The Old Bait-n-Switch

Scribe got the scoop of the year this year, with the news that Burning Man is charging $150,000 for Vogue photo shoots, and profiting from DVD and soundtrack sales from their movie Spark: A Burning Man story. Then he decided he was going to just shut up and enjoy the Burn, trusting that Larry and Marian would do the right thing by all Burners. He still cares though, and took to his paper’s blog to point out to us that the latest BMOrg announcement of “What’s Up With The Burning Man Project?” is a disappointment:

In a series of stories earlier this year, I outlined how the board that controls Burning Man doesn’t appear to be “relinquishing our control” over the event, as founder Larry Harvey announced would be happening in 2014. And if you want more proof of his bait-and-switch, check out this new blog post by spokesperson Will Chase on the Burning Man Project. Far from taking over the $23 million business, the new entity seems to have less going on that its predecessor off-shoot,Black Rock Arts Foundation. As I previous wrote, I’ve moved on, but I thought you’d enjoy the links anyway.

..Best Of 2013...

photo by Peter Talbot

What is actually up? Well, if you donate your own money, you can help fund the “Founders” travelling around the world giving lectures:

Burning Man Project received its 501c3 status as a charitable organization in May 2012, has been getting its administrative house in order and is starting to make things happen. We’re wading into deeper waters now, taking on projects on a variety of topics. We wanted to take a minute to highlight a few of the recent ones.


New York City Symposium on Burning Man, Technology, Religion and the Future

Event flyerIn November, the Burning Man Project joined Columbia University’s Department of Religion and Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life to present a free forum on Burning Man, technology, religion and the future, featuring panelists Larry Harvey (founder of Burning Man), John Perry Barlow (founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Peter Hirshberg (disruptive cultures and technology expert). Dr. David Kittay of Columbia’s Department of Religion moderated a lively conversation about Burning Man as a philosophical movement, its history, and its predicted global applications.

More than 300 turned out for the two hour-long discussion and Q&A session.

I met Dr Kittay at his first Burn, just a couple of years ago. It’s unclear to me exactly what role he, Barlow, and Hirshberg play in the Burning Man story as “Founders”. But, donate anyway.

We’re looking to offer traveling symposia like this in more cities around the world as part of the Project’s education programming. They’re an ideal way to share the wisdom of Burner values with the academic community and beyond.

“Share the wisdom of Burner values with the academic community”? Well, if you really think that’s the same as “taking Burning Man to the world”, donate.

Youth Education Spaceship (Y.E.S.) Project

Burning Man Project collaborated Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock City, The CrucibleExploratorium, and Maker Faire to work with Burner artist Dana Albany and kids from San Francisco’s Tenderloin and Hunters Point neighborhoods to build a 12′ diameter 10′ high space ship from repurposed and found objects.

Y.E.S. is a mobile spaceship classroom and collaborative art project that gave the kids experience creating and exhibiting their creation, which has gone on tour to Burning Man, the Exploratorium, Hunter’s Point Open Studios, and Maker Faire in San Mateo.

A bunch of kids re-cycled some existing materials to build an art car – cool. Please donate so Burning Man can take the Art Car to other cities. Of course, if you want to take your own art car to other cities, Do Not Use The Words Burning Man. 

I checked out this spaceship at Burning Man this year, I thought it was great. If I was going to kick money into a spaceship though, it would probably be my own art car that I would fund myself to bring to Burning Man. It’s hard to see how funding someone else’s art car to go to non-BM events, helps bring Burner culture to the world and makes the world a better place.

Crowdfunding: Trends in the Sharing Economy

Earlier this month, Burning Man Project hosted a free panel discussion on trends in the sharing economy. Crowdfunding and the sharing economy reflect our principles of gifting, communal effort, civic responsibility and decommodification, and we brought together Kate Drane from Indiegogo, Daniel Miller fromFundrise, and Harry Pottash from Kiva to talk about the future of crowdfunding.

More than 50 people turned out to discuss the state of crowdfunding, the challenges they’ve faced, and new ideas on how this movement can be used to empower underprivileged projects through the democratization of fundraising.

burning-bush50 people went to a panel discussion that has nothing to do with Burning Man. Crowdfunding is not Gifting or Decommodification. The topic, Crowd Funding, was recently heartily bashed on Burning Man’s official blog (unofficially, according to the author). Please donate to Burning Man’s not-so-new charity, so that people from Indiegogo can put on more panel discussions.

Really, BMOrg? After 3 years, this is it? This is your vision for how the big rave called Burning Man is going to help the world? Reinvest the profits back into Black Rock Solar and be done with it. Let Burners save their hard-earned money to spend on costumes, art cars, and art projects that we bring for free to increase the monetization potential of your party.

18 comments on “The Old Bait-n-Switch

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  9. people went to their 250+ raves globally. – what does that mean, what ‘raves’ are they doing globally? First define ‘rave’ if it’s a label you want to apply to an event because I am not sure if the actually definition will apply to what you want to infer.

    • If there’s electronic music, DJs, glowy stuff and blinky lights, and people dancing…that’s a rave. Yes, there is more to regional events than “just” being a rave, but you can’t ignore that the element is a strong component of each one. The art cars at Decompression aren’t there for transportation.

      • Well that leaves just about any party open to being defined as a rave in your book. Not ignoring that EDM is a large part of many of the events, however, they are by the definition of a rave, raves. They are by your definition to support your point. Which really sets up a, you are with me or against me kinda scenario, which is pointless and fruitless. Because in the end it means people agree with what you think BM is or should be doing or we are wrong.

      • An EDM party features DJs playing Electronic Dance Music. Therefore, a party with DJs playing electronic dance music, is an EDM party. Does ignoring the glowy shit and lasers make it clearer?

        If not, you may want to consider Wikipedia’s definition of a Rave, which mentions Burning Man:

        You can take whatever you want out of Burning Man, it can mean something different to everyone, that’s fine. Objectively, though, no matter who you are or what you get from it, it is clearly a rave. That’s not a matter of opinion, it is one of the biggest and most famous raves in the world, has been for nearly 20 years, almost every top DJ on the planet has played there at some point. For many DJs and ravers it is a regular annual fixture, like the opening and closing parties on Ibiza. It has more sound systems playing EDM, and more DJs, than any other party in the world. And yes, Burning Man is a party. That should be obvious too.

        Subjectively, I’m still trying to understand how Burning Man is helping the world with it’s new non-profit. A better contribution you could make to this conversation would be you trying to explain this to me from your (obviously anti-rave biased) perspective. If it is something more than a rave, what is this something? How is it saving the world? Do you think Burning Man is doing an efficient job promoting that with its tens of millions of annual budget? When they raise ticket prices, does that then help the world more?

        I note that has covered this issue recently, going further and highlighting that some people can’t even accept that Burning Man is a festival! FFS

      • “Subjectively, I’m still trying to understand how Burning Man is helping the world with it’s new non-profit.”
        Now on that point we are more agreeable. Having seen the most recent JRS and BM Project year end wrap-up, I take away from it, “We want more of your money so we can travel more” The travelling makes it appear as if the culture is lighting the world on fire… which it aint’. I can’t debate that the amount that is coming out of the project does not seem proportional to the amount going in. One does wonder, for an organization that can’t even sell tickets or announce a theme in a timely manner when that is 80% of what they do, how effectively are the using their resources?

  10. This is the magic of the dominant culture one based upon money, money, money, and more money. It’s able to almost instantaneously consume and excrete so that the differences are only noticeable to those willing to pay attention. Ideals and meaning gone. Spontaneity gone. Surprise gone.

    This didn’t have to happen but that would have required strong people of conviction organizing the event but alas their true colors are now evident to those willing to see.

    IMO the event will get bigger and bigger hauling in even greater amounts of cash. Those that attend will see the event as validation of how hip and cool they are and will pay lip service to the pseudo values used to mask the reality that the event only reinforces a culture of consume, consume, consume.

    Pity. Nobody was minding the store. It’s been looted and there’s no going back.

    • i think if you’re seeing the post as biased/uninformed/negative that you might not have paid much attention over the past few years.. it seems to me this post is more like a “i waited for THIS?” response…

      nothing really seems to have changed. the LLC will still exist.. theyve not relinquished control or ‘gifted’ burning man to anyone.. etc..etc.. of course we don’t really know if anything has because theyve not told us.

      in their opportunity to explain the details of the transition (whats up with the project?) they give a bunch of fluff that doesnt answer any of the questions people want to know once and for all: who is in control, who has a say in what, what is everyones role in this new thing… what where when why who?

      …none of that, we get “hey we did some lectures, neat huh?”

      how can there be a informed piece written about this when all we’ve got to go on is bits of quotes from scattered articles and pretty much silence from the official channels on the real details of this transition?

    • Thanks Coda for sharing what YOU want to read on MY blog…”GIFT ME THAT!”

      Uninformed? Share the information. Negative? Share some positives. Biased? Give us your opinion then, instead of just generally hating on us.

      We welcome anyone who has a more positive spin on this story, to come and share with us some facts. Until we hear that, sorry, if anything I’m trying to tone down how negatively I really feel about all this. It’s not even a case of “too little, too late”…it’s more like “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

      Their charity was incorporated more than 18 months ago, since then they’ve taken in about $50 million, maybe 200,000 people went to their 250+ raves globally. What did they do with that to “spread Burner values around the world”? They threw 2 panel discussions, one of them wasn’t about Burning Man and didn’t feature any Burning Man panelists, and one of them supposedly featured “The Founders” but only 1 person is an official founder…and they took in donations IN ADDITION to all their takings from tickets, ice, coffees, calendars, soundtracks, royalties, photo shoots, and the rest …to take an art car that someone else made (at no cost to them) to Vegas. Do YOU think that is commendable? What do you think they’d do with $100 million? 2 art cars to Vegas, maybe?

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