BURNILEAKS: How Commodification Camps Got Tickets [Update]

Thanks a million to Anonymous Burner for sharing this timely evidence. BMOrg doesn’t want to explain how Commodification Camps got so many tickets to an event that was sold out in February, so it’s left to Burners.Me and our wonderful community of readers.

2014 10 donation tickets


These tickets were offered secretly to some Theme Camps, as well as Commodification Camps – right up to the last minute. A special code was required to apply for them. Read the fine print: although they call it “Donation Ticket”, only $250 of the $650 is actually tax-deductible.

2014 donation ticket screen

2500 tickets were sold back to STEP by Burners, but only 1500 Burners in the STEP queue got tickets. BMOrg held onto 1000 for some purpose – probably this one – before saying they would release another 1000 tickets into STEP, and an extra 2000 into their OMG sale. They closed the STEP queue early, and we have no way of knowing how many STEPpers got tickets, and how many were left wanting after 3 months of waiting patiently.

Here’s a copy of the original email from BMOrg staffer Steven Young, which was leaked to us by another source in June.


From: Steven Young <steven.young@burningmanproject.org>

Subject: Donation Ticket Introduction

Date: June XX, 2014 [snip]

bmp logo

We have a special opportunity to share with you. The Burning Man Founders have made a group of 2014 Burning Man tickets available asthank-you gifts for Burning Man Project to offer to our supporters.For a limited time, your $650 contribution includes a $250 tax-deductible donation to the non-profit Burning Man Project along with the gift of one ticket (valued at $400).We have a limited number of these Thank You Tickets available. If you would like to make a donation to Burning Man Project, kindly send us your name, email, and phone number, and desired number of Thank You Tickets. The default maximum is two tickets. If you need more than two, please let us know in your email and we will be happy to accommodate your needs. We will send you a link to a private website with a personalized code which can only be used one time. Once the donation is complete, we will send you an acknowledgment for your contribution. Thank You Tickets will be mailed separately by Burning Man Project via express mail. These particular tickets are not refundable and will not be available for pick up at Will Call in Black Rock City.This is a short-term initiative about which we are being discreet; kindly do not post about it on social or traditional media, but let us know if there is anyone you would like to include in this opportunity. For questions, please contact steven.young@burningmanproject.org or 415-865-3800 x 198.These crucial contributions help Burning Man Project share the Ten Principles and the transformative spirit of Burning Man with the larger world. Burning Man Project initiatives are helping more people around the world gain access to transformative experiences and manifesting expression and inclusion in the arts, education, and civic participation. Our generous community of donors continues to help us grow, and we are very grateful to all who make it possible!
Appreciatively,steve youngSteve YoungBurning Man Headquarters )'(




[Update 10/13/14 10:24am]

A couple of Burners have wondered about the date and time on the screenshots above. It is midnight August 25 – that’s when the event started (yes, we know, technically it started at 10am Sunday 24th – blame BMOrg for being confused, not us).

bm dates 2014


However, this block of 10 tickets was sold after the OMG sale. Anonymous Burner tell us:

the order date isn’t on there. I do know for certain that the transaction occurred post OMG sale! Tickets were “sold” as part of a package deal to mates who flew into Bman, got picked up at the airport and checked into their cube. Each had a bike and or scooter waiting for them and a survival pack, with access to a “handicap registered” golfcart.…and a whole lot of expectation based on the price they paid. Expectations that no Real Burner would ever have and no Camp could have ever fulfilled without everyone pitching in.
These camps are not without their headaches! Many of those failed expectations have led to people wanting their money back or not paying and the dominoes fall from there. There are many who have not gotten paid as promised for their time and energy put in, cargo containers are being held hostage as payments haven’t been made to the trucking co. while the higher ups have taken their cut off the top.

The community pays the price, while the bosses bank whatever cash they can get their hands on. A familiar story.

This revelation highlights further lies truth-stretching from BMOrg. Steven Young said in his email “this is a short-term initiative about which we’re being discreet” – that was in early June, and they were still selling the tickets right up to the start of the event at the end of August.

BMOrg Speaks to Address Community Concerns

Will Chase, BMOrg’s Minister of Propaganda, has made a statement in response to the community’s concerns about Commodification Camps. He wants us to know that he’s listening. And he told his bosses the right folks about our concerns.

From burningman.com:

Will Chase, Burning Man's Minister of Propaganda

Will Chase, Burning Man’s Minister of Propaganda

Hey everybody, THANK YOU for these comments. I really do appreciate it. My intention for this post was to bring some facts into the discussion that I’d seen some people missing, and to see and hear what people were thinking and feeling. And you made your thoughts very clear, and we’re listening.

Like I said, part of my job is to keep my finger on the pulse of the community, and this conversation is part of that. I needed to hear exactly this input. This is great information and perspective to bring into our discussions about this issue, and they’re being read by everybody involved. So again, thank you.

I absolutely take your point about conflating the issue of virgins with turnkey camps … that wasn’t my intention, but since they often come up in the same conversation (XYZ people are screwing up Burning Man! We should keep them out!), I thought it made sense to combine them here. In retrospect, I should’ve broken the two topics out into different posts. My bad.

The big takeaway I’ve gotten here (and shared with the right folks at BMHQ) is that you’re a) not happy, and b) wanting to hear solid facts, answers and transparency with regard to Burning Man’s policies around turnkey camps. And I can tell you that’s in the works — we’re processing a number of moving parts here.

Lastly, I stand by what I wrote here. I believe deeply in the 10 Principles (I have kinda made it my life’s work), and I don’t want (and refuse) to see them eroded. And that includes Radical Inclusion. This stuff isn’t easy, but I believe we can work together as a community to solve this problem.

Thanks again. Pulse taken.

What about the one question the community really wants answered:




Yet again, they pretend this question doesn’t even exist. Apparently, we only want solid facts and transparency about Burning Man’s turnkey camps policy. Ummm, no. How about you start calling them Commodification Camps – that would be a step in the right direction. It would make it seem like you are not only “listening”, but actually hearing. We already know the policy: it’s to place Commodification Camps on K Street, scalp them all the tickets they want for $650, and if they’re not participating, chide them in the hope that they’ll do better next time. And, pretend it’s not even a problem, since there’s a broad spectrum of Turkey camps, and at the same time there were only 25 Turkey camps…and only a very small number of those were “doing it wrong”.

Only yesterday, they told us:

We’ve received more than 400 post-event emails and hundreds of comments through the Feedback form

Was the content of these hundreds of emails and comments really so different from the 100-odd comments they’ve got on their blog in the last couple of days? Is this really all unexpected news to the guy whose job is to have his finger on the pulse of the community’s concerns? He didn’t know, but we told him, and he told the right folks, and they’re listening, so now they know?

More likely, they realized their feeble attempts to misdirect our attention away from the story, re-define the problem as a “spectrum” and “hardly noticeable”, and put their typical corporate PR spin on it weren’t working.

Solid facts, answers to the community’s questions, and transparency shouldn’t be something that only comes out of this “non-profit” when the community is assembled at their gates ready to riot, with pitchforks and flaming torches. Forget the Tin Principles, honesty, openness and integrity should be the fundamental essence of everything they do. Not just because that’s a “nice to have”: as a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation, they’re actually required by law to operate with a high standard of ethics. As well as the law, it’s on Article and Page 6-9 of their Bylaws.

Burning Man ended nearly 2 months ago. Their “community feedback” process ended more than 2 weeks ago. Sure, 400 emails is a lot, but one person can read that many in a day. And if they’re all saying the same thing, the message isn’t that hard to distill and report up the chain of command to the masters.

Once again, transparency from BMOrg is…”coming soon”.

If you’re against Commodification Camps, you might want to check out this petition. So far in our poll, it is literally the 1% that support them. A third agree with me that they should be allowed if they have a public participation area, and a majority two thirds say No.

BMOrg Continues to Cover for Commodification Camps

Will Chase has added to the chorus of Commodification Camp justifications we’ve been hearing from BMOrg, with a post saying “what’s all the fuss about? Nothing to see here, move along”:

Virgins and Turnkey Camps Are Ruining Burning Man.

The content of the post is nothing like its title; quite the opposite. He is “Minister of Propaganda”, after all.

We’ve been hearing and reading a lot about Turnkey Camps over the past couple months (haven’t we all?) and I have to say, I’m a little confused by people’s apparent willingness to make or buy into blanket statements and generalizations about Turnkey Camps, virgins, who should be allowed into Black Rock City, etc.

Did some people do bad things? Sure. Are some people “doing it wrong”? Yep. Will it destroy Burning Man? Nope. Are we learning from this year what we can do better in the future? Absolutely. We are bigger than this, and our community can — as it always has — figure it out, adapt and self-regulate. There’s no question in my mind.

2014 sep 3 caravancicle aerial

Wednesday after the Burn. Caravancicle and Lost Hotel still have all their stuff there, regular Burners had to be packed up and gone

Self-regulate? Where the fuck does he think all the regulations come from? Certainly not from the community. It’s not the community saying “hey, you’re rich, cool, how many tickets do you need?  You can leave MOOP, you can exclude Burners from your camps, you don’t have to gift anything. Line up for 8 hours because we can’t mail tickets internationally. Pay royalties to the new LLC called Decommodification. Get insurance for your own art projects, because $30 million’s not enough to cover it. Your art car is public transport that belongs to the whole city”.

As for “blanket statements and generalizations”, that seems to be what we’re getting from BMOrg, not the other way around. The questions I’m seeing from the community have been pretty frikking specific. BMOrg’s definition of “Turnkey camps” is about as general as you can get.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not apologizing for Turnkey Camps and virgins who may have mis-stepped … nor are we sweeping anything under the carpet.

Oh, you’re not? Could’ve fooled me. I guess you think you have nothing to apologize for – it’s “your” event, after all.

Here are some facts to keep in mind:

  1. Burning Man has always had virgins. It’s how this thing keeps going and growing. In fact, in the early years Black Rock City was sometimes more than 50% virgins, since the event doubled in size from year to year.
  2. The percentage of virgins has been steady for the past few years, between 35% and 40% of the total population.
  3. Not all virgins are clueless twits. Some won’t know what they’re doing, and some will (but we’ll attempt acculturate all of them).
  4. Some of those virgins are never going to “get it”. Most will. (I had no clue what I was doing in 2001, and I’d like to think I turned out OK in the end. Heh.)
  5. Every single year of Burning Man’s existence, people have lamented how it’s all going to pot because [insert reason here] and virgins are doing it wrong. And it hasn’t. (The #1 most common thing I hear from virgins is “I didn’t understand what it was about, how could I possibly have? But now I get it! I’m a Burner!!”)
  6. Turnkey Camps are not all the same. There’s a broad spectrum from “doing it fine” to “doing it horribly”. The percentage in the latter group is small. Very small.
  7. The “tech elite” have always been at Burning Man. Hell, they’re practically what made Burning Man possible.
  8. Burning Man will always change and evolve.
  9. It is in the media’s interest to generate and stir up conflict and scandal and paint black and white pictures, because money.

Talk about trying to change the subject, to dodge the difficult questions. “We’re not trying to sweep anything under the carpet, we just want you all to talk about something else. Because we’re listening. No really, we are! Here’s a list of 9 reasons why your concerns are wrong”

What difference does listening make, in a do-ocracy? Actions speak louder than words. All we’re seeing is words: words that make it seem like actually, BMOrg are not listening.

2014 caravancicle ad

Real ad, offering cash for sherpas on the Playa.

Turnkey camps are a “broad spectrum”, because that’s the way BMOrg is trying to define them. Commodification Camps are not a spectrum – they’re more like a cancer. An alien parasite, leeching off our culture. Contributing nothing to our city. By saying “most camps are turnkey camps, and there are only a tiny number of bad ones”, BMOrg pave the way for as many Commodification Camps as they can sell. It’s a spectrum – “oh, you had one of the bad ones? Not to worry, DPW will pick up that MOOP for you. Better luck next year. We’ll try to acculturate you and socially engineer you so you can move further up the spectrum to where we want you”.

By heavily promoting Burning Man to the mainstream media – from Town and Country to Vogue to the New York Times – BMOrg make tourists want to come. By favoring Virgins in the ever-changing ticketing system, they make it harder for Burners to go. By diverting tickets sold back to STEP in good faith by Burners, and instead selling them in secret for $650 to Commodification Campers, they make a mockery of Burner values – robbing good-hearted Burners of profits that they could be earning from scalping, by telling us it’s “against Burning Man”. By promoting celebrities and politicians, who have “special needs” that somehow prevent them from Self-Reliance, they make Black Rock City more like Any Town, USA.

The community is upset about Commodification Camps “because money”. He got that right. But no-one is objecting to the profits made by the New York Times. I doubt their Burning Man sherpa story was even a drop in their giant ocean of cash. No, we’re upset “because money” – because people are MAKING MONEY from our spectacle which was FREELY GIVEN.

It seems like, in all their listening, BMOrg have totally missed the part where we said we don’t want to be bingo items for safari campers. That’s not why we bring all our art and music and energy and love – why we PAY BMOrg to “let us” bring it. We do that for fun, and to give to each other: not so that a select few can then commercially exploit it, and tell us we’re not invited.

MOOP #fail

MOOP #fail

The community is not upset about Virgins. We’re upset about how experienced Burners can’t get tickets, and long-time camps can’t get placement; meanwhile, Commodification Camps mysteriously get all the tickets they want. We’re upset because we have to pick up after ourselves, while Commodification Camps leave entire blocks worth of MOOP for DPW to collect. We’re upset about selective rule enforcement: one set of rules for insiders, and one for Burners. We’re upset because volunteers slave their guts out for no pay, while tickets that could go to worthy Burners get diverted to paid employees to be the Self-Reliance that Commodification Campers are too lazy to learn for themselves.

We’re upset because BMOrg keeps telling us they’re listening, and keeps writing these posts that show they’re really not.

Let’s re-cap, shall we:

Radical Self Reliance and Rich People at Burning Man – 72 comments, lots of questions from Burners, few answers

How Turnkey Camps Get Placed – 50 comments in a single day, lots of questions from Burners, no answers

Virgins and Turnkey Camps Are Destroying Burning Man – 9 “talking points”, lots of trying to change the topic of discussion, no answers

A Rich Man Dreams of Paradise – 67 comments, no answers

Will says:

It’s part my job to keep my finger on the pulse of the community in Black Rock City.

If so, then maybe you should read all the comments above. That’s your community speaking, right there. What comes out the most? What question does the community want answered, more than any other?


Four different posts on the topic at burningman.com, and still this basic question is ignored like it doesn’t even exist.

despite a sensationalist New York Times article that was inflammatory and inaccurate but had legs, Burning Man was happening in all its diverse glory.

photo: John Curley

Will Crawl, 2014 photo: John Curley

That’s what you think we’re upset about? A single article in the New York Times? Way to have your finger on the pulse, dude.

We firmly believe everybody deserves the opportunity to have a transformational experience, ESPECIALLY the people who may not ‘get it’ right away … they probably need it more than anybody. Is that risky? Possibly, but our culture is so rich that I challenge a newcomer to NOT be impacted by it. And, as our culture gets stronger, it’s harder for a minority element to contaminate it. Think of it like this: if our culture was a thin soup, one carrot could change the whole flavor. But if you toss a carrot into a rich stew like ours, it’s hardly noticeable … but it becomes part of the mix.

The minority element contaminating the culture, appears to be a small group of decision-makers who encourage this commercial exploitation of Burning Man. And guess what: they’re NOT making the culture stronger. I’m listening to the community too, and that’s not what I’m hearing – AT ALL. Quite the opposite, in fact. BMOrg boast that they’re pleased they’ve jumped the shark, but most Burners don’t feel that’s a positive thing for our culture.

I wonder if BMOrg really are getting lots of emails and feedback forms from Burners saying “Commodification Camps are great, there should be more of them” – and somehow, that message just isn’t making it through to social media? Is there some “we love Sherpas, we love MOOP” group on Facebook that I’m not a member of?

caravancicle interaction guide 1

Caravancicle “Interaction Guide”

No-one is denying that virgins should be able to have a transformational experience. Why should Burners be squeezed out, to make room for Commodification Campers who are exploiting the Playa – and all of our free Gifting – for their own financial gain? Why should these camps be allowed to turn Burners away because they don’t have wristbands?

It’s our job to figure out how to get more people to experience Burning Man without compromising our principles in the process (INCLUDING radical inclusion). This is all of our work. And as the event grows in popularity, we’re going to have to work harder. But don’t panic, this stew is really, really good.

Waffle. What will be done? That’s what the community wants to be told, not “you’re all doing it wrong, but we’re doing it great”. And, guess what: it’s not your job to get more people to experience Burning Man. It’s your job to get the permit, and provide the basic infrastructure for the event, so WE can bring our party out there. That’s why we pay you $400 per ticket, of which $13 goes to art and $57 goes to Mysterious Other. We understand it costs money to rent the port-a-potties and pay the cops and build The Man. We didn’t give you that money so you could sell higher-priced tickets to tourists and film us to sell it in YouTube videos and the iTunes store. We’re not paying you to do the job of inviting a bunch of strangers who don’t care about our values and don’t want to learn, who think they’re better than all that. Who come to SEE the spectacle, not BE the spectacle.

If it’s so important to the Burning Man Project to acculturate Virgins and spread its message around the world, then let them do that for the whole rest of the year when we’re NOT putting our party on together, sharing our hospitality and camaraderie out on the inhospitable Playa. Let them divert Virgins to the Regionals, instead of squeezing out long-time Burners. Why kick us out of Black Rock City, to make room for strangers who care nothing for our unique culture and want to exclude us at our own event?

To me it’s quite simple. Radical Inclusion doesn’t extend to people who shit on all the other Principles. Fuck them – it’s They who should be excluded, not we Burners who don’t have the right wristbands for their $2 million camps. If you don’t want to be a Burner, fine, no problem: we don’t want you. It would be easy to sell 70,000 tickets to people – even 40% Virgins – who want to Gift, Include, be Self-Reliant, Participate, make a Communal Effort, and Leave No Trace. Why should it be “bring them in anyway, maybe they’ll get it, maybe they’ll want us to re-educate them so we can move them along the turnkey spectrum?” What about all the people who really do get it, but can’t get tickets? What about all the Burners waiting all year in STEP, hoping that their chance will come up, so they can start planning and preparing for their Burn?

What is it that makes these Commodification Campers so special? Money? Prestige? Power? Why do we need them at all? What about all of us, over nearly 30 years now, who HAVE put in the effort, the blood, sweat and tears? What about OUR feelings? What about OUR city?

Read Will’s full post here.

If you’re not sure what a “Commodification Camp” is, here’s just some of our other coverage on the topic:

Commodification Camp Concerns

Commodification Camps and the Tin Principles

Plug-n-Play Goes All The Way To The Top of the Pyramid

Comfortably Commodified

$2 Million Camps: Gentrification of Burning Man



caravancicle tshirt