Wondering why you haven’t got your STEP invitation yet?
Anonymous has shared with us the following letter from BMOrg HQ (emphasis ours):
From: Steven Young <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Donation Ticket Introduction
Date: June XX, 2014 [snip]
I know that Burning Man Caravansary is getting close – the man burns in 78 days. Many people who have tickets already are getting excited for Burning Man, and some would rather live in blissful ignorance drinking the BMOrg Kool Aid, than hear anything more about BMOrg’s Transition to a Non-Profit. Those people are encouraged to read Happy Happy Joy Joy world at the official Burning Man blog or the JackedRabbit bleats. Burners who want the truth come to Burners.Me – and can see that it ain’t us writing these letters and coming up with these cockamamie shenanigans.
Where do I start?
First of all, Mr Young, Burning Man tickets cost $380. So the donation should be $270. The difference might seem minor to you, whom I’m sure gets to go to Burning Man for free, maybe even with some extra tickets to flog off on the side – but to Burners who are spending their own personal money, it is still significant. BMOrg can’t just keep pushing ticket prices up $20 every year, because “$20 doesn’t count”. The fact that in their minds, tickets are $400, suggests that the $40 vehicle tax was just a sneaky way of increasing prices.
Next, let’s talk about scalping. Remember when we had the ticket lottery, in 2012? We were told that the reason for this convoluted scheme was to prevent scalping. Presumably, the “logic” behind this was that scalpers would sell the ticket to the highest bidder, who might be some rich tourist in – gasp! – an RV, who didn’t “get the culture”.
This was shown to be a total sham when:
a) the system turned out to be a scalpers wet dream, with tickets rocketing towards $1500
b) we predicted (accurately) that there might be a release of more tickets; this sent the prices plummeting back towards $1000. Will Chase then scrambled to dispel the rumors, which sent the prices on the rise again for a while. A month later, more tickets were announced, the secondary market tickets prices collapsed below face value, and the event – despite a population cap increase, and being billed as “sold out” by BMOrg literally up to the last minute, with signs on the highway before Gerlach – was actually down in attendance on the previous year.
c) BMOrg later revealed that they were deliberately targeting newcomers in their algorithms, and rejecting long-time Burners instead. Census stats revealed 40% of 2013 Burners were first-timers, and 70% were 3 or fewer Burns
d) Larry Harvey came out after the event and said “scalpers aren’t a problem, and never were”. From the official blog, Dec 14, 2012:
As things stand now, participants are free to bestow tickets on their friends, lovers, campmates or family members — on anyone who they believe should come to the event. This form of ticket distribution often occurs spontaneously and is independent of any authorizing agency. It is an extension of the gift giving ethic that informs our culture. Furthermore, the chief argument advanced in support of identity-based ticketing is that such a system prevents profiteering by scalpers. But we have found that little more than 1% of ticket sales can be attributed to scalping in 2012. Even in the face of scarcity, a vast majority of ticket buyers appear to have honored a social compact that values persons over profit. Burning Man is an experiment in community, and in 2013 we will continue to invest our faith in that community.
[Editor’s Note: If you do sell your ticket, we ask that you sell it at face value, and if you’re buying one, to find one to purchase at face value.]
Scribe’s investigation of the Spark movie, and our subsequent deeper analysis, suggested that the entire lottery situation was artificially contrived for the documentary, which BMOrg had partially funded and was receiving royalties from. The “non-profit transition” was seen as too complicated and boring for viewers, so some dramatic tension was required. This particular controversy created the (false) impression that Burning Man was sold out, and that there were at least three times as many people who wanted to go, than could.
This year, I have been wondering what is going on. Almost everyone I know who plans on going this year, does not yet have a ticket. They are waiting for STEP, which last year came through in the end for most people in the queue. Yet, stories of people actually getting tickets and vehicle passes on STEP are few and far between on the Interwebz.
In my conspiracy-minded thinking, I assumed this was because BMOrg insiders were holding out to sell their allocated tickets, a nice little “cash on the side”, wink-wink nudge-nudge bonus for volunteers and those who showed loyalty to the borg. After a while, the unsold tickets would get
washed recycled through the STEP system.
In fact, it’s much worse than that. The Burning Man Project themselves are now the scalpers.
If you return a ticket on STEP, not all of your money gets refunded. You will take a small loss on transaction and STEP fees. Burners have been told that “this is the Burnier-than-thou way”, that “true” Burners don’t try to make money off their tickets. Now, it seems that BMOrg wants to try to sell that ticket for $650, and keep the difference for themselves – and keep Burners waiting in STEP while they try.
Right now secondary market prices are $880 for tickets and $220 for vehicle passes on Stubhub.
You would be better off to sell the $380 ticket yourself for $880, make a donation to BMP of $250, and you would have made a profit of $250. BMOrg gets a bonus, unconditional donation, and Burners get paid the same amount. What’s wrong with that? Why does BMOrg need to hog ALL the scalper profit themselves? Is it “because it’s a non-profit”, that somehow makes this OK?
I’m sure its much more fun to call him a liar and trash on his decade long contribution to the burn without any reason besides your adolescent backlash against anything reported by BMorg. Its fine if you want to sit in your sandbox and play pseudo-investigative journalist with regards to BMorg “controversy” but perhaps its time you reached out to ask questions and did some investigation rather than just belching your usual brand of soap box speculation.
Also, you seem to think that a charity and a non-profit organization are the same thing. Oops! Maybe this a good place to start your critical thinking!
To which I replied:
WRT the comment that a charity and a non-profit are not the same thing: a better way to state this is “philanthropy, and a tax-exempt entity paying royalties to an insider-controlled private company, are not the same thing”.
Perhaps we were foolish (or, adolescently naive) to think “Burning Man has fully completed it’s transition to a non-profit” meant something different from “the founders came up with a new tax avoidance scheme to maximize the money they can pull out of the event, while minimizing the tax they pay on it”. There is no obligation for this tax structure to be charitable, you’re right. We just formed that impression from all Larry and Marian and Jackedrabbit’s descriptions of what “The Burning Man Project” was supposed to do for the world.
So, just because it’s a non-profit, doesn’t automatically mean that it is philanthropic or altruistic and intends to
give Gift any of the money it raises to outsiders. Who knows what manner of rapacious greed can now be justified in the name of “non-profits”. Selling merchandise, new taxes, royalties, lawsuits, $7 million on accountants and lawyers, and now scalping – what new money-making scheme will BMOrg come up with next?
Always, it is the Burners that suffer from this. Some Burners say “I don’t care, $380 is cheap for an 8-day event”. Maybe so, but in that case why not just put tickets up to $500? Why the subterfuge, the “please be discreet, don’t share this on social media”? Why do Burners have to wait anxiously wondering if they’re going to get a ticket, while BMOrg tries to scalp as many as they can for higher prices? This is not a regular event like Coachella, where the promoters have to pay the talent. Burners are the talent, and the more of it we give to BMOrg, the more they try to take from us next time.
I suspect this $650 initiative will be a flop, there will be a whole bunch of tickets released through STEP in about a month, and there will be tickets available up to the last minute. I warn you, though, that I am “belching my usual brand of soapbox speculation” here – if I’m wrong, then $650 is cheap to get a $880 ticket. Especially if you can still buy $220 vehicle passes for $40 when you get it. Give Steve a call, and support the Burning Man Project and all the good it does in the world.
I am curious, readers. Did you contribute any tickets to STEP? Did you get any STEP tickets?