Licensed to Sell

I just got off the phone with David Freiberg at the BLM’s Black Rock Field Office, who said he’s a fan of this site. He is going to track down the 2014 list of vendors who were granted a Special Recreation Permit to sell on the Playa this year, we will update this story when we get it. The number of vendors has increased from 45 in 2013, to more than 80 this year.

He said that BLM were looking into the Plug-n-Play camps, which are required to have a permit and pay a 3% share of their revenues to the BLM. He wasn’t aware of any such camps that did get a permit, but it seems like most of them should have.

Some of the triggers for if a permit is required:

  • advertising to the general public, or only to friends
  • camp dues as cost-sharing, versus funding a commercial enterprise
  • it doesn’t matter if you’re a bad businessman, if you lose money, that’s your problem; if you’re selling spots and paying staff, that’s probably commercial activity not casual recreation

It appears that Caravancicle had a commercial deal with The Lost Hotel to build their camp, commercially engaged sherpas and managers who were paid to work there, and produced promotional materials that were advertised to the public.

In JT’s recent “apology“, he claimed that his web site was “meant to be password protected”. It certainly wasn’t when we first wrote about caravancicle.com (now blacked out).

caravancicle room outside

Space Cubes at Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

JT says that even though he “gifted money” to the camp, it was not meant to make a profit:

I can assure you our camp generated no money and was not, in any way, a money making venture

This conflicts with Danger Ranger’s version of events, in which he claimed JT “lost money” only because the camp’s un-named producer embezzled “took the money and ran”. Allegedly. It also conflicts with Sherpagirl’s inside information, that campers paid $17,000 for a hotel room space cube. If you’re selling 68 rooms for $17k a pop , your camp is generating money. Discounting or even comping some of the rooms doesn’t alter that fact.

In their marketing materials, Caravancicle quite clearly state that this is based on the “mind-blowing” hotel they built last year at Camp Olympus. There’s no indication that this page on their web site was made by anyone but Caravancicle.

I printed their caravancicle.com/about page to a PDF on September 5 – no password was required, and there was never any indication that this was “camp-only” private information.

2014 Caravancicle – About Camp

Here’s their very commercial-looking Participant Agreement:

2014 Participant Agreement, R… and Assumption of Risk

It specifically mentions the following individuals and corporations in their risk waiver:

  • Back To Earth, Inc dba “dovetail events”
  • Ari Derfel
  • Jim Tananbaum
  • Space Cubes LLC
  • Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc/Peik Investments LLC
  • Black Rock City LLC
Image: Phillippe Glade

Image: Philippe Glade

JT said:

Our camp breakdown was also compromised because the group responsible for providing the infrastructure was also responsible for part of the breakdown. In the end, our camp manager and some other members of the camp, plus breakdown staff, cleaned up our camp by Saturday after the event

Staff, responsibilities, infrastructure providers, managers – it sounds pretty commercial to me.

We hired a team to produce the camp…but Caravancicle did not participate in any advertising. The ‘promotional materials’ and website were sent to guests who were invited to join the camp. We did not actively promote the camp. No one in Caravancicle made money off of the camp

We’ve provided a link to some of their advertising and promotional materials, the About page at caravancicle.com. Creating a website and putting your commercial-looking brochure up on it surely counts as “participating in advertising”. There is no question that people who worked in Caravancicle were paid, so JT is not telling the truth here.

we used wristbands

some of our campers were “plug and play” participants

Seems pretty clear to me.

2014 lost hotel bathroom

From Interior Design:

Inside a Space Cube

Inside a Space Cube

Scott Mahoney created the camp “The Lost Hotel,” using his modular tent system called Space Cube that can stack up to three stories high. Mahoney used Adobe Illustrator to design the entire project from the stairs to the bed frames, and constructed everything within 10 weeks. Mahoney’s inspiration was “constrained only by ease of setup and breakdown,” he says. Also collaborating on the project was Joey Rubin of Adar Partners. Rubin’s process was one of “resourcefulness and adaptability,” he says, especially when designing two theme camps at the same time, since Mahoney’s team also assembled 68 Space Cube tents for Caravancicle, a camp produced by Ari Derfel…

Caravancicle Camp offered an all-inclusive experience to affluent deciders and Powerball winners who enjoyed a level of sophistication never seen before at BRC.
It took the teams of The Lost Hotel and of LMNOP 5 people working for 7 days 18h/day to complete this pushing the envelope of refinement camp

Here is how the Federal Government defines commercial use, in relation to their requirement for a Special Recreation Permit (SRP):

Subpart 2932—Special Recreation Permits for Commercial Use, Competitive Events, Organized Groups, and Recreation Use in Special Areas

§2932.5   Definitions.

Actual expenses means money spent directly on the permitted activity. These may include costs of such items as food, rentals of group equipment, transportation, and permit or use fees. Actual expenses do not include the rental or purchase of personal equipment, amortization of equipment, salaries or other payments to participants, bonding costs, or profit.

Commercial use means recreational use of the public lands and related waters for business or financial gain.

(1) The activity, service, or use is commercial if—

(i) Any person, group, or organization makes or attempts to make a profit, receive money, amortize equipment, or obtain goods or services, as compensation from participants in recreational activities occurring on public lands led, sponsored, or organized by that person, group, or organization;

(ii) Anyone collects a fee or receives other compensation that is not strictly a sharing of actual expenses, or exceeds actual expenses, incurred for the purposes of the activity, service, or use;

(iii) There is paid public advertising to seek participants; or

(iv) Participants pay for a duty of care or an expectation of safety.

(2) Profit-making organizations and organizations seeking to make a profit are automatically classified as commercial, even if that part of their activity covered by the permit is not profit-making or the business as a whole is not profitable.

From Burning Man’s FAQ (old site):

http://burningman.com/themecamps/delivery_faq.html

Q: Does my delivery driver need a BLM Special Recreation Permit (SRP)?

A:The Burning Man Event occurs on public land administered by the BLM. Commercial activities (services rendered with the intent of making a profit or financial gain, or delivery of goods and services onto public lands for a fee) are prohibited within the Burning Man Closure area unless specifically contracted by Black Rock City, LLC, and permitted by the BLM through a Special Recreation Permit (SRP).

In 2012, Minister of Propaganda Will Chase said:

we would like to address a few key areas of confusion, so everybody’s on the same page:

  1. “Adventure” outfits (defined as purely commercial businesses offering a full service camp experience that have no connection to our culture and community) providing “a Burning Man Experience” are not considered to be Turnkey camps, and as of this year they will no longer be allowed at the event. Before we had a formalized process for making deliveries to Black Rock City (introduced in 2011 as a “vendor pass” then renamed to Outside Services in 2012 to better reflect the variety of deliveries we facilitate which help build the city) we had no way of identifying these enterprises. Now that we do, we will actively prohibit adventure businesses that are not part of our community and merely capitalizing on our event. It will not be a completely clean process the first year; there are innocent people involved who need to be considered and, as always, a spectrum of outfits that could fit into this category or may be of benefit to the community. They will need to be evaluated and treated fairly, but rest assured, we will not allow our city to become a revenue stream for these sorts of businesses any longer. We are calling on the community to help us with this effort by identifying operations and reporting them to us by emailing outsideservices@burningman.com.
  2. There has been confusion on an issue referred to as taxation for Turnkey camps. These are the facts: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently informed us that they will require any business in operation at our event to obtain a permit and pay 3% of gross revenues to the BLM, just as Black Rock City LLC is required to do. This has always been their right. They began enforcement with commercial air charters at our airport in 2011 and this year they will require RV and trailer providers to pay as well. This will not apply to small “mom and pop” style operations or one-time deliveries. The BLM is not interested in capitalizing on every opportunity, but they do have federal permit regulations they are required to uphold, and this allows them to hold larger commercial operations accountable with regard to our event stipulations and their commitment to environmental stewardship.

Although Caravancicle is the most public of the Commodification Camps, and particularly egregious because it was backed by someone on the Board of Directors, it’s by no means the only such enterprise. Answergirl said they placed 25 of these camps on October 29, this was watered down to 12 by December 3 when “Burning Man” gave us their official response. If these camps are running commercial activities on the Playa, without a Special Recreation Permit from the Bureau of Land Management, they jeopardize the permit for the whole event – and thus are an existential threat to Burning Man itself, as well as a threat to our culture.

From burningman.org:

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

References:

BLM 2014 Burning Man Operating Plan

BLM 2013 list of permitted vendors

 

 

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

DJ Booth above the bar, Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

DJ Booth above the bar, Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

35 comments on “Licensed to Sell

  1. Pingback: Concierges At Burning Man: Now Made Official [Update] | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Here are thoughts I sent to BM’s “contact us” tab:

    Hi, I’d like to suggest the BMR LLC Bylaws be modified to allow for participants of any last Burning Man event at BRC be allowed and encouraged to vote on the retention of any and all Board members of the BRC LLC, or Burning Man Project, and of any changes or developments that would by their face substantially alter the conditions by which the Burning Man Project operates within the stated Ten Principles.
    The definition of a participant allowed to vote would include having a Burner Profile, and having purchased a ticket to the last event through BR Project, or having been provided a ticket through the BR Project as staff, or through Directed Group Sales.
    My suggestion is a direct response to the latest controversy regarding the Plug’nPlay “theme” camps supposedly designed to alleviate the huge RV scene, and the involvement of a Board member involved in an endeavor that opened the door for commodification to creep in. This was not really thought out well, unless you’re a 1%’er, right?
    While it sounds like a good idea to lessen the number of huge RV’s at the City, and to get those isolated and affluent folks out of their shell and involved in the dust a little more, safeguards of the Ten Principles were apparently overshadowed by the need,(and greed) to provide a more comfortable way for these folks to hang out with us less monetarily endowed.
    I guess some things never change, ever since we stopped the nomadic hunter-gatherer goat-herding thing, and we settled in for the agricultural venue, the shamans, priests, army, feudal lords, etc. have been “arranging” the face of reality in name of the public good and reliability. Currently it’s manifested as corporate feudalism we live under, with politicians playing the role as priests and shamans. Also, ever since we villaged up, there have been haves and have-nots, the feeble minded and bodied are the disenfranchised we now call “homeless” or “homefree”
    So, can we continue the experiment, please, without any additional input from any corporate minded Board members, please? Can we have the people give some input other than these rants?

    Like

  3. Perhaps not kickback from Caravansary to BMP, but it’s likely JT got on the BMP’s BoD by making a donation. If a donation was made in hopes of The Borg looking the other way, well, they’ve done more than just that- they defended JT with their own worthless reputations. We’ll see if his on-playa business ventures were at least official as Outside Services as far as the BLM is concerned, or if he violated BLM rules in addition to Burning Man rules.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The most important and relevant piece of information in this article is this one”

    “(ii) Anyone collects a fee or receives other compensation that is not strictly a sharing of actual expenses, or exceeds actual expenses, incurred for the purposes of the activity, service, or use;”

    When I’m in BRC I camp in a tent AND I still manage to spend around $4K on my burn. I wouldn’t need to spend that much more money to pimp out my playa infrastructure. Some or most of the people in Caravansicle paid $17K for their spots in the camp. JT wants us to believe that his camp was a non-commercial venture. I call bullsh*t on that. No matter how luxurious that camp may have been it sure as f*ck didn’t cost $17K person to set up that camp. JT’s mea culpa if full of blame, deflection and excuse making, as well as supposed facts that don’t match up with other publicly known facts about Caravansicle. JT’s camp was a commercial venture. End of story. Full stop. The camp deserves to be investigated by the BLM.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, because the employee email states the employees (and the email refers to them as employees) will be treated as independent contractors, which they decidedly were not under employment law.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Humanity is full of faults. The challenge of living up to the Ten Principles seems a hard one to attain. I’ve witnessed all kinds of shortcomings and hypocrisy at the City, and the organization is way flawed. This however is truly disheartening. It’s time for a revolution. But what can we do other than boycott? Can we vote people out?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Burnileaks: Commodification Camp Employment Email | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  7. One of the many questions the Awesome Burner Community has been asking the Borg is: “how did Caravansary get so many late tickets and early-arrival passes?”
    One reason for this question is that the spirit of early-arrival passes is to allow actual camp-members to arrive early and build the awesome gifts they share
    with other Burners. Not everyone in a camp is able to arrive early, nor are there enough EA passes for entire camps anyway. So, some camp members built things
    their fellow camp members got to enjoy, but this can easily be offset by the early builders relaxing while the newer arrivals take shifts during the week
    tending bars, driving art cars, performing, and doing the other interactive things that got their camp/project placed and allocated EA passes to begin with.

    The idea of vendors is already sketchy at Burning Man. But, as more and more people wanted to come, more potties had to be pumped out, generators and vehicles needed fuel, and people found that bulk potable water delivery was at least a good way to cut down on the amount of plastic jugs that went to the playa. Camps used to rent gennies and trailer them in themselves, along with fuel. Then people wondered why not just rent from the vendor that brought out the ones for DPW, and why not the same for fuel? Then people wanted biodiesel, and RV renters and owners wanted their greywater and blackwater tanks pumped out an their potable waters tanks refilled. The longer more people wanted to stay in the desert, either more sustainable soultions or more vendors were required. Some of that desire for sustainability, like biofuels and reducing plastic water jugs, were met by; you guessed it; more vendors, AKA Outside Services.

    It was already a balancing act between the BLM changing the Borg per head per diem, vendors, BRC workers/volunteers, and people building art, Theme Camps, Mutant Vehicles, and the days, weeks, and even months that some people were on-playa. Then some camps start mysteriously manifesting EA passes and then giving them to hired workers to build camps that give little to nothing back to the community, and the Borg doesn’t honestly think this is a big fucking deal? It was already a balancing act to begin with. Between the defacation on several of the Ten Prinicples, and the very real financial and other implications regarding the stipulations of the BLM permit, The Borg had better believe that Commodification Camps and when each person arrives and leaves, are indeed a very big fucking deal. Imagine the amount of vendors if even one camp hired staff for; advertising and selling rooms, producing, romoting, catering, bartending, building, managing, cruise directing, massaging, Reno-running, flying, renting Mutant Vehicles, and “Merriment”? That’s on top of the vendors who service RVs and potties, spray roads, bring in water and fuel, gennerators and heavy machinery, etc. that can often be said to contribute something to the overall event.

    Speaking of big fucking deals, what kinds of secret backroom deals must be going on for The Borg not to be super outraged by this? After all, it threatens their permit, right? I don’t know- it depends on what kinds of deals are being made. Is The Borg getting kickbacks from Commodification Camps to keep or pay the BLM their cut? Why not- they’re already scalping them the tickets, placing them, and finding them the EA passes they need.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I reread my comment, and apologize for the typos, odd line spacing, and stoking the fires of conspiracy speculation. I think either “secret” OR “backroom” OR “deals” would have sufficed, and to use all three words seems excessive at this point. The Borg’s cavalier facade is just so ridiculous and flawed.

      Nonetheless, the quotes from Will Chase in this article underscore that BMorg realized that BM Safaris were already a significant issue in 2012, so it’s PARTICULARLY suspicious that in late 2014, Don Harvey and DR are rushing to the defense of their fellow BMP BoD members who are running exactly these types of operations. Answergirl and the JRS downplaying them also seems disingenuous; considering that even the Minister of Propaganda himself acknowledged them over 2 years ago.

      Liked by 2 people

        • Anything is possible at this point. Fallguys are Corrupt Corporations 101- if The Borg wanted to sweep this under the rug months ago, a few key resignations would’ve defused a lot of attention from this issue. Instead, we get conflicting information in months-late support of these people from TOP players. BMP BoD violations of Anti-Self-Dealing/Inurement laws, BMP and thereby IRS, endangerment of BMP IRS status and the event permit, and remaining on board; how could this happen without 2 or more people conspiring together? What about the Bait-and-Switch on the BMP control, or the secrecy of the cashout? A conspiracy only takes two, and I count at least six…

          Liked by 2 people

          • reb, awesome comments. Apologies upon a few corrections, there is much material, so few are of the ability to understand it, I sure do not. It is Larry Harvey; the BMOrg, within their official blog post in early December, stated, in a very direct manner, there were no kickbacks from the Commodification camps of any manner; and, the blog post stated that they sold the $650 donation tickets to the Commodification camps, that is the manner in which the Commodification camps obtained their tickets during the summer. In addendum, there were no ‘BMP BoD violations of Anti-Self-Dealing/Inurement laws’ in regards of the Commodification camps, conflicts of interest are permitted, might they be disclosed in a proper manner.

            Like

          • …assuming it was disclosed. That would’ve been an interesting first Board meeting for JT.

            Larry: “Anyone got any conflicts of interest to declare?”
            New member JT: “yep my camp will be the biggest ever commercial operation on the Playa, with 50 employees, we’re charging people $17,000 for a hotel room and we have 68 of them”
            Chip: “I’m going to get someone to film a commercial for Fest300 with multiple violations of the drone safety rules”
            Larry “OK cool. Meeting closed”.

            Also we don’t know how many tickets Commodification Camps got in the Directed Group Sale, which is about a quarter of the total ticket allocation, and still completely opaque.

            Maybe each Director gets 100 tickets, but JT was not listed on the board as of August 5 (and Chris Weitz still was).

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks, ABP. The main reason I brought up the question of such deals in this context was simply to re-raise the burning question: “Why is The Borg bothering to defend and keep on board someone who just joined a few months ago, and whose simple resignation could cut down the Commodification Camp debate by maybe 75-95% ?”. If it’s not because of $, why is JT remain on board so desirable to the rest of the BoD that they are going against their own Principles, mission, and thereby risking their relevance, IRS status, possibly BLM permit, and definitely all their reputations over it?

            Liked by 3 people

      • reb: The more time that passes since SHERPAGATE blew up the simpler this situation becomes to assess. Your question about why JT is still on the BOD naturally leads the mind to wonder if some kind of financial arrangement has been made between JT and the founders. What other explanation can there be for why someone who is SO obviously DOING IT WRONG is still on the BOD? I’m not being melodramatic when I wonder if JT has some kind of knowledge about Larry & Co.’s BM related behavior that those people don’t want brought to the light of both the default world and the Burner community. At this point both of those hypothetical explanations for JT’s continued presence on the BOD actually make sense and that’s kind of f*cked up.

        Like

  8. Jim and camp claim they “gifted” the Bar. Gifting a Bar is nit Gifting, thats hosting a bar. Making thousand of pancakes is gifting. Us hauling out a cotton candy machine,(sometime via Amtrak) or feeding students from Japan, this is Gifting.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. burnersxxx, an edit is needed on this post, Danger Ranger stated the camp producer ‘None-the-less, the camp producer took the money and ran’, which is different from the term accidentally used within this post. Perchance, change the sentence to ‘This conflicts with Danger Ranger’s version of events, in which he says JT “lost money” only because the camp’s producer took the money and ran with the funds from the business.’

    The camp producer might have taken the money, or kept the money from the camp fees that he collected, in due of he, and in due of others that he needed to pay, were owed the money, at least from the perspective of the camp producer, which is a usual business practice.

    (This comment might be deleted also)

    Like

    • “took the money and ran” = theft.

      em·bez·zle·ment

      noun
      theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer.

      …or does the phrase have a different meaning in US idiom, one that I’m misinterpreting or not familiar with?

      Like

      • Embezzlement has a different meaning in the US. Wikipedia states ‘In America, embezzlement is a statutory offense so the definition of the crime varies from statute to statute. Typical elements are (1) the fraudulent (2) conversion (3) of the property (4) of another (5) by a person who has lawful possession of the property.’ ‘Took the money and ran’ might be solely a business dispute, not a crime in which the police bring handcuffs, such as embezzlement.

        Like

          • Awesome post, kudos again, I’m amazed at the number of posts you are able to pen, with such accuracy in the posts. Apologies, but, please trust me on the word change, it is needed, it is a US law thing, the meaning of the word is different in the US in these regards. Even might whomever was the camp producer had handcuffs placed around his wrists, this post would still have to state ‘alleged’, and this is not even alleged by DR.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. Not a big fan of telling mom and dad. I hope this doesn’t open up a can or worms regarding MORE intrusion by the feds and BLM in particular. I hope this doesn’t start affecting legitimate theme camps that maintain publicly accessible websites to update their members and collect dues.

    I don’t care that comm camps violate health laws or any other federal law, I only care that they exist at all and that they are eliminated from within BM going forward. I’m HIGHY wary of involving BLM in this.

    Like

    • Your comment seems to imply that I “ratted out” Caravancicle to the BLM. I did nothing of the sort. I emailed them asking if I could get the list of registered vendors for 2014, since I only had the 2013 list (linked in the story). Dave got back to me and asked me to call, he wanted to know why I wanted this information. I said I was doing a story for Burners.Me about Commodification Camps. He said “oh, you mean the plug-n-plays? Yeah, we’ve been looking into those, it seems like some of them are making quite a lot of revenues”. I didn’t mention any camp names or any law violations, and he did almost all of the talking. We were on the phone for less than five minutes.

      Camps that collect dues from members to share expenses are no problem at all.

      BLM have a full-time staffer dedicated to Burning Man, they get paid more than 10% of the event’s revenues – they are already very much involved in this. The issue was raised by BMOrg in 2012 – see links in the article – and also features in the Spark movie.

      Liked by 1 person

      • From burningman.com, April 25 2012:

        “The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently informed us that they will require any business in operation at our event to obtain a permit and pay 3% of gross revenues to the BLM, just as Black Rock City LLC is required to do. This has always been their right. They began enforcement with commercial air charters at our airport in 2011 and this year they will require RV and trailer providers to pay as well. This will not apply to small “mom and pop” style operations or one-time deliveries. The BLM is not interested in capitalizing on every opportunity, but they do have federal permit regulations they are required to uphold, and this allows them to hold larger commercial operations accountable”

        Liked by 1 person

    • JV, BMorg, in allowing commercial activity, has opened themselves up to regulation. How this activity was brought to their attention is irrelevant. I’m waiting for Nevada’s Labor Commissioner to weigh in on DPW staff.

      Like

  11. “He said that BLM were looking into the Plug-n-Play camps, which are required to have a permit and pay a 3% share of their revenues to the BLM. He wasn’t aware of any such camps that did get a permit, but it seems like most of them should have.”

    Yes, if such camps were supposed to exist at BM in the first place, they should have gotten a permit. But these camps and these kids of transactions aren’t supposed to be there in the first place because: decommodification.

    Liked by 3 people

    • “Decommodification
      In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.”

      Liked by 1 person

Share your thoughts with us

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s