Art Versus Money

At the end of last month, BMOrg breathlessly announced all kinds of exciting news. They said:

(shhhh, just between you and us …) we’re working on a really really BIG project that will serve to tell the Burning Man story as it is today and into the future, and it’s gonna be RAD. You’ll know it when you see it.

On a more practical note, if you want to apply for a BRC Honorarium Art Grant for 2015, we’re changing the process, and rolling it out in mid-November … get ready, and watch for it!

It’s now past mid-November, getting into late November, and we’re still waiting. Waiting for the really really BIG RAD thing. Waiting for the new online Art Grant submission system. Waiting for BMOrg to respond to all the community concerns about Commodification Camps. Waiting for the theme (which rumor has it, is Circus). And waiting for everything else we’ve been promised that’s still “coming soon”.

I don’t know about you guys, but personally I’m sick of waiting. This event happens for a week once a year, it is now a quarter of a year since the last one. What do these people do all day, in their fancy offices with their $8.5 million year-round payroll?

The Jackedrabbit said:

jacked up rabbitY’know, used to be the months right after the Burn were pretty chill around BMHQ. It was kinda quiet. Well, that’s long gone, tell you what. Now that we’re working to foster Burning Man culture in the world year-round, there’s no downtime anymore. But hey, it’s pretty great work to be doing…our staffers are out in the field, giving lectures and talks about everything from the 10 Principles to community building to ritual, death and transformation, as part of our ongoing education program.

Perhaps the hard work they’re doing is really making some sort of difference to the world. But what about our party? What about our community? That’s what makes them $30 million a year. A little less focus on standing on a stage and talking about how great they are, and a little more focus on their customers would be nice. Especially since the unique thing about this event is we don’t buy a product that they put together for us; we make a product for them to sell.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Earlier this year, BMOrg finally announced what the 2014 Temple was going to be. Then, soon after, they announced that they’d changed their minds, and instead of Ross Asselstine’s Temple of Descendants, it was going to be David Best again with the Temple of Grace.

photo: John Goodman

photo: John Goodman. Art: David Best

We covered this in:

Temple Debacle Highlights Hypocrisy

Temple Deal Falls Through

Temple of Decent Dance?

So what really happened? Thankfully for us Burners, artist Ross Asselstine has “put his head above the parapets” and risked the eternal anger of BMOrg…by telling us the truth. And the truth is shocking.

Ross has published a paper Art Grants at Burning Man: A Way Forward outlining exactly what happened, and helpfully including some suggestions about what could be done to make things better. Let me summarize this long document, by highlighting some of the key issues.

Basically, BMOrg treats the artists like absolute shit. They ask for concessions that show their interests are purely about themselves, and their own potential to make long-term profits. They want the artists to sign their rights away in a completely one-sided contract, that shifts all the risk to the artist, and shifts almost all the upside to BMOrg. Worst of all, BMOrg can re-sell those rights to anyone, any time. If they want to sell Live Nation the rights to commercially exploit the art, so they can license them for Fiat commercials, the artist is powerless to stop them. If the artist sells their art, BMOrg takes a cut; if BMOrg profits from commercial use of the art, the artist gets nothing. And if the artist dies, BMOrg gets the art, but the estate is still saddled with all the liability.

The art grants total for 2014 was $800,000, split this year amongst 60 projects. That works out to an average of $13,333 per artist, or $12.70 per ticket. Grants above $20,000 are rare.

crude_2This is nowhere near enough to bring large art projects to the Playa, so all artists are forced to do fund-raising for at least half, probably more than three-quarters of their entire project costs. They are not allowed to use the words “Burning Man” or images of their previous art on the Playa in their fundraising efforts. The Art Grant works out to about the same as what Burning Man spends on Travel, Training and Costumes for themselves. Their $1 million+ “mysterious other” which BMOrg say goes to the BLM but the BLM says doesn’t, is more than BMOrg spends on funding art at their event.


image: Peter Ruprecht. Art: Bryan Tedrick

image: Peter Ruprecht. Art: Bryan Tedrick

Artists get told they have been awarded an “Art Honorarium Grant” about halfway through the burnal year, and only then do they get to see the contract they have to sign. Even if they sign it, they don’t get the money straight away – a big chunk of it, they don’t even get until months after Burning Man has ended. The pressure is on to complete their projects, so many just sign. Many artists have little in the way of tangible assets, so if they get sued, there is no real consequence. Or, if they can find someone to give them insurance (a process BMOrg provides no assistance in), the $1 million policy cap is enough to protect them. Artists are not generally experienced business people, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some don’t even realize what they are signing, in their haste to be “recognized” by Burning Man Arts. Most lawyers would advise their clients not to sign such a one-sided contract without requesting modifications; a $13k art grant barely gives the artists enough to pay a lawyer in the first place.

Some of the most egregious issues with this contract are:

  1. BMOrg profits if the artist sells their art outside Burning Man. BMOrg can commercially license the images to anyone for royalties, and sub-license or transfer this right to anyone. However, the artist can’t do that.
  2. When the artist dies, BMOrg owns their art.
  3. Artists must get separate insurance, despite BMOrg’s event policy and ticket liability disclaimer.
  4. In addition to #3, if there is any claim against BMOrg related to the art, Artists must pay that claim in its entirety, including all BMOrg’s legal costs and any payout from BMOrg’s insurance.
  5. Artists cannot provide use the grant to provide food for their workers – BMOrg are literally starving artists.
  6. Artists cannot pay themselves anything for dedicating a massive amount of their time to the Burning Man project.
  7. Artists must pay BMOrg a daily rate for use of equipment and lighting.
  8. If they score less than Green on the MOOP map, they can forfeit their entire grant. Meanwhile, $17,000/head Commodification Camps get a Red MOOP score, without any consequence.
  9. Artists don’t actually get all the money from the Grant before Burning Man. A large percentage of it is paid in November or even January, after the event. If the artists breach even one clause, they can forfeit their entire grant.
  10. The contract says “Integrity is the cornerstone of responsibility for every Recipient”, and yet there is no corresponding clause stating that BMOrg has a responsibility to act with integrity.
  11. It requires all the work to be done on the artist’s premises. This is patently absurd, since the art has to be constructed and configured on the Playa.

BMOrg deny commission or commercial licensing rights to the artists, while they claim rights to license the co-copyright, and also sub-license it. The whole contract seems designed to keep the artists poor, and therefore servile.

The issue of transferring insurance responsibility to the artist – with a blanket indemnity clause that says if BMOrg is sued, the artist will pay all the costs of BMOrg’s legal defense and any payout from BMOrg’s insurance too – seems to create a potential liability for anyone who funds an art project. The damaged party could go after those who provided the funds to enable the art, if the artist themselves is not the one with assets.

BMOrg has far more money and resources than any of the artists. They spend $1.4 million a year on lawyers and accountants, almost double what they spend on art. BMOrg are required by the BLM to have their own liability insurance for the event – in 2013, they spent $532,632 on insurance. It would be easy for them to say: “in exchange for all the commercialization rights we take from you, and can pass on to anyone, we will cover you with our insurance policy. If something happens at Burning Man, the injured party will need to deal with our insurance company and our legal team”. As well as protecting the artists who make the event so photogenic and media-worthy, this would protect the Burners who contribute to funding the art. Remember that to get a ticket, you “voluntarily assume the risk of serious injury or death”.

ticket 1998

Have you noticed how in all the media publicity surrounding the event, the photographers sometimes get credited, but the artists never do? Burners.Me are as guilty of that as anyone else, but how are we supposed to know who the artist is behind a given art car or art piece? It seems that BMOrg, who control the placement of the art, the funding of the art, and the commercial use of the images of the art, are in a position to know. They should make an effort to identify and promote the artists involved. How many people work full-time in their media department, 6? How many in their art department, 2? That’s a lot of resources that could be used to help promote the artists who slave away to create the photo ops.

Bliss Dance, by Marco Cochrane

Bliss Dance, by Marco Cochrane

Larry Harvey is fond of saying “no artist at Burning Man has ever signed their work” – a statement that I find a little hard to believe. But it seems that’s the way BMOrg wants it: they would prefer the artists to remain unknown, unfunded, starving, and unable to profit from their work – while BMOrg can use the same work to bring in multi-million dollar Commodification Camps, get articles written about them in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg and Rolling Stone, and earn royalties for themselves from someone else’s hard work.

What really motivates these BMOrg people? Is it supporting the Arts – or controlling them? Is it creating a space for a temporary community to form – or profiting from that? Is it bringing rich people and poor people together in a level playing field – or elevating themselves to the level of the ruling class? Is it promoting artists – or promoting themselves?

Here’s some of what Ross said in describing how the process of being selected as the Temple artist went down:

The review period started two weeks later than the previous year and ran three weeks longer than expected. All art projects were going to start five weeks late. Considering the temple is one of the biggest pieces out there and 22 weeks was now 17 weeks, I was in fetal position on the couch anticipating the tightening workload in the coming months. I has set aside six months of my life to do this and it was going to be very, very hectic if the piece was selected. Friends called …..“we know a secret!”, major artists invited me to parties to celebrate the award weeks before I had heard formally. I curled up on the couch, watching the time tick away waiting for a call. WTF. 

On March 23rd I got an email to call Burning Man and later that day during a phone call….notification of the award. I was thrilled…The small core crew I had listed on my submission was ecstatic. We laughed, felt that tingle of excitement and looked at each other knowing we had all done big things before and were ready to make this the best it could be. We raised glasses and then went at it hard. The entire “Temple Crew” was behind us and we ran like heck. 

I received the art grant contract a week later on April Fools Day. I had read contracts almost every day my entire career. The principle is not complex: two people agree to something and it’s written down…The Art Grant Contract was horribly one-sided. April Fools.

I had previously contacted insurance companies that knew Burning Man and now that I had something to insure, they had something real to price. There was nothing out there for over a million dollars in coverage. This was a building that would be occupied by hundreds 24/7 for a week in a harsh and challenging environment.

…I asked Burning Man for help. Nothing…I read the contract through again. My god, it was both silly in numerous places and so one-sided to be laughable. It was not just one issue, it was just plain weird on many issues. When things are badly written, you can almost see the person typing extemporaneously to cover every fear, every situation and then without proofing it…just pushing it across in an email to you. Bad contracts are almost always evidence of an author that is afraid or in over their head. 

This contract had evidently been around for a very long time. It read like it had never been refined or negotiated. After another two weeks of going full blast, I asked for help from Burning Man again. Two of us went to the offices in San Francisco and sat opposite four BM folks. There are meetings you attend in your life where nothing really happens. This was one. I walked them through my understanding of the personal risk I would be taking: my house and family’s wellbeing would be behind the very, very small amount of insurance and a thin LLC. I needed help. I tabled numerous common options and they were all rejected….the other side of the table did not care about the “artist”, because they never had to. They were all paid, insured and none of them were taking a dollar of risk. I was at the wrong table. It was actually all about me now. It was not about providing a place of respite for 70,000 people, it was not about our team fundraising the 60-70% of the funds, it was not about six months off and months to build the piece. If anything went wrong, there was no other side of the table other than lawyers: it was about me all by myself, all alone, and a contract with my signature on it. Or not.

So there you have it. No help for the artist. People who earn a salary working for BMOrg, and have no personal dollars on the line beyond that, shifting all the risk onto someone else and their family.

This contract has never been made public, before Ross’s whistleblowing. Now we know why. Will the new “online system” let artists see what they’re signing up for, before they submit their intellectual property with their “Letter of Intent”?

Ross Asselstine: Burner hero

Ross Asselstine: Burner hero

Ross has suggested a number of very reasonable modifications to the contract, which would make it more fair and balanced. If BMOrg cared about artists, they would listen. Just like if they cared about their community, they would listen. Not just listen: act, accept responsibility for their wrong-doing and make changes to improve the situation going forward. That would show us that they heard us.

Instead, they’ll probably say “hundreds of artists have signed this contract, so we don’t care about one artist complaining just because we wouldn’t change the terms for him”.

Is fairness and a level playing field important to this community? Or should BMOrg be free to exploit everyone for money, wherever they see fit?

Ross says:

How can Burning Man become, and set the highest standard as, the best self-expression and art event anywhere in the world, by having the best support, grant process and environment for artists anywhere in the world?

I believe the “self-expression” portion of the question has been achieved. There is quite simply no other event like Burning Man. So many people have worked years to make it what it is. It’s unique, and the world comes to Burning Man for that reason. I think the answer to the “art event” portion of the question is how does the event move forward and develop the following items:
1) A transparent and equitable form of agreement for artists.
2) Adequate support, funding and an improved art department.
3) The best participant culture that respects and honors artists.
4) A fair and easily understandable process for use of artwork post BM.

Many attendees think that all artists at BM are there because they love all things BM. Most are there because it has a unique culture and unique prominence for large or unusual art. What is linked with this opportunity is a horrible  contract and huge burdens on artists. Almost every artist out there would not sign the contract if it was for any other venue. If put succinctly if not crassly: the audience is the bait and the contract is the hook. It’s that bad.

It’s actually simple to make it fair.

I’ve left the worst of the legal clauses to the end of this story, for the sake of readability. Some have Ross’s comments attached; any emphasis and [comments in bold] are from Burners.Me. Read the whole contract here.

1.1. Integrity is the cornerstone of responsibility for every Recipient receiving an Honorarium Grant. This Agreement sets a base level expectation of responsibility for Recipient, and Burning Man expects that Recipient will adopt integrity as his or her modus operandi. Recipient is considered accountable for every aspect of the Art and shall serve as Art Project Lead.

2.3. Recipient will also furnish one or more high-resolution Art Image(s) or drawing both as a digital file as well as a printout, to be used by Burning Man to help inform and promote the Art, both before and after the Event. The Art shall be deemed approved upon Recipient and Burning Man’s dated signatures on this Agreement. (This is fine except, the question is what happens after the event. Many artists feel abused by giving up all rights on a partial grant to art before final payment is even made. Most grants are not fully settled until November or as late as January. Really,… that late.)

2.4. Any materials prepared and submitted to Burning Man, including the Art Plans, maquettes, drawings, and models, may be retained permanently by Burning Man for possible exhibition and other uses. (This silliness is in direct conflict with the submission text that says you get everything back. This whole thing should come out. What I don’t get is they just demand it rather than requesting temporary use or to pay for it…)

3. The Recipient shall retain title to and ownership of the Art including all copyrights associated with the Art. Recipient including all of Recipient’s collaborators, if any, grants to Burning Man and Burning Man’s sub-licensees and assigns the following rights:
(This started out pretty good, but damn….here goes the benefactor wanting crazy rights to art of which they only paid a small portion of; it’s like saying you can develop the formula to Coca-Cola but anyone in the universe can make the stuff for free.)
3.1 To display the Art at the Event and to take still or moving photographs, video, digital, audio, or other recordings of the Art at the Event and of Recipient, including Recipient’s team, engaged in the manifestation of the Art at the Event.
3.2 A nonexclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free license to: (a) copy, distribute, publicly display, create derivative works based on, and otherwise use any photographs, video or other images of the Art in connection with the Event or any Burning Man related project; and (b) sublicense the license in subsection (a) to third parties in connection with a Burning Man related project or a third party project after informing and receiving feedback from Recipient’s Art and/or the principles and culture Burning Man. This Agreement does not limit the rights and permissible uses that Burning Man would have independent of this Agreement, including rights under the U.S. Copyright Act or other applicable intellectual property laws
(This is so absurd it’s laughable. An art event, created by artists, owned by artists actually has this in a contract? WTF!? I don’t know how all this crept into this contract but it’s the worst behavior of any benefactor could ever exhibit: they give a partial grant and they want everything possible and anything conceivable. The whole pile of shit has to come out. If an artist feels great at the end of the process….maybe they can give something back to the benefactor after final payment. That is an event based on gifts. What happens in this wonderfulness of text is everything shitty about what happens to artists in the real world, it does not have to be part of BM at all. BM will go on without this. If someone wants to make a movie or coffee table book, they can get BM’s permission for on-playa activities and then go get a license from artists that may have not yet given some limited third party license to BM already. BM will exist without documentaries, books and news
articles that don’t have the time to seek approval and credit artists.)
[note that the way this is worded, Royalty-Free means BMOrg doesn’t pay the Artist any royalties; it in no way precludes them from charging royalties to any sub-licensees]
3.3 Crediting Burning Man for Grant – If the Art is ever exhibited or written about publicly, including on Recipient’s own website, Recipient shall credit Burning Man for the Grant and its help in making the creation of the Art possible and will use its best efforts to ensure in all materials, including any program description, publicity, signs or other materials disseminated to viewers or the public, the statement “This artwork made possible due to a grant from Burning Man.”
(The thing that sucks about this is the reverse is not practiced by BM: pictures all over their website with little if no visible credit to the artists. They let film crews loose and little credit is given to artists. You can’t have it one way folks!)
6.5 Recipient for itself and for its collaborators, affiliates, employees, volunteers, contractors, funders, representatives and agents (collectively, “Releasors”), assumes all risk of injury or loss and hereby releases, waives, discharges and covenants not to sue Burning Man and its officers, directors, employees, collaborators, affiliates, volunteers, contractors, funders, representatives and agents (collectively, “Releasees”) from all claims and liability, that is or may be owed to Releasors, Releasors’ personal representatives, assigns, heirs and next of kin, for any and all loss or damage or claims of any
sort, including on account of personal injury to Releasors, including death, or for injury to Releasors’ property of any nature (including real and personal property), related to the construction, installation, transportation, display, use including participants’ interaction with or climbing on, removal or clean up of the Art at the Event, or use of the Art Plans and Art Images.
6.6 Releasors shall be liable for and shall indemnify, defend and hold Releasees harmless against any claim, suit, loss or damage, actual or threatened, valid or invalid, and from any damages, judgments, liabilities, costs and expenses, including attorneys’ fees, direct or indirect, arising out of or in connection with the creation, construction, installation, transportation, display, interaction with, climbing on, removal, clean up or other uses of the Art, including limitation any claims concerning personal injury, loss or death, damage or injury to personal or real property, or otherwise suffered by
Releasors, participants, spectators or others.
8.8 Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) may offer fiscal sponsorship to Burning Man funded Honorarium art projects. The fiscal sponsorship program would assist Recipient in its efforts to raise an approved amount of funds, in addition to Grant, over a specific timeline. The fiscal sponsorship organizer will retain a 10% fiscal sponsorship fee from all funds raised from the program
[note most investment banks take a cut between 2% and 5% for helping raise money] 
10 Depending on the nature of the Art, the Performance Deposit shall be 15% to 30% of the Grant. If Burning Man supplies the Recipient with Fuel, Fire Wood, Water, Decomposed Granite, use of Light Towers and/or Scissor Lift or other materials or services for the current Event, the charge for these materials or services will be deducted from the total Grant and subtracted from any Performance Deposit due the Recipient. Burning Man shall mail to Recipient any remaining Performance Deposit owed by November 15, 2014 following the current Event.
(the event ends on the first weekend of September, BM holds artist’s grant money for 2 and a half months?….no, let’s settle up within one month like the real world, hard as that may seem.)
11.5 Recipient shall be required to Check-Out with a member of the Art Team prior to departure from the Event. At such time, a member of the Art Team will survey the installation site to ensure that the site is clean – as determined in the sole discretion of the Art Team member. If the installation site is not clean to Burning Man’s satisfaction, Recipient shall continue to clean the art installation site until approved by the Art Team member.
(A huge problem is that the artist has to clean up moop from the attendees. This should not be solely on the artist. Mutual responsibilities would be fair. Ten feet beyond the piece can be on the artist and they rest is on the community.)
14.  If the Art is sold before the Event, the Recipient must fulfill all commitments set forth in this Agreement including the creation, completion, delivery, installation, display at designated site, removal, Leave No Trace and final report at the current year Event, and shall inform Burning Man of the sale at the time of sale. If the Art is sold, before or after the Event, Recipient shall pay to Burning Man 10% of the gross sale proceeds (calculated before any deduction of commissions, taxes or other costs) 
18.3  In the event of death, this Agreement shall terminate effective upon the date of death. Unless such delivery is waived by Burning Man, the Recipient’s executor shall deliver to Burning Man the Art in whatever form or degree of completion it may be at the time, and Burning Man may display it as a tribute to the Recipient, and shall acknowledge that it is incomplete.
[imagine what it would cost Marco Cochrane’s estate to transport Bliss Dance, Truth is Beauty, and all his other giant sculptures to a location of BMOrg’s choosing]
18.4  In the event that this Agreement is terminated by Burning Man due to Recipient’s death, incapacity or for any other reason, Sections 3, 4, 6 and 13-20 shall survive the Agreement’s termination.
(Look up from your computer…guess what Section 3 is?! THAT”S RIGHT….all that crap about licenses to your copyright. Section 6: Safety and Liability. Section2 13-20: ….shit…what did they take out if all that crap is still in, hmmm, Section 1.1 is Integrity…..that does not apply. I need a beer).
[Although the Art is now owned by BMOrg, the late artist’s estate still has all the liability for anything that might happen, even if the art is displayed outside Burning Man.]
Read the full contract here.

What are BMOrg trying to achieve? Is this just a poorly drafted contract, that remains that way because no-one has ever challenged it before Ross? Or do they really want to exploit the artists for commercial gain? I would encourage everyone to go to Ross’s web site and read the comments of support he’s received from our community. What BMOrg does to respond to this criticism will speak volumes – as will their silence.
Hopefully, the new Online Arts system and the new Burning Man Arts department (which absorbed BRAF and all the cash they didn’t distribute to artists) will be a step in the right direction.

61 comments on “Art Versus Money

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  12. Dearest newbies,

    Might you be curious as to a rationale of veteran burners becoming jaded in due of the actions of the BMOrg, or, might you be curious as to the rationale of solely a few big art projects are to be burned on the playa within 2015, here is a rationale as to why.

    The BMOrg promised of an updated art contract to be posted upon their website prior to the end of 2014, but, that did not occur, yet another broken promise. Might any person obtain the contract, send the contract to Ross Asselstine and burnersxxx, purposed towards future artists viewing the art honorarium contract.

    In addendum, the BMOrg spent solely $13 of each ticket on the art on the playa, including $1.50 for the temple, within 2014. It was desired, in due of ticket revenues raising from near to $12 million five years prior, to $30.5 million within 2015, and each of the six prior BRC LLC owners, the BMOrg, obtaining by estimate, as much cash as they paid for all prior art, and temples, on the playa, as their cash out, they still have lead wallets towards the artists. They are a very budget based organization, and their budget has been decided for 2015, and, in place of them stating art grants will raise dramatically within 2015, they state they will solely provide cash towards ‘a small number of grants for the purpose of partially funding specific art projects.’ Their Burning Man Project will be requesting donations for further funding of art at Burning Man, the for profit festival under their near total control, the source of the cash for their cash out. Within 2014, burners donated solely $123,000 in this manner, solely $2 of each burner, thus, newbies, might you desire for art to be burned on the playa, you must donate your cash, in addendum to paying for your tickets.

    In addendum, the BMOrg fucked up on all big art to be burned on the playa within 2014. Click on the link, within the start of this comment, for details.

    a) The temple, by Ross Asselstine and his mates, was selected by the BMOrg, and then the BMOrg refused to negotiate a fair contract with him. Thus, their temple did not occur.

    b) The other big art to be burned on the playa, Embrace, was left, by the BMOrg, over $35,000 in debt of their $220,000 budget, with the BMOrg paying solely $1.50 of each ticket towards the awesome Pier Group for Embrace. This is after the BMOrg stated Embrace was too ‘heteronormative’, whatever that might mean, to be the temple, and refused to permit Embrace to be burned on the playa after Embrace was constructed, in Reno, for more than half of a year. That is the rationale Embrace was burned in the morning in place of in the night. Kudos to the awesome Pier Group upon their desire to construct another Embrace in Reno, please donate, towards them, in support of their efforts.

    c) CORE projects were cancelled within early 2014, there were 24 CORE projects upon the playa within 2013. Larry, Marian, and their mates desired their regional representatives to be in control of the projects, in place of the awesome artists being in control of their projects, and the BMOrg desired to pay solely $1,000 towards each of the CORE projects, which was to be spent on stones to prevent burn scars on the playa. By appearance, the rationale of CORE projects not occurring was in due of the desire of cash, and the desire of top down control.

    d) Of the awesome space ship man base of 2013, it was commented that the BMOrg offered the designer and lead builder solely $15,000 for 15 months of his labour. In addendum, it was commented the man base A-crew quit during construction of the spaceship, in due of the actions of the BMOrg, might any person might have information upon this, comment below. Thus, no man base, or structures around the man, are to be burned within 2014 or within 2015.

    Many of us desired of the 501(c)3 Burning Man Project board to take control and place their responsibilities to place the needs of the Project, public perception of the Project, ethics, and transparency towards donors first, to get this rubbish under control for 2015, but they did not do so. Thus, newbies, within 2015, here is as to where your $390 or $450 or $800 of ticket money does not go

    a) Artists, solely near to $13 of each ticket
    b) DPW labourers, whom construct the infrastructure of the city, solely near to $10
    c) Mutant vehicles, $0
    d) Sound camps, $0
    e) DJs, $0
    f) Theme camps whom provide entertainment, $0

    Thus, newbies, show gratitude towards the awesome artists, DPW labourers, mutant vehicle owners, sound camps, DJs, and theme camps. The proper manner of showing gratitude towards the artists is to donate cash towards their art.

    Might the BMOrg desire to dispute any of this, they are most encouraged to provide transparency towards donors of cash, stock, labour, and art, as to where the money actually goes.

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  16. Pingback: BMOrg Hath Spoken | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

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  18. Kudos to the Burning Man Project, upon their promise to update the contract with the awesome artists, prior to the end of 2014, and, to post the contract upon their website. In addendum, kudos to Ross, and other artists, for labouring for this change, and kudos to burnersxxx for posting on this issue to the Burner community.

      • The new website, click on the Art, it might be a link purposed towards talking artists into submitting a LOI. I hope the contract is not one sided, is negotiated in a fair manner, and the BMOrg pays all costs of the artists. As within Sandstorm’s statement, upon that major artist groups are not planning to do art for Burning Man, might have forced this.

        If you might post upon this, here is a link to include, in despite of Embrace being the big art piece at Burning Man, the BMOrg left the Pier Group $40,000 in debt, and is requesting for donations. Their plans, for 2015, are to build an Embrace for Reno, I am in doubt of they would be requesting cash from the BMOrg.

        • Someone should start a Figment Reno, at the same time as the NV burn. If that is too political, how about Figment Las Vegas.

          • Apologies, that is the page. Within the FAQ, at the bottom of the page is the query ‘What type of contract will I need to sign if my art is funded?’, is answered ‘With the creation of burning Man Arts, we are reviewing and revising our artist contract. We will post a copy of the contract online by the end of 2014.’

          • You can hope, but I would be surprised with the same BoD and the same lawyers. It would be an amazing act to turnabout on their past. I would expect more arcane language for the same onerous conditions. Only if there were a widespread revolt by the artists would one expect material changes in the artist’s favor, as an exception to their abusive NPD treatment of the burners.

          • By appearances, revolt is not the correct word. The artists solely stated ‘F*ck this, what’s next that we might do’, many no longer care in regards to doing art upon the playa. Cancelling of CORE, in early 2014, in due of Larry and Marian insisted upon their Regional Representatives to be of control of the artists, was a disaster. Some artist groups are doing art for Coachella, LIB, and other festivals.

          • Clicking upon the link, by Ross, of the comments of his artist mates, is also heartbreaking. Solely $1,000 grants, by the BMOrg, for the prior CORE projects, and then, the CORE project must pay for the granite to protect the playa, the artists have issues with Coachella, and of other festivals, and numerous other comments by the artists. The new website states something in regards to near to $120 thousand was raised, by the Project, for 15 artist projects, I did not research this further, I do not know if this was purposed for the playa art or other art.

            In addendum, the new website states Larry is the President of the Burning Man Project, the prior website did not state that a week prior, he was solely listed as Executive Director.

          • Just re-read them all. It sure is heart-breaking – great to see the support for Ross from the community, but a shame that the situation has to be like this for everyone.

            I give BMOrg the benefit of the doubt that this can all be fixed in the next 5 weeks, and the artists can start the new year with a fresh contract that shows them the respect they deserve.

  19. I have not verified this, thus, this is more of a query towards the awesome artists whom raised funds towards their art in 2014. Might any artists desire to comment?

    Were the ‘Kickstarters’ for the 40 or 50 art projects, funded, in part, by the BMOrg, not ‘Kickstarters’, but through the Burning Man Project, utilizing software by for this purpose, hosted upon the servers of Were these donations paid towards the Black Rock Arts Foundation, which is, at present, part of the Burning Man Project? How much cash was donated, in total, towards the Burning Man Project, purposed for the art on the playa? Did the Burning Man Project take 10 per cent of the donations, as stated within the artist contract? When was the cash delivered to the artist?

    If so, the Burning Man Project will be claiming credit for these donations upon their 2014 990 form, which is to be released in 2016. Brilliant, but the usual for non profit organizations, most universities, and others, raise funds in the same manner.
    “8.8 Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) may offer fiscal sponsorship to Burning Man funded Honorarium art projects. The fiscal sponsorship program would assist Recipient in its efforts to raise an approved amount of funds, in addition to Grant, over a specific timeline. The fiscal sponsorship organizer will retain a 10% fiscal sponsorship fee from all funds raised from the program”

  20. Kudos, burnersxxx, on this post, purposed towards assisting the awesome artists to obtain fair treatment from the BMOrg.

    “3.2 A nonexclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free license to: (a) copy, distribute, publicly display, create derivative works based on, and otherwise use any photographs, video or other images of the Art in connection with the Event or any Burning Man related project; and (b) sublicense the license in subsection (a) to third parties in connection with a Burning Man related project or a third party project …”

    They sublicense this to their for profit Decommodification LLC. Of what manner do we know of this? In due of they told us. The 2014 ticket terms state the licensing of images at Burning Man, i.e., images of the art, mutant vehicles, theme camps, and Burners, is controlled by the BRC LLC, and Decommodification LLC. There is no rationale their for profit licensing company, Decommodification LLC, is within the ticket terms, other than to take licence revenues towards their pockets.

    Within the post upon the Great BMOrg Cash Out, $35 to $47 Million, my brilliant mates, and I, estimated the BRC LLC pays much, if not most, of the licence revenues, obtained by them, towards Decommodification LLC. Of what manner do we estimate this? The BMOrg obtained brilliant advice upon their donation of the BRC LLC to the Burning Man Project. The take of licence revenues towards their pockets would be within the mandatory conditions attached upon this donation, of which, the mandatory conditions are hidden from the donors of art, and hidden from the donors of cash purposed for the art. The BMOrg is encouraged to disclose the mandatory conditions attached upon this donation, in the manner of which people are of the belief a 501(c)3 non profit must act.

    • In addendum, the manner of which my mates read this, was Decommodification LLC, might further ‘sublicense the license in subsection (a).’ Commentary by people knowledgeable of this subject is desired upon this.

      • that’s how I read it too – they can sublicense it to anyone they want, on any terms they want, including further sub-licensing. This would be a way for them to profit from Internet advertising (for example), without sharing it with the artist.

      • Much obliged, again, burnersxxx. Upon viewing the 2014 ticket terms, it does become obvious. emphasis added

        “I acknowledge that the name “Burning Man” is a trademark owned by Decommodification LLC and licensed to BRC, and that BRC LLC has been given the sole right to license and enforce that trademark, and that all of Burning Man’s logos, trademarks or other intellectual property are owned by Decommodification LLC and licensed to BRC, and I understand that these two organizations control all rights regarding the licensing and reproduction of any imagery recorded at the Event. I agree that I will not use the mark “Burning Man,” the logos of Decommodification LLC or BRC LLC, or the likeness, drawings or representations of the Man or of the Black Rock City map, or any other trademark of Decommodification LLR or BRC”

          • Yes, the BRC LLC has ‘the sole right to enforce the trademark’, and in due of trademarks must be protected and they have the sole right to enforce the trademark, thus they must enforce the trademarks owned by Decommodification LLC, when Larry, and his mates, desire so. This must be in the hidden contract between BRC LLC, or the Project, and Decommodification LLC, in the same manner as image licence revenues, and trademark licence revenues, must be in the contract.

            Bhak must obtain a lawyer might he desire to win, in despite of he gave up the trademark months prior.

          • The big question to me is “who’s paying for all this”. If Decommodification LLC have come up with a way that BM’s operating business or charity pays for the lawyers to defend their trademarks, that would be clever, albeit a little sneaky.

  21. Pingback: A New Online Art Grant System Is Live | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  22. Interesting, but unfortunately not very timely. BRC LLC is supposedly out of the business of making art grants. What we need to see is the 2015 art grant contract (which I’m sure hasn’t been written yet). Will the new contract simply replace “Black Rock City LLC (“Burning Man”)” with “Burning Man Project (“Burning Man”)” with no other changes? It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it did.

    It’s entirely possible they won’t even go that far. As far as I’m aware, Regional Contacts still only have signed a contract/letter of understanding with BRC LLC, not with BMP (and much of said letter has to do with protecting trademarks that are now owned by Decommodification LLC, not BRC LLC or BMP) What the hell does BRC LLC (as presently constituted) have to do with regionals? It’s just the production company hired by BMP to put on a big event in Nevada. If BMORG can’t figure out which entity is responsible for regional relations, I’m not very confident that they’ll figure out which entity should be issuing artist contracts going forward.

    • I’m hoping that in the “New Online System” coming in “mid-November”, we will see a new contract – one that has taken into consideration Ross’s suggestions which have been out there for about 6 months now.

      I note that in their recent lawsuit against the Canadian Burners, the plaintiffs are “Decommodification, LLC, The Burning Man Project, and Black Rock City, LLC doing business as Burning Man”…this seems unusual since only Decommodification LLC owns the trademark. Perhaps it’s a way for the founders to shift the legal costs out of their private little company, to be absorbed within the much bigger legal budget of the event and the charities. Or, perhaps they’re merely confused.

  23. So BOrg pays a pittance, to get free PR (the artist has to say the art was made possible by BOrg), a ton of upside, and screw the artists. Nice.

    I think your 11 issues should include the restrictions BOrg put on fundraising (no mentioning BM, photos of prior work, etc). Fund-raising is hard enough, why not allow a little leeway here?

  24. So how many grants are turned down by artists when they actually read the contract? I would expect that this is not the first time someone could not agree to the terms just the one that had the most impact. Maybe this is the reason they give out so little grant money… 😀

    I have negotiated my fair share of contracts and this reads more like a click through agreement then a contract negotiated for the benefit of both parties. I am honestly surprised anyone actually signs this. You don’t need to be a lawyer to see how bad it is.

    • agreed Bubba, that was my first reaction: there’s no way I would ever sign this. AFAIK, Ross is the first artist to turn a grant down once he got to see the contract. If anyone else has other information, please share.

  25. This reads like something from a modern-day art plantation driven by some weird form of patronage system, that which historically allowed for the redistribution of wealth from the business class to the creative class—the members of which were often assumed to be starving and in need of such redistribution

    The plantation owners reap all of the rewards from the work products of others, whom are unpaid and must take on all of the risk of production, all because they “own the land” which provides the opportunity; not to mention the obviously illegal labor practices which have been reported to have taken place at some of these safari camps, which have been sanctioned and allowed to operate by said owners.

    I get it that it is a great party, escape from reality and a place to do drugs for a week, as represented by the recent Simpson’s episode, but how much longer are people willing to support such egregious practices or even look the other way while they are allowed to occur? If this is truly supposed to be a festival celebrating the arts, then shouldn’t it be those that create the art that benefit the most? Imagine if Hollywood or Silicon Valley operated this way. This truly is different than the “default world”.

  26. Really good and thorough reporting here. Yet another blow to the BMORG’s credibility. It’s just looking worse and worse.

    • thanks for your comment on the Burning Blog. I like that we can agree to disagree on some issues, and I respect your opinions even when we don’t see eye to eye. To me, that’s what’s needed in this community: a healthy dialog, and a shared desire to make things better. That is more likely to happen from transparency than obfuscation and misdirection.

  27. Sadly, I don’t think you will see any changes in the BOrg policies. They are working from an NPD pathology. Though I have not read all his materials, Sam Vaknin does not seem to suggest any rehabilitation path for NPD people or groups. One primary reason is that their narcissism makes them feel so good; by the NPD construct world, there is no emotional downside. I have seen individuals suffer from NPD for decades, and though it was the cause of their professional and financial downfall, they kept their magical thinking to secure their NPD supplies.

    So, I predict that as the NPD BOrg magical thinking (enabled by their lawyers) gets exposed, as above, they will keep “what has worked before,” and simply discount those who will no longer follow their NPD program. The NV burn will deteriorate rather than reform to it’s roots.

    Following is a summary of the traits Vaknin proposed for NPD groups or organizations. To me, it explains the BOrg otherwise bizarre behavior.

    “The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group:”

    1. Feel grandiose and self-important (e.g., they exaggerate the group’s achievements and talents to the point of lying, demand to be recognized as superior – simply for belonging to the group and without commensurate achievement).

    2. Obsessed with group fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance, or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering ideals or political theories.

    3. Firmly convinced that the group is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status groups (or institutions).

    4. Require excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wish to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply).

    5. Feel entitled. They expect unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. They demand automatic and full compliance with expectations. They rarely accept responsibility for their actions (“alloplastic defences”).

    6. Are “interpersonally exploitative”, i.e., use others to achieve their own ends.

    7. Are devoid of empathy. They are unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of other groups.

    8. Are constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about them.

    9. Are arrogant and sport haughty behaviors or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, punished, limited, or confronted.

    “This often leads to anti-social behavior, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.”

    • Between sherpagate, JT on the board of directors, the “secret donation ticket sale”, commodification (safari) camps, and now this revelation on how artists are treated, the BMORG appears to be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Still waiting for answers, not spin.

      • And don’t forget director Chip Conley making Fest 300 promotional videos from Burning Man footage, and AirBnB listings at 2 different camps.
        I think with tonight’s Simpsons episode, we’ll be seeing a new goose. The eggs from the old goose were tasting stale, compared to the much more valuable eggs from the goose on the other side of that shark.

        • Chip also brought sherpas in 2010. He wasn’t apparently wasn’t charging people to camp with him, but as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t make it OK to create a servant class at Burning Man.

  28. SHAMELESS PROMOTION! (Understood if it isn’t published)

    Sick and tired of this desert party malarkey? Some burners have come together to create a new festival, the New Earth Renaissance Faire! We are creating a five day educational collaborative art festival focused on sustainability awareness and building community. We do not offer any grant money for art projects. What we do offer is a HUGE network of like minded people and collaborative artists who might have the resources you need to complete your project. We also offer ownership of our event to all participants, which means if our event makes a financial profit, we share that gain with all the participants who made the event possible. Check out our Facebook Community page if you would like more information. W

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