If you’ve had enough of all the Commodification Camp controversy, don’t bother reading this post. For those who still care…
Thanks to Anonymous Burner for leaking this email that was sent to workers employed at this notorious Commodification Camp. I’ve removed some names and email addresses, but I think by now we all know which camp this is.
JT has apologized, and if he wasn’t still on the Board of Directors of Burning Man, I would probably let it go. Unfortunately, he is – and in his “apology”, he tried to downplay the commercial nature of his camp. If he’d just said “I did this, I fucked up, my bad, I’ve learned my lesson and it won’t happen again” – I think most of us would have found that acceptable. Instead he blamed his staff, his build crew, the camp next door, all the while trying to use the Ten Principles to convince us that everything his camp did was totally fine. He claims that because he failed to make a profit, we should believe that this 68-room hotel with 50 paid staff where 120 guests were charged $17,000 for rooms with porcelain toilets…was never intended to generate money.
Read this, and decide for yourself if this was a pure gift to the Playa, or a commodified VIP experience sold by a commercial enterprise. The email confirms some of the claims that were made earlier by Sherpagirl, including that there were 50 employees in this camp. What sort of “gift” requires 50 staff? How does this promote Radical Self Reliance and Decommodification? How did they know they could get 170 tickets, and all the Early Access passes required to create a camp like this?
Subject: Burning Man Staff – Please Read by August 6
(*Following is a lengthy note that contains all of the relevant information you need to prepare for our upcoming time together. There is a great deal of time sensitive information. Please read this in its entirety by the end of the day on August 6th….*)
We are delighted that each of you has decided to join us for this year’s Burning Man extravaganza. It’s going to be an amazing and remarkable experience for all. We have the privilege of facilitating other people’s transformation and we take this responsibility seriously. it takes great intention, attention to detail, humility, joy, and a commitment to hard work. We have chosen each of you because you embody these values in your everyday life and you truly understand what a gift it is to be of service to others in this way.
Please take a moment to read this email in its entirety as it contains important information about logistics and expectations.
We have spent nearly an entire year putting all of the pieces of our puzzle together. From the initial creative design sessions to packing each of our fourteen shipping containers, we have worked hard to ensure success in every regard. Now it comes down to all of you – the beautiful, talented, incredible people who will bring the vision to life.While each of you is being hired to “work” this event, we expect much more from all of you. More than employees, we want you to think of yourself first and foremost as an inhabitant of the village we are a creating. This year’s Burning Man theme is the *Caravansary*.
In the words of the Burning Man Org,”For countless centuries, travelers along the Silk Route crossed paths in caravansaries, a network of oases and sanctuaries that dotted the 4,000-mile road from Europe to East Asia. These bustling caravan stops offered more than just shelter from the desert wilderness; they were vital centers of cultural exchange, bringing together traders, pilgrims, monks, nomads, traveling entertainers, and wild-eyed adventurers from all points of the compass to share their stories around a common fire. Though fueled by mercantilism, their legacy to us is a grand commerce of ideas — a swirling exchange of languages, legends, technologies, philosophies and art that helped shape nearly every aspect of our modern world.”
As the inhabitants of our village, we will embrace our guests as if they wandered in off of the long and dusty Silk Road. Our job is to welcome them, feed them, hydrate them, entertain them, share stories, listen to theirs, and to provide the highest form of hospitality possible. There is a distinct difference between getting someone a drink, and nourishing someone in body and spirit. We are here to do the latter. To read our guests’ body language and to anticipate what they need even before they need it. In this way we will help them to feel seen, heard, and cared for in every way.
At the same time, it is Burning Man, and we are also here to help them engage with the ethos of the Burning Man experience. This means helping them to find a healthy level of self-reliance and active participation as a member a larger community. We’ll show them how to wash their own plates during meal time. We’ll instruct them on how to conserve water in our showers and toilets. We’ll invite them to participate in gifting to others on the Playa. Together we’ll find the perfect balance between service in the highest form and encouraging our guests to truly participate as a citizen of the Playa.Please begin thinking now about who you are going to be, what character you are going to play, and how you can truly embrace this creative, theatrical opportunity to truly invent yourself as an inhabitant of our shared world for eight days in the desert.
*Work Schedule, Arrival and Departure Dates*
We have two distinct crews this year – a *Build and Strike Crew* and an Event Crew. While a few of you are crossing over, most of you are on one or the other crew.If you are part of our *Build & Strike Crew*, we will begin building camp on *Monday, August 18th at 12 noon*. Please plan to arrive at that time. Build will take place until everything is done so be prepared to do whatever it takes. We have thoroughly planned and estimated how long it will take to do everything and we hope it will take no more than 12 hours of work per day. That said, our timeline is entirely weather dependent. For example, last year the weather was so bad we could not build anything almost three whole days. Please be prepared for such an eventuality.*If you are part of the Build crew, that means you are part of the Strike crew as well, *and you are expected to stay until camp is completely taken apart. Our goal is the end of the day on Tuesday, September 2nd. That means you will most likely begin your return trip to the Bay on Wednesday, September 3rd. That said, Strike is also dependent upon weather and other factors. Please be prepared for any eventuality.
If you are part of our *Event Crew*, the event begins on *Sunday, August 24th*. Unless we have specifically discussed different timing with any of you, everyone is expected to arrive at camp by *3:00pm on Sunday, August 24*. The gates open at 10:00am which should give you all enough time to make it through the entry gate and to camp on time. Please plan to leave early enough Sunday morning or the night before to ensure you can make it to camp by our start time. Our event ends on *Monday, September 1st at 6pm*. You are expected to be present for work up until this time.
Each of you on the *Event Crew* will be expected to work approximately ten (10) hours each day, divided into two (2) separate five (5) hour shifts. You will have a three (3) hour break between shifts. Ultimately each of you is expected to work as long as necessary to fully complete whatever needs to be done. As weather and other factors can quickly change plans on the Playa, please be mentally prepared to do whatever it takes.
We are planning for each of you to get at least one full day off during the week. Please note that this cannot be guaranteed. If things go as planned, everyone will. If, on the other hand, Burning Man throws us some unexpected curveballs, you might not. Please be mentally prepared for this possibility. Your exact schedule for each day will be shared with you during orientation on Sunday night, August 24th.
*Compensation and Employment Paperwork*
Each of you will be compensated $180 of shift pay for each day worked. If you do indeed get a day off during the week, you will not be paid for that day. If you get a half day off, your pay will also be divided in half. There will be no tracking of hours or overtime provided. Each of you is required to complete a W9 form as well as an employee agreement and a waiver of liability to participate as a contractor for this event. Please complete the attached forms and return them to me no later than *Friday, August 8th at 5pm.*
We are happily located at 8:45 and Kandahar. Yes, this is the outer ring of the Playa. We are located on a circular promenade next to other amazing theme camps. Right next door to us is the Lost Hotel and the Playa-Famous Raw Bar. You are highly encouraged to spend time with them at the Raw Bar. It’s an awesome place to meet people and get to know the artists artisans who make the Playa such an incredible place.*Orientation and Training – Sunday, August 24, 5pm to Midnight. *We will work together upon your arrival on Sunday afternoon, from 6pm to midnight, to introduce you to every single element of camp. Attached to this email is a copy of our camp schematic that we have shared with the Burning Man organization as part of our Theme Camp application. This document provides a basic overview of the many amenities we’ll have at our
camp. Please show up ready to focus on Sunday night.
*Tickets and Early Arrival Passes*
For those of you who live within one hour of our office in [snip], please schedule a time to come by our office, Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm to pick up your ticket and your Early Arrival Pass if applicable (only *Build and Strike Crew* need early access passes). For those of you who live more than one hour away, please email me your mailing address *no later than Thursday, August 7th* so that we can mail your ticket and Early Arrival pass to you. Please note that *YOU MUST NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET*. We do not have any extra. Also, if you do need an Early Arrival Pass, you MUST have the actual Pass assigned to you on your person to get through the entry gate. Each Pass is specifically bar coded and entry will not be granted without one.
For those of you departing from and returning to the Bay Area, we are happy to provide up to 2 mini-van or passenger van rental vehicles for you to use and share to carpool to and from the event. If you are willing to volunteer to be a driver, please let me know by *Friday, August 8th *so that we can plan to add you as a driver on the rental agreement. Depending on the number of you who want to utilize this option, there will be 1 or 2 vehicles departing from the Bay area on either the evening of Saturday, August 23rd or approximately 4am on Sunday, August 24th. The exact time of departure will be determined by those of you choosing this option. This vehicle(s) will return from the Playa to the Bay Area on Monday, September 1st or Tuesday, September 2nd. *Please note that vehicles may not be parked at camp*. You are welcome to drive up to camp to unload your personal items. Once you are done we’ll show you where to park your vehicle nearby.
You are required to *provide your own bike for the event*. While we may have some extra bikes available for use at certain times, there is no guarantee that one will be available at any given time, so please plan accordingly. You are welcome to bring your bike to our office in [snip] before *August 11th* if you’d like us to transport the bike for you. Another option is to rent a bike on the Playa. They cost $150 for the week, plus a $150 deposit that is returned to you when you return the bike. As of yesterday they still have bikes available. *I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this option*. You can email [snip] to find out more and reserve your bike. Directions to our office are listed at the bottom of this email.
Illicit drugs are prohibited on the Playa. This includes marijuana as it is not legal medically or otherwise in the State of Nevada. Burning Man is required by law to allow State of Nevada police personnel to patrol the Playa in search of drug offenders. Most of these personnel do this undercover, dressed as a typical Burner. Please be aware that absolutely anyone might be an undercover agent, even someone inviting you to participate in the illicit use of drugs. Even the smell of Marijuana is enough probably cause for an agent to search your body and/or your shelter so be smart!Illicit drugs are also prohibited in camp while working as a contract employee for us during this event. You are expected to show up for every shift sober, alert, and prepared to fully carry out what is expected of you. No exceptions.You are welcome to drink at our bar when you are not on a working shift. You are expected not to drink while on shift.
We are providing a combination of cubes, hexayurts and playa huts for each of you to share. Each structure is double occupancy and will include either a cot with a foam mattress or a foam mattress on a frame. Each unit will also have a light, an air conditioner and an outlet for you to use to charge a personal electronic device. You cannot use a hairdryer with these outlets. *Please note that you must provide your own pillow, sheets, and blankets or sleeping bag. *Also, accommodations are tight. It’s the Playa. Look forward to getting to know your bunkmate 🙂
*Mindfulness in Community*
we are going to be living in close quarters amidst one of the most profound, disorienting, mind blowing environments on planet earth. there will be 120 camp guests, an ecclectic collection of some of the most interesting and influential people in the world and 50 crew members ranging from cooks and bartenders to musicians, belly dancers, filmmakers, acroyogis, bodyworkers, and artists of all forms. each one of us is a key player in a small, contained ecosystem. each of our behaviors will greatly affect others. embraced one way, this experience invites you to reimagine yourself anew and to choose which character with which spirit you choose to bring to the rest of the group. the more intentional you are, the more likely you can positively impact and co-create the experience with others around you.
*Food and Drink*
We will feed all of you three awesome meals a day as well as an incredible assortment of snacks and other delights. You will all eat the same food as our camp members. You are also welcome to eat and drink at our bar and to generally enjoy all of our delicious, organic food and drink. Within reason, you are welcome to invite friends and family to come by camp for a drink or a bar snack. We’ll keep you informed throughout the event as to our inventory supply. Should we face any shortages we will have to limit the amount of guests we invite to eat or drink. Please note that breakfast, lunch and dinner are for camp members and staff *ONLY*. Guests may not be invited to share actual meals.
If you have any food allergies, please notify us immediately so that we may do our best to accommodate your needs. In addition, if you have specific”treats” or “food needs” that you enjoy and need to have around, please
prepare in advance and bring this food for yourself. If you are so inclined, bring yummy treats to share with other staff as well. While we’ll provide amply for you, it never hurts to have a bit more of anything on the Playa.
Please provide your own costumes, goggles, dust masks, head lamps, water bottles, mugs, and anything else you need to be a full citizen of the Playa. Please take a moment to review the Burning Man Survival Guide to
make sure you are 100% prepared for your time with us. You can find it here – http://survival.burningman.com
In addition to what you’ll find on the Survival Guide, the following are
also very helpful items to have on the Playa:
– Hydration pack
– Cup w/ a carabiner
– Neti pot (kitchen can provide the salt)
– Utility belt
– Silk underwear for cold nights
– alarm clock
– Supplements (Vit.C, B Complex, 5-HTP, etc.)
– Skeleton of a ancient Siberian snow leopard
– The preceding bullet was a joke. We’re just checking to make sure you
have read all of this information.
*Headshot and Bio*
So that we may include you in the camp program, please send me a 2″ x 2″ digital image of you and a short bio, 30 words or less, *by Friday, August 8th*. Sorry for the short notice on this, but we’ve got a lot going on :).
Please include your real name, meaning the name you go by every day, and your Playa name if you have one.
We have attached a number of documents for you to complete and review. Please make sure to return all necessary paperwork by the dates noted above.
+ w9 Form
+ employment agreement & emergency contact form
+ Participant Agreement, Release of Liability, and Assumption of Risk
+ Camp schematic – placement
+ Camp Invitation (this is the invitation sent to prospective camp
members. it will give you a good sense of the experience we intend to
That’s all for now! Thanks so much for being part of this experience with us. We are delighted that each and every one of you is joining us and we look forward to sharing this special journey with you.With love, respect, appreciation, and excited anticipation for what’s to come,
“Experience is not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens
to you.” – Aldous Huxley
Where did they park all the cars?
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To post more and pick it apart even more
“Another person in camp posted a sign asking for help without asking anyone else”
what BS, like one person would ask for help offering “payment”
“We also had many return Burners in the camp”
no return burner would pay $17,000
“We took a photo of our campsite before we left the playa and it was free of MOOP”
where is the photo?
” all members were still responsible for chores around camp including, but not limited to, picking up trash and being responsible for washing their own dishes”
so throwing out a paper plates counts as both?.?.?
“On one specific instance there were so many bikes parked outside one of our parties that the Rangers had to come inside and let us know. We killed the music and shut down the party immediately, making sure the mess was cleared up right away. ”
yeah right, it’s Burningman “your party is too epic you have to shut it down” um no
” I am sorry that people outside of Caravancicle camp were able to gain access to our website and share our draft material without our authorization. I am also sorry about artists whose names they included without their authorization. ”
Is this is the only thing he was sorry for? That people found out?
Perhaps the worst is the presumed ignorant gullibility of the burners to whom this was addressed. The preponderance of the BoD are quite out of touch with the burners, in so many ways. However, they are hard at work in remaking the NV burn in their own image, or rather the audience they seek to reach, and will most likely succeed. No apparent path leads in any other direction.
As suggested in The Bell Curve, modern society provides an unprecedented opportunity for people to affiliate and concentrate based on interest and intellect. So has Burning Man provided an opportunity for people with a shared intellect and interest form a cadre. This is understood in the burner community, but not by the BoD. The burn cadre will continue in spite of the BoD’s commodification and defaultification of the NV burn, though largely disjoint from what the BoD is creating to fit their default world paradigm. Some will persist at the NV burn, but it will not be the community it was. Wristbands and expectations will cause greater and greater segregation and effective isolation of the residual burner community at the NV burn.
But the burner community will survive in new venues. Some already established, and some yet to be created. Water will seek its own level. The BOrg experience illuminates the issues where the stone soup model can fail. And we are all learning to more readily see those that would profit from selling the soup that we made from our common gifts.
120 spots sold at $17,000 = $2,040,000
build/stike 8/18-8/24 & 8/30-9/2 = 10 days x 15 x $180 = $27,000
event 8/24-9/1 = 8 days x 38 x $180 = $54,720
$27,000 + $54,720 = $81,720 and zero taxes paid on thier part for employees/contractors
BLM cut, if thier cut is overall total, $2,040,000 x .03 = $61,200
tickets 170 x $650 = $110,500
that leaves $1,786,580
bikes, (the most expensive bike wally world sells, to prove the point) $549 x 120 = $65,880 workers don’t get bikes
68 Cubes $204,000
Gas (8 days @ $5/gal) $14,400
Water (8 days @ 50c/gal) $4,000
Food + Drink $100/day/pp $136,000 (Can you really eat/drink $100 a day?)
Container transport $19,600
Container cost $28,000
let take out another $500,000 for misc/art cars/delivery/etc, I went WAY on the high side to really show the point
that leaves $814,700
Fuck it lets take out another $100/per person/per day for boozes/snacks/gifts = another $136,000
now $678,700 / 120 guests+50 workers=$3,992 per person for,…um…ran out of things.
As you can see with everything on the extreame high side,
somehow he “didn’t make any money”
The vaguely-suggested argument being leaked out by third parties is that not every one of the 120 paid $17k…some were Mistresses of Merriment etc. The idea that “no one made money” is clearly a lie when there were 50 people on the payroll. Perhaps JT meant “no one as important as him made a profit”.
Firstly thanks to Burnersxxx for continuing to sign light on this topic. I have been following for a long time and given the mounting evidence of for-profit commodification camps can can no longer stay quiet on the sidelines. It is incredible to see such blatant disregard for so many issues but maybe most importantly the potential violations of the BLM permit for the greater event. This is an outrage and BMORG must absolutely be responsible. This is currently their ship to either fly high or crash and burn. But it’s important for us The Burners, to hold them accountable. Please keep up your hard work because many people are listening.
I think commodification does matter and I agree that I do not want hotels springing up on the playa. I will say I think people are unnaturally focused on the BMORG and these camps though. In reality the commodification issues are much broader and are on the whole getting ignored while everyone crucifies JT and BMORG. I know everyone loves the good-guy vs bad-guy story, and we’d love to have an easy solution: fire the org and everything will be ok… but I dunno… doesn’t seem so simple to me.
The bottom line is that Burning Man has become excessively popular and all sorts of businesses and people are leveraging this fact to make a buck or promote themselves. Truth be told, I am lot more concerned about the mad-max-furry-jacket for sale at the Reno gas station and a DJ using images of the playa in his promo videos than I am about some 150 person asshat camp in the corner of the playa. But really they are intimately related as they are all about turning the experience into a product.
The other day I was at the mall and I saw a beer pong table, in a box, for sale. A fucking beer pong table in a box? Now last time I checked this was a piece of plywood on some saw horses. Anyway, the point is that when something ‘fun’ becomes popular, it inevitably gets productized and homogenized by some corporate asshole, and the joy and comradery you felt with your friends building your ghetto beerpong table and making your own game gets ruined when Chuck Sweaterguy Stanley next door buys the boxed version with the ‘official’ rule book and cups with the ‘Beer Pong Inc’ logo on them. It just instantly becomes lame.
It is very easy to see how the culture, now that is exponentially growing, is being boxed and exploited in many ways. Sometimes for cash, sometimes for an audience, sometimes just for building esteem. I understand a tremendous amount of commerce has to take place to make this event happen, and sometimes that includes buying a costume or some EL wire. But I think we are letting more and more of the culture be bought and sold and I think the creativity is being siphoned off with the money. Its not just ‘products’, its articles (Katie Couric’s Burning Man Revealed… are you fucking kidding me), videos, photos, promotionals… all sorts of widespread use of the event to attract attention, even if its just to brag.
This is the broader issue. Maybe the comm camps are an on-playa manifestation of a productized experience, but the incessant off-playa marketing of the culture is what is really making it feel cheapened. And the blame lies squarely on the entire community for accepting it… embracing it… doing it… rather than standing up to it (not that the BMORG is really trying to either). We have somehow all agreed that it’s ok to buy and sell Burning Man as long as it’s not an on-playa hotel. But really, I think people need to become aware that you can’t have your off-playa commodification cake, and not have to eat the K camps too.
I don’t have all the answers; I just hate to see such an amazing event go down the toilet. I guess if you love burning man, think about the way you interact with the culture and how your money interacts with the culture. Many, not just the org, are attempting to grow their wallets, their esteem, their audience, or their ego through the event. Buy as little of it all as possible and bring your open heart. I would rather have the gift of your conversation than a furry scarf.
I don’t believe anyone is making JT a scapegoat. He is being focused on because: (a) he appears to have made a huge profit, (b) he appears to have broken labor laws and exploited his workers and (c) he’s a board member entrusted to ensure that exactly this thing does not happen.
I’m not saying he should not be held accountable. Believe me, I am all for a leadership change and for JT’s ousting, the whole thing stinks. But why this is the primary issue in the community escapes me. The whole ship is sinking and we are trying to hang one of the cooks rather than save the ship. I just don’t think getting rid of this guy, or even Marianne or Larry will have a long term impact on where it is all going
Yep, you nailed it. The burn was supposed to be a place where we could step away from the default world and try and live differently for a few days. It seems that everything has to be “monetized”, packaged, standardized and streamlined. The safari camps are just the biggest manifestation of this.
There were so many choice nuggets contained in that leaked document. I’m going to highlight just one of them.
“embraced one way, this experience invites you to re-imagine yourself anew and to choose which character with which spirit you choose to bring to the rest of the group. the more intentional you are, the more likely you can positively impact and co-create the experience with others around you.”
I’m not being melodramatic when I say this: for me the above quoted passage echoes the moment when the madame of a brothel tells her underlings how to put on a happy face for the johns whom they service. I actually want to paint that picture in terms of a plantation owner and his slaves but doing so would risk sparking a type of controversy that I don’t wish to create.
After reading all 3 of this sites most-recent ComCamp and/or Caranvansicle related posts I’m left with the following beliefs.
1) JT “bought” his way onto the board and has info on some of Larry & Co.’s lesser actions. How else does one explain JT’s continued presence on the BM BOD?
2) JT is a lying sack of sh*t and Caravansicle deserves to be investigated by the BLM and any other relevant governmental agencies.
3) If Larry and Marian and their ilk continue to be associated with the event it’s going to destroy the event.
Steve, this may have been your finest hour. Well done, sir. Please keep up the good work. 🙂
“We’ll show them how to wash their own plates during meal time.”
LOL’d at that one. How helpless are these people anyway?
This further cements my perceptions that the wealthiest among are truly children in adult bodies, surrounded by enabling catering sycophants.
Yes, this evidence of ‘radical self-reliance’ was highlighted by JT too. For a brief micro second I considered that just maybe they are being taught to was plates in an extreme water conserving manner, but then remembered the flush toilets. I don’t think water conservation was high on the Caravancicle list of principles. BTW, did you see the comments on the Burning Blog, where someone claims a large dumpster of human excrement was left on the playa for DPW to haul out?
What Mutant Vehicles were they using (besides dubious golf carts)
What great comments! Commodification Camps are indeed antithetical to Burning Man and probably quite illegal in many ways!
The BLM should be cautious about business on the playa for labor rights reasons, related tax reasons, and federal mandate reasons. They can’t simply approve of every Commodification Camp as Outside Services, just so they can make their 3% atop what they charge for land usage. Caravansicle or AirBNB can’t legally rent out a piece of the Black Rock Desert for a week!
But, let’s look at a few numbers and see what 3% of them would look like:
SharpaGirl: “Popsicle Camp would have 120 customers that will pay $17,000 each to be taken care of by 50 employees working for a wage that was capped.”
$17,000 x 120 = $2,040,000 budget (even without any other “gifts”)
$2,040,000 x .03 = $61,200 would be the BLM’s 3% cut from Caravancicle illegally renting out public land, which they should not accept in the first place.
Let’s assume the maximum days worked, with 15 “build/strike crew” and 38 “event crew” for those few “crossing over”. They don’t pay overtime, probably didn’t provide any days off, and i can’t even begin to speculate about the extra week some people spent on playa. I’m assuming the following dates based on the employment email alone, and using the flat day rate of $180, with no overtime:
build/stike 8/18-8/24 & 8/30-9/2 = 10 days x 15 x $180 = $27,000
event 8/24-9/1 = 8 days x 38 x $180 = $54,720
$27,000 + $54,720 = $81,720 estimated slave “labor costs” would still leave 3/4 of the budget untouched
$81,720 x .03 = $2,451.60 is 3% of those slave “labor costs” that the BLM might get- IF they approved of those Outside Services, AND they wanted to get involved with labor rights and tax issues.
With all the different government agencies on playa, we cannot allow these kinds of labor [Human Rights] violations to continue! I hope somebody does a documentary about this, and get other media to pick up on it in 2015!
BTW, unloading 14 shipping containers, and especially stacking some of them, would take lots of heavy machinery support from the event. Oh that’s right, DPW is also exploited labor too! If DPW refused to be slaves, I think 99% of the other bullshit would grind to a screeching halt. We the people don’t need a trash fence, gate, perimeter, roads, Man, Center Camp, cafe, or even street signs, lanterns, plazas, or anythings else. OK, we need bathrooms, but instead of pumping them out, they should become fuel stations for generating power.
Thanks for the calculations Reb. Looking at potential revenue versus cost, it sure seems to be profitable. From past experience, a container drop is $700 each way from SF, so $1400 x 14 = $19,600 logistics costs for that. Even if half the rooms were totally comped, it still seems like a ton of money was being generated – not “none” as JT tried to sell us.
his containers are most likely stored at the BM ranch
I wonder how much the actual material cost (dome, cubes, etc….) that would factor into the cost of the camp but I doubt it would be a budget buster.
most of that furniture is from ikea, trust me, I’m an expert 😉
3k a cube *cough cough
1k gallons of water a day
15gallons of gas per hour
Thanks Sherpa Girl, you’re a legend. My earlier “back of the napkin” calculations showed it would be difficult for the cost to be above half a million. Adding this data seems to support it:
68 Cubes $204,000
Gas (8 days @ $5/gal) $14,400
Water (8 days @ 50c/gal) $4,000
Labor (per Reb) $81,720
Food + Drink $100/day/pp $136,000
Container transport $19,600
Container cost $28,000
There were other expenses like the dome, furniture, sound system, the fence but it’s hard to see that exceeding another $100k. Let alone $1.5 million.
If the camp provided all the tickets that would be $110,500 (@ $650) with $42,500 of that given as a tax-deductible donation to BMP.
I think it’s fair to say this is the camp with the most amount of paid staff ever on the Playa. More people were making money from this camp than any before it…not “no one”. The idea that it was just “some friends sharing costs” when there are 50+ W9 forms to process is laughable, how stupid does he think we are?
This type of thing should be found in Las Vegas or some such place, Why can’t the rich and famous be like all the other Newbies and figure it out on their own. They can still rent RV’s, they can bring all the necessities in triples, they can rent their trite cookie cutter looks, instead of going to thrift shops all year and creating the alter persona that they will imbue while roaming the playa on old junker bikes that work better than any new bike on the planet……they can still come and be what it is that is being at Burning Man. The wealthy are not new to the playa. All the hype i have heard about this last year goes against all the Burning code i have ever heard. “We the people” can only, maybe get 2 tickets, if we are lucky on the draw…. and the rich can get as many as they want.?? Exclusive camps where the average ball of playa dusted fake fur can not enter, nothing shared is nothing gained. Stay back out in society where you are most comfortable hiding from the masses. I thought Burning man was for everyone, all alike in a nature of raw existence. If the wind blows, we all eat playa dust, if the rain falls, we all have thick playa mud on our natty ass boots, WE ALL don’t wash our hair but maybe once or not at all … we all share what we have and none of us are paid to be kind, to help out, to teach or be taught, to dance with strangers, or sing under the moonlight. Paid to be kind to strangers??? SERIOUSLY, What has happened to the beauty of unity in just being in Black Rock City, knowledgeable or fresh and ignorant? The only place on earth where you can fuck up completely and a total stranger will chuckle with you and help you up, shake you off and fetch you a fresh luke warm beer and a grilled cheese sandwhich on white bread, for free. How can you really learn from this massively beautiful experience if you buy your way in and still live the old ways of your privileged life on the outside? How can this humanity change if we are not ALL one. Burning man was this life style, the ultimate escape into freedom of expression and harmony flowing and blowing as one….. It was all about art, creativity, funk, rusted and the used-now-reused, a twinkle lit resplendent regeneration of techno and imaginative artistry rolling around a dry lake bed, 24 hours a day for 7 days…… Now it is but another theme park, with the man patrolling and busting and freedom once again has been painted in green … envy, greed and segregation.
Peace, love and freedom to all the burners, old and new. I know that Burning Man will survive this assault and the hype will melt, for nothing is permanent, which is why i guess, we must endure this change until the next one brings us back, perhaps, into The True perspective that has been and will become Burning Man of the future.
I love my every minute at burning man, PEACE and LOVE to all and to all a good day. double P – out !
“How can you really learn from this massively beautiful experience if you buy your way in and still live the old ways of your privileged life on the outside?”
That and your “grilled cheese” anecdote were spot on. 🙂
Wow! So many things made me chuckle because If I need to see the humor in this.
A couple of comments.
The letter mentions: “That said, our timeline is entirely weather dependent. For example, last year the weather was so bad we could not build anything almost three whole days. Please be prepared for such an eventuality.” Do you know what camp they spent three days building last year? That would seem to indicate that they had experience at the burn.
Also, “Another option is to rent a bike on the Playa. They cost $150 for the week, plus a $150 deposit that is returned to you when you return the bike.” Renting bikes on the playa? Who from? I give you $300 bucks for a bike and you give me my deposit back when I return the bike. If this is not commerce what is? Where is the money kept, who is doing the transacting…?
So many questions, so many laughs.
Who from? Probably Playa Bike Repair camp. They’ve been doing it for years, they’ve been mentioned in JRS, and they do on playa delivery (there are any other number of bike rental outfits where you pick it up in Reno or Gerlach). I’m not going to argue that it’s not commerce, but Caravancicle isn’t behind the bike rental, and BMORG is OK with it. Should BMORG be OK with it? Probably not, but there are much bigger problem exceptions to decommodification than bike rental.
Andrew, thanks for the info on the bikes. At least the rentals are going to good peeps and if it reduces the amount of abandoned bikes then that is good. Agree that the bike rentals are a minor issue from the commerce perspective on par with ice and coffee from my perspective.
I knew about the off playa rentals, guess I learned something new today!
From my recollection the group or groups that rent bikes on the playa do so in advance of the event, meaning that you pay them for your rental pre-playa and then pick up your bike on the playa. I for one have no issue with that reality and that’s because of a fact that you’ve already pointed out: that kind of bike rental service cuts down on the number of abandoned bikes on the playa. It also is of great use to Burners who are unable to buy a bike or pick up a rented bike before the event (e.g burners flying in from overseas).
Yep I agree, I think the bike MOOP is the greater issue. Rentals are probably better then buy a cheap bike at xxxmart and leaving it on the playa.
Their brochure says Camp Olympus was the name of their “successful hotel” last year.
The bike rental was re-cycle.com
Thanks for the info.
So how is *this* Burning Man experience different or better than the default world; it totally seems worse from a labor law perspective. The state’s department of Labor should be notified of this at a minimum to see if any laws were broken.
This is the kind of douche bag behavior that keeps me from attending events like Bro-chella and EDC, so I can now add Burning Man to that list.
Thanks for sharing this email with as little spin as possible and letting people form their own opinions.
Just when I was actually feeling fatigued and rather burned out on JT and his stupid-ass attempt to commercialize Burning Man and make a fortune entertaining his so-called “friends”, and his lame justifications and excuses about how his camp “lost money” —How do you “lose money” on a gift—now along comes THIS. Hugs, kisses and kudos to whoever leaked this. Thank you, Thank you. Do the math—120 “guests” X $17,000 = $$ Two million, 40 thousand dollars. Fourteen ocean shipping containers full of gear for a camp??? WTF? Rommel invaded Africa with less equiupment than this.
Sherpa girl was right in everything she said. She’s got more credibility than JT, Larry, Will Chase, and the whole lot of them. I suppose the event HAS changed, and in more ways than just getting bigger. Lemur’s right—camps like this are condoned and facilitated by the BORG. And if you don’t like it, protest all you want, but the train’s already left the station on that one. I’m sure that JT got on the non-profit’s Board by making a HUGE donation—-buying a seat, if you like. After all, he’s a principal investor in a health-care company worth 650 million $$$. It’s all about the money now. Sorry, JT, that your camp blew up in your face like that—just poor planning by someone else.
And if that’s not enough, I just got a THIRD e-mail yesterday from the BMORG asking me to make a financial donation to the Burning Man Project for all their “wonderful programs”.
The disconnect between the propaganda and the reality is stunning—it’s truly stunning. As a 16 year burner and a volunteer for 10 years, I just can’t believe this has happened.
“I’m sure that JT got on the non-profit’s Board by making a HUGE donation—-buying a seat, if you like.”
At this point it’s hard/almost impossible to believe otherwise. 🙁
Even in the default world, this way of treating people, is strictly illegal, not to mention completely abusive and soul-sucking. These workers are not “contractors.” The IRS says that “You are NOT an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). They are not “consultants; they are exploited workers, holding down 12 hour shifts for days in a row without mandatory overtime pay, mandatory breaks, mandatory worker’s compensation insurance provided by the employer in case of injury, and so forth.
To me, it doesn’t especially matter if the camp makes a profit. That can be debated, and it detracts from the even more important issues. Which are that not only do these “camps” break virtually all the 10 principles, but they do so *egregiously*; in a way that no one, no matter their status at BMOrg, can conceivably justify.
Of course, if the commodification camps treated their employees properly they would still violate virtually everything BM stands for. Nonetheless, allowing people to be illegally abused on the Playa is a complete other level.
I’ve worked as an independent contractor for the past 10 years or so. When you sign up to be one, you sign away all those labor laws and benefits that ‘regular’ employees receive. They can work you for as many hours as you’re willing to sign up for and can tell you exactly what the job is and what it entails.
Caravancicle should have gone through an employment agency to get their contracted sherpas. I have the feeling their workers showed up, saw what they were in for, and then bailed. An intermittent company is more likely to ensure workers show up AND work. It’s also hella risky to be handing out worker tickets three weeks before the event.
The most interesting part for me, is that, as an independent contractor, I have to do my own taxes 4 times a year. I doubt any of the paid 20 somethings would have a clue on how to go about declaring their wages. The IRS is likely to come after the worker, not Caravancicle for taxes. Believe me, they watch.
Phil- what you wrote does not apply to these workers. Because contractors have so little protection, the Federal government (hardly a great protector of worker rights) had set standards on just who an employer can exempt from the protections that an employee receives. To pay someone as a contractor, the employer can have NO control over *how* a person does the job. All the employer contracts for is the end product. From the IRS:
“Behavioral Control covers facts that show whether the business has a right to direct or control how the work is done through instructions, training or other means.” This also *specifically means that “an employer can set hours of work for an employer. An independent contractor controls his [or her or their] own time schedule.”
SherpaGirl and everyone else working there did not control their own time. They were made to work two shifts a day. They were told when to work and what to do. They also received instruction on *how* they were to do their work, how they were to treat the paying “guests,” and so on. This kind of control means the person is an employer no matter what illegal contract they sign.
These people are owed big time due to minimum wage, overtime and other state and Federal requirements.
I’m surprised you didn’t bold this line; “each one of us is a key player in a small, contained ecosytem.”
ie: We are absolutely blocking ourselves off from the larger community of unwashed heathens.
good pick-up, I’ve bolded it now.
Conspicuous consumption invades the playa.
Per Wikipedia: Conspicuous consumption is the spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power—either the buyer’s income or the buyer’s accumulated wealth. Sociologically, to the conspicuous consumer, such a public display of discretionary economic power is a means either of attaining or of maintaining a given social status.
There no longer is a so-called ‘outside reality’
I’m not so sure this fits. They were in canvas cubes, hidden behind a wall. To me, they seem stupid to have paid twice as much as what a nice luxury RV would have cost them, delivered to the Playa fully loaded. Conspicuous consumption is more like a giant Trojan horse that someone creates just to display for less than a week and then burn to ashes, with skyrockets shooting out of its ass.
I feel differently. It looks to me that they are exercising ‘conspicuous consumption’ flaunting their wealth by spending 2X as much as necessary and by being pampered in an exclusive enclave that distinguishes and separates them from the rest of the event.
Hope you have a great holiday Steve. I really appreciate your blog. It’s a breath of fresh air amongst so many Borg ass kissers.
Laser cutting the walls of their fortress is kinda “in your face”. Thanks Chuck, merry Christmas!
Whats next? Four Season Black Rock City with valet art car parking?
Even the Four Seasons is BYO Mistresses of Merriment…
Isn’t there a rule against dictating hours to a W9 contractor?
Yes, very much so.
I think we all have to accept the fact that Burning Man has changed and it will never be what it once was. Complain all you want here, or Facebook, or on the “Voices” of BurningMan blog, but Commodification Camps will continue to be a part of the City. The Org just doesn’t care. Seriously, they have a frickin’ hedge fund manager on their board!
The event is now a destination EDM festival and for a lot of people, they are going more for the DJ line-ups and less for the art or community. It has become: “ULTRA: Black Rock edition”.
So what is a Burner to do? Support your local Regional or visit one in another state. I recommend, Apogaea, Element 11, Transformus, Flipside (not an official Regional), to name a few. THAT is the future of Burning Man culture. You will find more intention and community there than you ever will at TTITD.
Will I go out to Black Rock again? Probably, but I will accept the fact that this is what the event has become and have fun.
Many of the Regionals are now sold out too.
Okay, nevermind, don’t Burn locally. The events will just sell out. 😉
Perhaps the answer is Burn local, Burn independent. Don’t support the big international chains that give very little to the local community.
DIY Pop Up Burns. 🙂
Or just do something new. “Burning” is Burning Man, it just is. None of us would have thought of holding these kinds of events without it. So you can go off into the woods with just your friends, not telling anyone, and dance around a burning effigy while in costume and on drugs, and it’s just going to remind people of Burning Man. My kids and their generation will think of something that will instantly make Burning Man seem unnecessary. Can’t wait to see what it is.
So if these 50 employees were expected to get themselves to the playa (possibly with the use of supplied hire cars) but the camp itself had not cars in it where were the cars parked all week?
The email says that schematic was what they showed the Borg to get placement? Does that mean placement also provided a place away from the camp for those vehicles to be parked to maintain their design aesthetic? Because that’s another unadvertised unfair perk that wasn’t offered to general theme camps.
Oops I guises I missed this bit;
” You are welcome to drive up to camp to unload your personal items. Once you are done we’ll show you where to park your vehicle nearby.”
It certainly sounds like they had a designated parking space. Not cool.
Also I noticed after all the “no drugs” talk 5-htp is still on their list of recommended items. Mixed messages much?
And 12 hour work days from Monday to Sunday to get the camp built was asking for trouble. Have these people not heard of contingency?!
Yeah the 5-HTP raised my eyebrows too. “Puts back in what the pill takes out” is how we used to describe it – it’s banned in Australia.
Good pick-up on the parking space. “You can’t camp there!” “Why not?” “That’s our private car park!”
I suppose there’s no reason to think that they had a designated paring spot provided by placement. They may have just picked a spot in open camping and used that. Either way cars are meant to be parked in your camp. Whether placement facilitated their separate parking lot or not I think their braking of that rules demonstrates pretty clearly the radical sense of entitlement
I’ve updated the story to add an aerial shot of the camps – which shows no stray cars anywhere. So these camps took up even more room than the entire city block they were given.
5HTP is not banned or illegal in Australia
I meant without a prescription.
“Along with other tryptophan supplements, the non-prescription sale of 5-HTP has been banned by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration due to a number of issues.”
Sorry, I don’t see the problem with the parking spaces. My camp has had people who don’t need to get into their cars for the week parking in the boonies for years. It’s more efficient use of space. We usually get placed around D to F, and have people park in open camping areas near K or L. There’s plenty of space overall at Burning Man, but space on the close in streets is limited. Should we be requesting a bigger footprint on D just to accommodate a bunch of cars that are going to sit there for a week? We don’t even know how many cars will be coming when we’re requesting placement. Granted, 50 sherpas is more than our entire camp, so we’ve only got 5-10 cars in the boonies (usually parked near friends who aren’t part of our camp).
Hadn’t thought much about the parking issue but I like your approach of parking away from your camp. Seems like it would open things up and make for a more efficient and better use of space.
From the burning man websites FAQ;
“you should keep your auto at your campsite.”
Am I wrong or is a W9 for employees, while a 1099 is for independent contractors…
W9 is what the contractor fills out to give tax payer identification number. 1099 is what is used to report income.
ah yeah, as someone said in another place, I was thinking of W4. Still, I think it’s worth exploring if the Sherpas were actually doing what can be considered IC work, because if not, there’s a lot of overtime that will be due to them.
I wonder: did the kitchen also produce the water for the Bathroom/Shower Systems or just the Dome/Bar/Kitchen?
I wasn’t that surprised by the written portion because it backs up what SherpaGirl has said about such things.
I’m sure we can all agree that the ideas for the public spaces would have been totally awesome, and a tiny bit of it does sound like it happened. As for educating the public about the cubes and other efficient systems, those also sound like good intentions. I don’t think this document was intended to be leaked, so there would have been little point in presenting all of those good intentions if they weren’t actually planned. Obviously, there were major shortcomings regarding the public/Burning Man Community interactivity, but it doesn’t make sense that a lack of physical structures alone would have accounted for that. I think there was a personnel issue that can’t be explained away by delayed builds or any of the other excuses that Don Harvey, M2, or JT have offered.
There is even the provision for unforeseen circumstances like weather, and other expectation management. People who were already employed by the producers of this camp, whose continued employment was tied to their work at this camp, makes it hard to blame them for going along with that fucked up situation.
At some point, details don’t really seem to matter. Why did the public interactivity suck? We may never know. Who was supposed to build what? After 3.5 months, how many people really care?
However, there are several very large questions remaining, involving tickets, EA passes, JT’s joining the BMP BoD after this ill-conceived plan must have been known by at least some key event organizers, and others. This leaked, but tastefully redacted email both supports SherpaGirl’s account, while showing the irrelevance of “details” offered by Harvey, Mikel, and Tananbaum.
The reason I call this an ill-conceived plan, is that the idea of trying to commodify a Burning Man Experience is a recipe for failure! Overpromising, overcharging, and hiring servants to wait on a bunch of over-charged tourists who don’t expect to have to lift a finger (except for their mandatory Gift Shifts) is going to end badly. It’s a fucking desert; YMMV. Even with the best intentions, drawings, and even the totally radical shit that DID get built, the Kool-Aid-powered, catered echo chamber luxury of First Camp is not scalable. It pisses of Burners, the BLM, and even the non-numb side of the face of BMorg acknowledges it goes against all BM stands for, besides being a really shitty idea.
Finally, my current guess is that with all of the CNC cut wood decorating the whole camp, that the $ signs spraypainted on the benches in front of this camp were not a planned decoration. My guess is that it was simply a very well-executed prank. A prank whose aftermath is immortalized on the pages of design websites and magazines.
Definitely the best tag ever. $$$
A W9 is the form given to independent contractors to get their relevant info; name, address, SSN. It’s the equivalent of a W4 for employees.
There is no way in hell the Sherpas were ICs. In just this email, the camp fails most if not all of the tests for an IC vs. employee. This is a pretty hot area of IRS audits, and most states are even more vigilant on this issue.
while i have said nasty things and such in the past.. and still feel many of the nasty things are true.. about you/this blog…..this is where having so many eyeballs on the blog pays off.. i.e lots of folks being aware of it and knowing they can dump this stuff that would otherwise rot in an “All Mail” folder.
but most importantly i think you handled the presentation well.. mostly leaving yourself out of it, save for a little intro.
while you cant rely on this type of thing all of the time… i think more of this ‘letting the facts speak for themselves’ ….with a bit less commentary………. is more towards a direction that might be amenable to some of the naysayers and dislikers… not that youve any onus to appease them… but, it cant hurt.
that email is full of big time lulz that pretty clearly contradict the tone JT was trying to convey…. along with the tone the BMORG has been trying to convey for 4 or so years….
if you got fuckin 50+ w9 forms to fill out, it is hard to claim that yer theme camp isnt a commercial operation….. and i dont care how many lectures or art cars or theme parties ya got….. if the stuff behind the back in the “private” area looks like this…… its still fuckin lame.
“we didnt make profit” might by the cry of a certain kind of “theme camp” operator of the now, and of the future….. but it aint hard to see whats really going on…
the problem is, larry et al… they think this is how to spread burning man culture….. and that ship has sailed…
“if you got fuckin 50+ w9 forms to fill out, it is hard to claim that yer theme camp isnt a commercial operation”
How many employees does BMOrg itself have? Used to be 30.
The employer fills out many 1099s but no W9s. Some of you guys REALLY don’t know the first thing about employment taxes. And that will be used to discount your comments. Try to stick with what you know to reduce the loss of credibility for all the comments here.
Sigh. W-4’s and I-9’s are filled out by employees. W-4’s are where you claim your marital status and number of allowances. I-9’s are to verify your citizenship. W-2’s and 1099’s are what the employer provides after the end of the year how much they paid you. W-2’s go to employees and 1099’s go to independent contractors. An independent contractor is where you say I’ll give you this much money to get this done and have no control over the person, when they work, etc. You’re just paying for the job to get done by a certain time. If you control the person’s work schedule and have supervisory control, they are an employee, not a contractor.
The bartender’s and other menial workers who follow a schedule and were supervised would be employees. The people who did design, set up, tear down etc. could have been contractors, or employees, depends.
Check this site PDFfiller where you can find blank and fillable w9 form. It allows you to save, print, fax, mail or send to sign the form directly from the site. Here is the link to the blank form http://goo.gl/LHwXn7.
I don’t have the words……smh.
Unreal. The fucking nerve of these people.
Looks like an RV fortress without the RVs! Wow we ARE making progress!