase might have been a little wishful thinking, or perhaps a prompt for burners: “I wrote that card for the end of the film expressing the intention we heard from the Burning Man founders, but I also wrote it to show that it is a process that is just beginning, and we do not yet know the outcome. My bet is that the community will hold them to it.”

    The BMorg deserves our grateful thanks for fighting the many battles to keep this party going! As well as all who have done such amazing contributions and art! But, it’s necessary to do as Ronald Reagan famously stated, “Trust, but verify”.


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  17. The “Selection process” certainly got bizarre and maybe exclusive. I suppose it’s grown into something entirely different from what it started out as. And perhaps this is the opportune moment to sell it before the big decline in quality, like all the other unique festivals/events that just got too well know by the wrong crowd.

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  20. I’ve been to the Man twice (05,and 07) I wanted nothing to do with the lottery system. I like to commit or not ,…way in advance. I dont want to play games with my chance to spend $ and my time is is not to be wasted begging for tickets….So I haven’t been back.What makes Burning man is the spirit and the people who participate in that spirit. I think what the so called “buyers” (who ever that might be) don’t understand this. They will turn it in to Coachella…it will be a mess, and die like all clubs past their prime do. I think that spirit will live on to a new event,with the same message…and quietly build…the Man will rise. Now I will sit back, eat my pop corn, and enjoy this show!

  21. Well this will be my first and possibly only BM. It is on my bucket list after a near death experience. So all I can say is I hope there is enough of BM left for me to experience (as one of those original hippies of old)

    • Phil, This year is going to be ridiculously good! Everyone is super psyched and charged up after all the BS last year. Great theme, lost of old timers coming back, and its going to be a lot of fun. I have goose bumps thinking about it even after 20 years.

  22. LOL… Love it. With a potential value of $200-300MM (and all that data and influence) in your hand what would you do? “Ohhh I would do the right thing and give it to all my friends” bullshit! Liar. I would sell the shit out of it and head for Tahiti and there is nothing wrong with that, I started it, capitalized it, managed the growth… 25 years in the desert? Give be some beach!! Hell ya I earned it! Damn hippies. 🙂

    Here is a thought… if Google = the NSA, and BM = The last major bastion of un homogenized freedom and expression run by forward thinkers…
    Google buys BM? Wow. = The largest NSA controlled and data mined thought incubator in the world. They will know what the rest of the creative masses of humanity are thinking before they do.

    Worried about burning man? How about worrying about the world and how you are really getting fucked… – Follow the money!

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  24. I have been DPW for almost ten years and I can tell you quite confidently that this article is spot on. And you got almost all of it right. And yes, they are looking to sell BM. All of you puss footen hippies can go cry into your bong now.

    • Fluffy: If this analysis is accurate, what are your plans? Will you be returning & contributing in the same way? Why or why not?

  25. Once you’ve had a glimpse behind the curtain, it can change how you feel about Burning Man. After attending the past 5 consecutive Burns, I’m skipping this year. I didn’t even sign up for a ticket. I’m going to Kauai with my wife (who does not burn) the exact dates for BM. WIll I miss being on the playa? No. At this point, kinda ambivalent about 2014. How can I get the magic back? Do I know too much?

  26. “you’re welcome to disagree” – then perhaps you should reconsider the opening line of the piece. I don’t think there is a conspiracy. And I don’t think it is good for the burner community to be in any way promoting infowars….

  27. As conspiracy theories go, you’ve come up with a dandy. I hope you are wrong, but I fear you are right. But, is sharing a profit the only thing you want in return for being let in on the secret? Shame.

  28. Interesting. Last year I tried to get tickets at the Christmas sale, lottery (not chosen), Step only open 15 minutes to register (not lucky), fire conclave (lots of work – not accepted), finally got tickets via a friend and a theme camp. Soured last year’s experience. People were trying to scalp them and then there was a ton of them in August /-( What a pain. This month there’s been local discussion about the trademarking and what you’re allowed to call your events. Last year’s fake ticket scarcity is highly suspicious. I think you’re onto something in your article.

  29. you’re welcome to disagree. Seriously. Please discuss. If you’ve ever read this blog you’ll see I welcome intellectual debate. Just, not trolls. Would love to hear your thoughts after your actually read the post. Follow some of the links. even/ Each one is research I did on this story.

  30. you can tell an article is (not) going to be balanced when it starts with: “Haters? Don’t bother reading. This is one of those Burners.Me posts that you’re not going to like.” – already, if you potentially might not agree with the poster then you are a ‘hater’. Sigh.

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