“$50,000 for a Perch on Burning Man’s Billionaire’s Row”

Earlier today, I went to check out Fest300. It’s a web site with 6 staff, as well as a crowd-sourced content element, created by Chip Conley – a hotelier who is AirBnB’s head of Global Hospitality and Strategy. Chip is also on the Board of Directors of the Burning Man Project. On the front page of the site, was a Twitter feed linking to an article in Billboard magazine. Among other things, it said:

Last year, Conley launched Fest300 in the vein of lists like the Fortune 500 and Forbes 500. Of what he estimates to be 100,000 total festivals in the world, the Fest300 staff — a team of about six, including Conley, working out of a San Francisco office, with freelancers contributing editorial content — aggregates the best (you guessed it) 300 festivals.

…At only a year old, Fest300 is clocking some steady pageviews: the site had 525,000 unique visitors in September, a number Conley hopes will grow as the company pursues sponsors and advertising — and yes, a possible partnership with Airbnb, though Conley stresses he can’t comment on that yet. “I’m lucky enough that I sold my hotel company and am head of global hospitality and strategy at Airbnb that I can financially underwrite the site,” he says. 

Their traffic makes them a bit smaller than Burners.Me, with our totally unpaid staff of Yours Truly, and the occasional (very welcome and appreciated) guest posts from our beloved readers. We have no sponsors and no advertising; nor do we make commercial advertisements from Burning Man footage like Fest300 does. Gifting, Self-Expression, Self-Reliance, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Decommodification (the Principle, not the money-making LLC), Inclusion, Leave No Trace, Immediacy, and Participation are some of the principles that underwrite this site. Others can paint, weld, mix, create costumes, take photos, cook, and make blinky lights. I have none of those skills, so writing and Interwebz is my contribution to the “Special Olympics of Art” that is Burner culture. My reward from BMOrg for Gifting my art? People using Burning Man’s internal network come here to abuse me using a variety of false names, and their paid employees slander us on Facebook during business hours.

I’m starting to think that I’m a fool to put thousands of hours in and give this away for free, when everyone else seems to be cashing in on Burning Man wherever they can.

It seems that making money from the festival boom is very much a part of the AirBnB global strategy, and the Fest300 vision too.

Chip is not the only Burning Man Project Director on the take from AirBnB, who launched their service on the Playa this year. Rae Richman left her 9-year job running the Rockefellers Philanthropy Advisers, helping wealthy corporations set up tax-exempt non-profit foundations, to become the head of Global Citizenship for AirBnB. She’s been a BMOrg Director for about 4 years.

There are AirBnB/BMOrg connections at the Executive Level too, though not so direct. Global Initiatives Director Jenn Sander is on stage with them at the CMX Summit in San Francisco this month, with a presentation “How To Build Community: Learning From Burning Man, AirBnB and NASA”. We also recently pointed out the “coincidence” (or is it?) that Burning Man’s Social Alchemist, Bear Kittay’s mentor recently created an investment fund named “Sherpa Ventures” that is financially backed by the same Texas Pacific Group (TPG) who led the AirBnB’s last financing round, supplying $75 million of the $450 million investment. Sherpa also sees big profits in new types of pop-up hospitality:

sherpa ventures new market

Other “hospitality entrepreneurs” on Burning Man’s Board of Directors are Jennifer Raiser, who is now selling a book about Burning Man:

Previously, Jennifer was CEO of Raiser Senior Services, a full-service provider of luxury retirement in the Bay Area, combining health care, dining, and long-term care…Her previous experience includes marketing with Procter and Gamble and BBDO/Omnicom Advertising, and management consulting with Fortune 500 corporations.

…and new appointee Jim Tananbaum, who threw his hat in the ring when he created everyone’s favorite Commodification Camp, Caravancicle. What evidence do we have that he was involved with Caravancicle? Well, he registered their domain name and is specifically named in the legal agreement their participants had to sign.

“…the organizers of the Caravancicle Camp and/or the Burning Man Event, including, but not limited to, Back to Earth Inc., dba ‘dovetail events’, Ari Derfel, Jim Tananbaum, Space Cubes LLC, Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc./Peik Invstments LLC, Black Rock City, LLC and any and all owners, officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, volunteers, contractors or affiliates of these individuals and entities…”

From http://www.domaintuno.com/d/caravancicle.com

The website was registered by ()

2014 caravansicle

$$$ – I Love $

We have also been told by Burners that he provided the funding to develop The Lost Hotel’s Space Cubes – and we have no reason to doubt that. Caravancicle had 120 VIP guests paying $17,000 each (according to the whistle-blowing sherpa), as well as dozens of paid workers including “Mistresses of Merriment”. $2 million just for a camp at a festival: I think that qualifies JT as one of this “new breed of hospitality entrepreneurs”. To put that number in perspective, it’s about 10% of ticket sales of the entire event. 25 such camps would be making more money than Burning Man itself – while paying their sherpas less than minimum wage, with slave-like working conditions where if they don’t like it, they get dumped in the desert without food, water, or shelter.

The reason I’ve provided such a long-winded introduction to this story, repeating things I’ve already written about, is I’ve been accused on Facebook over the last couple of days of not providing enough evidence to support these claims. Regular readers of this blog will have seen all of this information before, because we always provide evidence and references to back up our claims, and if it’s just speculation, rumor, or theory, we tell you that. Unlike BMOrg, who make statements like “we pay $4.6 million a year to the BLM”, which when we fact-checked with the BLM turned out to be $3.4 million. It seems Burners.Me, a free Gift to the community, is expected by some to operate to a much higher standard of ethics and integrity than BMOrg, which is overseen by an 18-person Board of Directors and makes $30 million a year. Which we do, integrity is not a problem for me – yet it is our site that gets accused of “misinformation”, “yellow journalism”, “not a credible source”, “TMZ”, “Fox News” and so on…but I digress.

“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act” – George Orwell.

When reading the Billboard piece about Conley’s plans to integrate AirBnB, festivals, and his own site, I was struck by this link in the middle of the story:

What was that doing, smack bang in the middle of an article about a Burning Man Director? I clicked the link, and sure enough – Burning Man is mentioned in the story. Not just mentioned: it is highlighted as the “creme de la creme” of packaged festival experiences for VIPs.

From Billboard.com:

image: John Ueland/Billboard

image: John Ueland/Billboard


Due to the exclusive perks they provide and the premium prices they command — from $175 for a 5 Seconds of Summer VIP experience to a whopping $50,000 for a perch on the Burning Man festival’s Billionaires Row — these packages also have become an easy target for media seeking an “us vs. them” class warfare storyline. But architects of these offerings tell Billboard that critics are missing the point.

VIP packages, they say, are about business, not class — an opportunity to generate new revenue streams for the industry by attracting more demanding breeds of concertgoers, including “superfans,” as Breithaupt puts it, who’ve already seen the artist live “and are looking for an elevated experience.”

Jennifer Breithaupt is the senior Vice President of Entertainment Marketing for Citibank, whose job is to create VIP opportunities for their card-holders.

billionaires-row-250

So “Billionaire’s Row” is a thing, now – and this term is being used to market the event in the media.

Dan Berkowitz, founder of CID Entertainment, an innovator in the VIP packaging field, says there also is a market for music lovers who aren’t into roughing it with the sweaty masses at festivals. “These are people who won’t go to a show unless they know they’re going to be comfortable, that meals will be prepared for them, that there will be an air-conditioned bathroom nearby and that they’ll be able to get close to the artist,” he says.

This photo from David Precheur's Facebook seems rather apt

This photo from David Precheur’s Facebook seems rather apt

The concept is not that much different from the first-, business- and coach-class price tiers offered by airlines. “As you get older and more seasoned, you need the luxuries in order to enjoy the experience, and unfortunately this world works on money,” says Dave Precheur, who oversees the priciest VIP experiences in the market, Burning Man’s Billionaires Row, where packages include lodging in RVs outfitted with two queen-size beds, a two-person waitstaff and a private jet charter to the festival site.

Precheur acknowledges that because he caters to “extremely rich individuals,” Billionaires Row has become “a very contentious thing, because Burning Man is supposed to be this super-hippie event” where basic tickets run from $200 to $500. But, he adds, the carping is shortsighted. Revenue from general-admission tickets pays for infrastructure, safety, traffic regulation and emergency medical expenses, but little else. “Most people miss that [Billionaires Row patrons] are the very people that fund the big art, the art cars, all the things that make Burning Man such a spectacular visual and artistic event,” says Precheur.

The use of the word “spectacular” is particularly jarring. Clearly, the Commodification Campers are coming to witness the spectacle. But who is providing it? According to Precheur, it’s the Commodification Campers themselves. We’ve seen no evidence of that: quite the opposite. Caravancicle’s crew were given popsicles to hand out to people, and apparently only one of them even did that.

stuff like this doesn't get made in garages - even if the company founders behind them started out in one

Art Cars like these don’t get made in garages – even if the company founders behind them may have  started out in one

We heard about one camp this year that had more than $5 million of Art Cars – I’m not going to name them, but they were a high-end Burner camp, not a Commodification Camp. What’s the difference? Participation, Gifting, Decommodification, for starters. These cars were funded by individual Burners, and sure, people got paid to build them, install the lighting, tune the stereos – so what? People got paid to make the RVs and tents that Burners stay in as well. Someone got paid to make your food and your bicycle. If you can afford to drop more than a million bucks on an Art Car that you use one week a year to provide awesome music to thousands of people, who cares how nice your accommodation is? One rumor we’ve heard is that Google founder Sergey Brin spent $2 million just on an art installation one year. Good for him! We all got to look at it, that was his Gift to Burners. Thanks for sharing.

BMOrg would like Burners to conflate all this together, saying “they’re all turkey camps, most camps are on the same spectrum, and only a few of them are bad”. You can’t compare creating an Art Car or funding an Art Project, with handing out popsicles and being driven around in a handicapped golf-cart when you’re perfectly able to walk. Living in luxury is fine, if they behave like “We The Burners”. Selling VIP packages that promote “Us vs Them” is not. Gawking at us like a spectacular safari, using us to play “Burner Bingo” to knock the “Big Five” off their bucket lists, and excluding us from camps because we don’t have the right wristbands, is not what Burning Man is all about.

Money, of course, is the key driver behind all this. Festivals can only put ticket prices up so much, before they are forced to look for new revenue streams:

For a festival that grosses $20 million, VIP offerings can add $1 million to the bottom line..

The competition ensures that VIP experiences will evolve. “We keep trying to up the experience, whether it’s something as simple as sunscreen at the shuttle stop or orange slices in the golf carts,” says Berkowitz

The Anonymous Burner who recently leaked us details of 10-packs of VIP Tickets being sold after the OMG sale had closed, said:

image: burningman.com

image: burningman.com

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” golf cart.…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.

I called American Express’s VIP Centurion concierge service that they provide with my black card, and asked them if they had any packages for Burning Man. They didn’t know about any, but said they have a “reputable supplier” in the US who could probably get me tickets: I asked for 10. I’ll update this story if they come back with anything. Perhaps I should shift my accounts to Citibank…

47 comments on ““$50,000 for a Perch on Burning Man’s Billionaire’s Row”

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    • They said that they worked with companies in the US that could guarantee me tickets, but I would not be able to get the tickets until about a month before the event. They suggested I create a Burner profile and enter the Individual Sale. Other than the tickets, they had no packages of any kind available for Burning Man.

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  12. “I called American Express’s VIP Centurion concierge service that they provide with my black card, and asked them if they had any packages for Burning Man. ”

    If you’ve got a black card.. you’re the 1% – average net worth of a black card holder is more than $13million. While I appreciate your work in raising awareness about the millionaires changing the shape of Burning Man, why do you as a millionaire take the side of the average Burners?

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    • Burning Man is not “rich vs poor” – if you think that, you are TOTALLY missing the point of the event.

      There are literally thousands of millionaires there, and very probably more billionaires than any other festival. Everyone is the same on the Playa, that’s the point.

      More than half of Burners earn more than US$50k per year, which puts them in the 1% – in fact, the top 0.3% of wealth worldwide. If you hate the 1%, you hate the majority of Burners. Stay away, “Radical Inclusion” and “Hate Everyone” are not compatible ideals.

      Decommodification means an environment free of commercial transactions, and Gifting means an experiment with a new way of living and interacting socially. To me, what a person is “worth” is not defined by the value of their assets. At Burning Man, what you’re worth as a Burner is what you bring to the party – if you bring nothing, show no self reliance, and expect others to clean up your MOOP after you, you’re worth less.

      Nobody thinks rich people should be banned from Burning Man. Most Burners think credit card companies selling pre-packaged safari experiences to VIP-exclusive wristband camps should be banned from Burning Man.

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      • Very deceptive use of statistics; the majority of the world population lives on under $1 or $2 a day; while $50k a year puts you decidedly in the average household income of the US. The $1,500 fee you pay yearly for your black card is more than most people on the planet earn in two years. If we want to include all of the third world in calculations and the billion+ poor people in China/India, any American looks like the 1%. The originally intended meaning of 1% in the occupy terms was the top 1% wealth holders in American society, not globally.
        Also, you didn’t adjust for purchasing power parity.

        I think you’re a bit in your own bubble saying there’s “thousands of millionaires.” That, out of a crowd of 60k people, means that one out of every ten to thirty people is a millionaire. I just don’t think there’s enough millionaires to go around for that to make sense, and if it was true, Burning Man truly would be the party of the millionaires.

        By contrast, the black card holder is elite even within the American 1%, with an average income of 1.3million a year – making them the 0.5% percentile and above; within the US, not globally.

        It is certainly not “rich people” that are the problem with Burning Man intrinsically, and you are certainly not part of that problem at all, and this site leads the charge on the solution.

        The problem is all these rich people encourage their friends to come and raise awareness about Burning Man within these wealthy circles. This was OK for a while, but then commodification camps started springing up as a result of peripherally-into-burning-man rich people wanting to experience it with minimal effort. Perhaps at first there was a focus on DIY and getting people to be part of the event, but generally it’s following the pattern you see with entitled wealthy people. They delegate real responsibility to others and use money to achieve their status and comfort.

        I bet you actually earned your money instead of inheriting it. Seems like a good portion of the commodification camps is inherited rather than earned wealth, and you get all the negative traits associated with inherited wealth making their mark on the playa.

        That said, I don’t hate anyone really, but how many others do you know with those black Centurion cards that aren’t a complete dick? 🙂

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        • What you’re missing in your demographic analysis is that about half of Burners come from the SF Bay Area, which has the 2nd highest concentration of billionaires in the US and is currently going through a major tech and real estate boom. Many Burners work in tech, or had a chance to invest in it in the nearly 3 decades BM has been going. If you work in tech in SF, it’s extremely likely that you get stock options as well as salary.

          http://unofficialnetworks.com/2011/07/millionaires-billionaires-sf-bay-area

          Just using the ratio here .07 per capita, gets us 4900 millionaires from 70,000 population.

          These stats are a little old, if you would like to dig around and do further demographic analysis you’re welcome to write a guest post for us. There would be many more millionaires now. The above stats also exclude significant wealthy parts of the Bay, like Palo Alto/Woodside, Walnut Creek, Marin County, Napa.

          I’ve also met a LOT of New York Burners there, some mega-wealthy ones

          http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2014/03/12/56-billionaires-live-in-these-bay-area-cities.html

          Burning Man is a billionaire’s playground.

          From the most recent BRC census data, about 20% of Burners make more than US$100k per year personal income:

          http://blackrockcitycensus.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/sociodemographic-income/

          If your net income is at that level, you probably have $1m of assets.

          I take your point that some people with black cards are dicks, but I also know some super cool ones – and many dicks who don’t have black cards. In fact, I think it’s safe to say “most complete dicks don’t have black cards”, but not correct to say “most people with black cards are complete dicks”.

          Also, many trustafarians don’t have unfettered access to their family’s money. If they call up the trustee and say “I need $50k to go to a rave”, this would cause all kinds of problems for them. Usually when they’re young they’re kept on a tight leash. There’s plenty of them at Burning Man, but not sure that they’re the ones staying in “Billionaire’s Row”.

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          • Point well taken about trustifarians not having access to the family’s money — you find many of these in regular ol’ camps without much amenities, and would never know it. They tend to live on moderate standards and you only figure out they are a trustie after they explain all sorts of little projects they “work” on, none of which adding up to the amount of income they seem to spend on things like travel and rent.

            Thank you for the invitation to guest post, but I think to make a valid survey of this it would have to be done on the Playa. Extrapolating the number of millionaires based on the rate of millionaires in areas that Burners come from would be a methodological slippery slope towards probably invalid conclusions. There is a significant selection bias in who attends Burning Man, and I believe it might learn heavily towards moneyed trustifarians and counterculture artist types with little money rather than reflect default world demographics.

            I make around $150,000 a year and my total assets are probably less than $70,000. The thing is most tech and real estate people don’t have time to accumulate lots of worth until they are older, especially working in expensive places like SF Bay or New York; unless they get massive bonuses or their stock options go stratospheric. If I saved 50% of my income, after taxes, it would still be 20 years before I had $1+ million in assets.

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          • I stand by my statement that there are thousands of millionaires at Burning Man. You have failed to disprove it, while I have endeavored to provide evidence to support my claim.

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          • Fair enough. I can provide evidence, but providing evidence is not empiricism and without proper methodology this argument is just sophistry.

            The average United States millionaire is 62 years old. In 2009, 80 percent of millionaires were older than age 45 and close to half of all millionaires (46 percent) were older than age 55. West Coast millionaires skew slightly older.

            Some more info: http://taxfoundation.org/article/who-are-americas-millionaires

            Reference: Your own site https://burners.me/2014/09/17/2014-census-results/

            According to the Black Rock Census, the average Burner is 32-33 years old. 72% of all burners are between 20-40, and 27% are 41 and up.

            Extrapolating from that, if 3% of millionaires are age 35 and younger, and Burning Man is 50% younger than 35 (the 50% derived by taking the 30-39 age group and dividing by two). Millionaires also tend to be married and thus dual income. While 86% of millionaires are married, only 24% of black rock census respondents classified themselves as married.

            To do a proper analysis, I’d need standard deviation info so I can place beta weights on the married/unmarried, but let’s just do some basic math:

            Of 70k burners 50% under 35 (35,000), times .035 rate of millionaires in California/.03rate of millionaires under 35 = 37 millionaires
            Of burners older than 35 (35,000), times .035 rate of millionaires in California / minus 15% to adjust for 18% of millionaires over 65 (few this age on playa) = 1042 millionaires

            So you get at best with this liberal estimate, 1100 millionaires. That’s 900 short of “thousands.” This is still not adjusted for the married/unmarried factor. So, there cannot be enough millionaires to justify your assumption. Perhaps their children, but not them.

            Again though, this is sorcery without solid statistics and proper analysis.

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          • If you go by assets instead of by income the numbers skew even older:
            According to Spectrem Group, the average United States millionaire is 62 years old. Just 1% of millionaires are under the age of 35, and 38% of millionaires are 65 and older. (2011)

            Using this formula you’d end up with <750 millionaires at burning man due to the age discrepancy. The .035 california rate is actually for millionaires by net asset rather than yearly AGI.

            http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0411/why-many-millionaires-dont-feel-rich.aspx

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          • now your dataset is “millionaires as a percent of the entire US population in 2011”, compared with my more relevant “millionaires in the Bay Area in 2011”.

            Where does the “.035 California rate” come from?

            My argument is that the dataset I was using substantially under-stated the number of millionaires for 2 reasons:

            1. by excluding many wealthy areas
            2. because a large amount of wealth has been generated in tech and real estate in SF since 2011

            – even so, it got us to 4900 Burners.

            A more current figure is 321,000 millionaires in SF + San Jose (WSJ, Sep 2014).

            SF population 837, 442, SJ 998, 537 = 1,835,979
            which means if you live in either of those cities, you have a 17.5% chance of being a millionaire – 0.175 per capita

            Using an age-based argument sourced from national figures doesn’t cut it, neither does comparing stats from the general public of a massive state or country with the highly skilled and tech-centric Burner work force, but I’ll play along…

            Using your data set, 99% of millionaires are 35 and older, and 61% age 35-65.

            According to the 2014 Black Rock census, about 60% of Burners were over the age of 30. The numbers are not very fine-grained.

            From the 2012 census, 60% of Burners were under the age of 35 (with 20% 30-35). Assuming that none of the under 35’s could be millionaires, we still get 40% of 70,000 = 28,000, * .175 = 4900 again.

            Say only half were from San Francisco, we’re still in the thousands. And ignoring the fact that many of the non-SF Burners could be millionaires also.

            If only a third were from San Francisco, then it’s 1633 – but your data set says 1% are under 35. 60% of Burners are under 35. 60% * 70000 = 42,000 and 1% of that = 420 so we’re back up above 2,000 again.

            Just curious, how old are you and where do you live? How much time have you spent in the Bay Area? Because there are a lot of millionaires here. These days you can’t even buy a house for $1 million in a shitty neighborhood.

            Twitter’s IPO alone created 1600 millionaires from its staff. Facebook’s IPO was estimated to create 1000 millionaires, at its $40 list price – the stock has since doubled. Most of these people are in the core Burner age range demographic. (Source: WSJ, Reuters)

            references:

            http://burningman.com/media/doc/pdf/afterburn/ab2012/bm12_weighted_census_data-v6.pdf

            http://blogs.wsj.com/totalreturn/2014/09/18/looking-for-millionaires-try-these-u-s-cities/

            Google “population of San Jose, San Francisco”

            http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2012/02/01/will-facebook-really-create-1000-millionaires/

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          • Again, you are twisting the numbers here so you can use the rate of SF millionaires — highest in the world — as the baseline for the Burning Man population. But, your claims about burners being so heavily from SF are not reflected in the black rock census, 46% of burners claim to be from California — but there are no statistics for the Bay alone. Just because twitter and Facebook produced a lot of millionaires, and that is salient in your newsfeeds, does not provide any statistically significant information on how many millionaires would go to Burning Man.
            This is why I used the 3.5% California millionaire number rather than the inflated SF and SF Bay numbers, since that’s the only numbers that align with the data we have. Otherwise you’re cherry-picking the largest number possible to support a rhetorical but not statistical point.

            Reference for that: http://www.netstate.com/states/tables/state_millionaires_household.htm

            However we’re never going to get any definitive proof here and probably can put a fork in this numbers game because, as I stated, the methodology is so precarious here. As a scientist I regard this as sophistry. Short of getting out the SPSS and assigning proper beta weights and calculating kai square values, either of our conclusions are certainly invalid and won’t stand up to any scrutiny at all.

            I think the issue is you are kind of in your own bubble because you have so much money, and hang out in circles with people with so much money, you start thinking everyone has money. Not the case. I’ve been working hard, full-time with no gaps since graduating college. Working for others, even in an industry with high pay, doesn’t tend to make you a millionaire. For every startup whose stock options go stratospheric, ten fail.

            I live in actual San Francisco and am 30 years old. I wouldn’t know much about home prices because I rent a one-bed and have rent control. I only know a couple people who actually own their home and doesn’t rent in SF — and they’re close to twice my age. Everyone else is renting…the lucky ones with good six-figure jobs still end up renting…and spending so much on it (circa $2,500-$3,500 for a 1bed, which is half of a 100-150k salary after tax) they have no money left over to save to stockpile these assets you seem to think they have.

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          • how do you know what circles I move in, and the net worth of myself and all my friends? How would you feel if I were to infer “the issue here is you’re a loser” because as a scientist you rent a 1-bedroom rent-controlled apartment at the age of 30? Maybe those people earning 6 figures got their jobs through talent and skill, rather than simply “luck”.

            There are thousands of millionaires at Burning Man. You have failed to disprove it, by struggling to prove “there are less than 2000”.

            Believe what you want. I’m basing my statement not just on statistics, but also on my own experience of attending for 16 years and meeting tens of thousands of people from all walks of life, all over the world, who’ve been to Burning Man.

            Sounds like it is you in the bubble. Who cares how much money people have, that is not what Burning Man is about – as per my original point. Radical inclusion doesn’t mean “only poor people can go to Burning Man”, that statement flies in the face of logic. It takes money to bring all that shit to the desert, and pack it up again without a trace. Just because you don’t see the money, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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  13. Has anyone summarized the entire controversy anywhere, with a short-ish description of the main issues, and links out to proof & more detail? Marian of BM will be doing lunch with random Burners in Boston today, if there was something those Burners could quickly read so they’d know the issue and feel competent to speak on it, that’d be cool.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I won’t be able to attend. However since I brought this up with some who are, I just today emailed with a prominent regional veteran Burner I’ve met before from the state next door. He has been in CA and spoke to Will & Marian before. I said:

        Complete radio silence on answers doesn’t make it seem like they’re too aware. Along with a recent clueless post by Will on the BM blog, and an “out of touch” post by Halcyon (since edited to be less arousing). They said in early October an answer was coming soon. Tomorrow is always a day away?

        Will’s post makes it really seem like they still have absolutely no clue what Burners are upset about.

        The gist of his response was, they’re listening, they realize it was a mis-step to say nothing, and they’ll change that this week. And that what was said (the posts) did not reflect the internal conversations.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s a good summary of the discussions and comments that were at burningman.com.

          Also, in early March Larry said that they would open the books of Black Rock City LLC and the Burning Man Project “very soon”. We’re still waiting for transparency, with every week that passes without it, it looks more like they’re hiding something.

          Like

      • From one of the Burners that had lunch with Marian yesterday: “I could see that this situation is painful to them – they love this community as much as anyone.”

        Like

  14. Hey guys…jus to let you know:

    I am with you on everything you are doing over here.
    Period.
    The Clown PLUR hippie is pissed off.

    However, you were off about the owners of the art cars you pictured when you said this:

    “Art Cars like these don’t get made in garages – even if the company founders behind them may have started out in one…”

    ACTUALLY, the founder of The Walter Group (pictured) is one of the hardest working, hard of gold, mentor, friend, shaman and Founder of the Peace Pi Fights in Arizona, Mr. Robert Farthing. He and his team have sacrificed pretty much everything to build their team of rigs and are a camp of true Burners. Period.
    I can only assume you used that shot because their team of cars IS.THE.SHIT.

    OK, just wanted to clear that up. If you wanna post a photo that’s representative of the plague we’re fighting, please post one of that Big Yellow $1.5MM Duck that’s another popular shot from 2013 🙂

    Keep up the good work, rock on, peace out, fuck yer’ day ❤

    Tex Allen
    #lovebomb SuperStar
    Agent of Heroic Uninhibited Innocence
    "The Steve Jobs of Inspiration"
    Head of Redonkulous Mass Appeal
    Chief of "I'll Dance You Under the Table"
    Love is the Answer

    Liked by 1 person

    • All I’m saying it takes more than one guy in his home garage to build art cars like this. For starters, it’s too big. As you point out, it was made by a team.

      If you read the words in the paragraph next to the picture, I am praising the people who make and bring these art cars, and saying I don’t care what sort of luxury they stay in. Making an awesome art car is the OPPOSITE of what safari Commodification Campers are doing

      Like

  15. Thanks burnersxxx for this site and all you are doing to try to keep BMan true to it’s principles. I know money and power corrupt but it would be very sad to see something this (i don’t really have words) corrupted. BTW “Special Olympics of Art” was brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you for keeping up the pressure and keeping this story alive. The absolute last thing we want to happen (and the most important thing to the BMORG) is to forget this story, sweep it under the rug, and pretend it never happened.

    Please keep up the pressure. What can we, as regular participants, do? I’m a 4-year burner who works for a volunteer department on playa, has a small self-funded camp and art, and doesn’t really have much pull. I’ve been trying to keep the conversation alive, passing around the (probably useless) change.org petition, submitted my feedback… what’s next? What else can we do? What else should we do?

    Liked by 1 person

    • ‘… what’s next? What else can we do? What else should we do?’

      What might be done is hidden upon the end pages of the Burning Man Project bylaws, upon page 37, upon 9:55 and Decommodification, state any person might venture to the Project HQ building, purposed toward the viewing, and the copying, of the minutes of the meetings of the Project board. The Project board conversed upon, and voted upon, nominating and voting these people upon the Project board, and, perchance, conversed upon, and voted upon, Commodification camps. Pen a guest post upon these matters, as a reporter might, supported by the minutes. Any person might do this.

      Venture with a professional mate, purposed for support, and, perchance, a small copy machine. The BMOrg does not desire this to occur, and it is a tad of labour. Answers to many queries are within the minutes, the positions, and the salaries, of the BMOrg, the cash of the payout upon the Burning Man(TM) trademarks in early within 2017, the details, and of the votes, upon mandatory conditions attached upon the donation of the BRC LLC to the Project, within the end of 2013, and, within early 2014, and, of which we do not expect, but much is hidden within executive sessions of the Project board, and, is hidden within their for-profit BRC LLC subsidiary corporation.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. The solution to the Commodifcation Camps: Just Don’t Go.

    No, seriously. Don’t go for one year. Don’t tell anyone you aren’t going, but just don’t go. Take a year off, visit a regional. Don’t bring your art, your art car, your theme camp, or you to the playa. The only way to end the pay-for-spectacle is to reduce or remove the spectacle.

    Do you think that the $17k per week ‘festivalists’ will want to return to a playa bereft of all the splendor that ‘they’ paid to see? I doubt it. Hell, they might even demand their money back because they didn’t get the experience they paid for.

    All it takes is one year to kill the cycle.

    Like

  18. I’m really, really tired of hearing about this elusive “Burning Man Experience”. Mostly tho’, I’m really, really tired of everything that is labeled as “An Experience”. Putting “Burning Man” & “Experience” in the same sentence is hopeless-grasping at best. 70,000 people in Dustville 2K14 and I can GUARANTEE that a not a single one was the same. Eating pizza is eating a pizza… its not a fuckin’ sellable/buyable “Ultimate Pizza Experience”…mkay!? It’s just a FUCKIN’ PIZZA !!

    Spending $10k for 20 bucks worth of flour, cheese and toppings of your choice, doesn’t buy a better pizza. What it buys is: a private room, a dedicated waitress, the good silverware and a fresh tablecloth plus the ability to complain about everything with the expectation that your Pizza Sherpa will take the verbal abuse, apologize profusely in the hope that kissing your ass MIGHT produce a 15% tip, then make sure your “Pizza Experience” gets sent back to the kitchen where the peons laugh at your dumb ass for spending $10k on a $20 buck pizza, while they get paid to eat it and laugh at your dumb ass. Did I mention the part where they are laughing at your dumb ass for spending $10k on a $20 pizza that you complained about the whole time while your “Pizza Experience” was ruined? While the peons laugh at your dumb ass and eat free pizza?

    Maybe if you pay more NEXT YEAR. Maybe, just maybe, that will be enough money to move the kitchen far enough away from The VIP Room that the laughter from the kitchen can not be heard…but they will still be laughing. At your $10k/$20 buck pizza. That “ruined your experience”. While they eat it for free….and laugh.

    Also, as a matter of fact, YES I WILL play the BTT CARD!!!

    )'( 2K was not my “first Burn”, it’s just the first year I started saying this:

    “You can’t buy it. You can’t sell it. You can’t even steal it.”

    btw?- Feel free to build your Temporary-Tent-Highrise-On-K-Street. Right between the Cop-Compound, The Airport, Johnny-On-The-Spot Staging and The Entrance Road Of Constant Dust. You are Decommodification LLC’s top bitch. F’n K Street!?! Haaa!!!. Can’t even see your million-dollar-shit-show from deep playa anyways. You should spend more money and ask Larry to invent P Street. Or maybe S Street. S for Sherpa! (since they are the REAL root of the problem) No self-respecting buy-out would go anywhere without at least one sell-out slave in tow.

    You are the speculators of the Intellectual Property world and you live in the only Billionaire Ghetto on the planet. “I hope you had a ‘Great Burn!’ “…A$$holes…

    …we know where you live.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The Spectacular-Spectacle is BM’s primary marketing tool. It keeps the droves of bucket-listers buying tickets. These buckeet-listers (newbs) are the vast majority of attendees. Without this spectacular-spectacle component, the festival dies. The puzzling thing is that within the Bay Area, BM has a bad name. It’s almost embarrassing to talk about it anymore. People roll their eyes when you bring it up. All the awesome spectacular art cars and camps of the past, almost all of those people who produced those things have moved on after being burned by the Borg or they just decided enough bullshit was enough.

    So what I haven’t been able to piece together is who are these people who are still building art cars and producing camps? It could actually be that I’m missing it like Precheur says: “Most people miss that [Billionaires Row patrons] are the very people that fund the big art, the art cars, all the things that make Burning Man such a spectacular visual and artistic event,” It’s possible that BM has been bought (or is being bought) from the inside out – that it’s these Billionaires Row patrons who are propping up the festival, to keep the spectacle alive, if only visually. Without the spectacle these people may lose their investment or planned payoff. So they’re dumping money into the event to keep it alive long enough to properly sell it off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kiki for this interesting, insightful comment.

      There’s so much that’s still “coming soon”…the 2015 theme, transparency (a “well lighted suite of rooms” we were promised in March), the new Art Grant online system, the “really really big project that’s RAD” referenced in the last JRS, a response from BMOrg to the community concerns that they’ve been “listening” to, the IRS form 990’s for 2013 and 2014 for BMP and BRAF, this year’s crime statistics, the “new web site this summer” that was announced in March. Everything keeps getting delayed, as it has been for more than a year now. Why? Why sell the Holiday tickets at the end of January?

      It all fits the pattern of the event having been sold already. So far, we have no firm evidence we can publish, so we’re left to speculate…

      https://burners.me/2014/09/14/selling-out-part-i/
      https://burners.me/2014/09/14/selling-out-part-ii-who-could-it-be-now/

      I try to speculate about other reasons as well, but I’m struggling to come up with anything that makes sense. “General incompetence” would apply, but how has that changed from one year to the next? “A new team learning the ropes” explains some of the above, but not all. “Figuring out the transition” doesn’t make a lot of sense, when they’ve spent 5 years and $8 million on it already. “The new thing that’s rad is so rad that it’s taking up all our time at the expense of everything else including responding to the community concerns” …let’s hope it’s that, and once the rad thing is announced, all the other “coming soon” things will “be here now”.

      Like

      • I’ve said if before, but this:

        “Most people miss that [Billionaires Row patrons] are the very people that fund the big art, the art cars, all the things that make Burning Man such a spectacular visual and artistic event,”

        So tired of this rationale. It’s almost like blackmail. If the cost for having ever larger installations and art cars is to dump what, for me, is the most important principle, then it ain’t worth it. I would LOVE to see Burning Man with only small projects. It’s the unexpected, smaller things that provide more joy and serendipity out there anyway. And also, without the large scale visual spectacle, maybe all those bucket listers just would stop coming. But that ain’t gonna happen, the point has been tipped.

        Anyway, thanks for keeping the pressure on.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Cheers. Unfortunately, it’s not so much a case of me keeping the pressure on – it’s more a consequence of their media campaign promoting it, that’s keeping this story alive. Rather than responding to the community’s concerns, they send their Directors out to talk to Billboard.

          Like

        • Loved your (JV’s) comment at burningman.com

          “I wonder if the vaunted IP lawyers on retainer will go after this as aggressively as they’ve gone after individuals who dared, say, to include photos they took at Burning Man in their professional portfolios. Just kidding, I don’t wonder about it at all, I know they won’t.”

          …the lawyers won’t be going after it, probably because the PR team is spear-heading it

          Like

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