The Techno Ghetto – the History of Dance Music at Burning Man

Recent announcements from the Org make it seem like Burning Man is trying to deal with Electronic Dance Music like it’s a new problem. In fact, this is not the case. Burning Man has been taking place in the desert since 1990 and ravers started playing there in 1992, the third party. Since then, rave has grown from a few DJs to more than 5,000 different sets listed in Rockstar Librarian last year.

Not only was it fine to post the names of DJs on flyers from the very beginning, it was also personally endorsed by Larry Harvey.

burning man 1992 djs and lasers

Burning Man Flyer Advertising DJs, 1992

DJ Niles recalls:

I was DJ Niles and organized the first rave at Burning Man. I met with Larry Harvey in his kitchen to pitch him on the idea and he thought amplified music would be awesome at BM though warned me that any of the old timers wouldn’t like it and made us set up a mile from center camp with our speakers facing away from camp. We had about 20 people that came specifically for the party and about 50 people that came from BM camp. We had The Fly hotsprings to ourselves.

From Edgecentral (writing by Graham St John):

What was then known as “rave” music was first amplified at Burning Man in 1992 when a small “rave camp” appeared a mile from the main encampment, “glomming parasitically…onto the Porta-Johns.” The camp was organized by Craig Ellenwood of the early Oakland acid party crew Mr Floppy’s Flophouse. The headline act was Goa Gil, who played from Aphex Twin’s “Digeridoo” on digital audio tape to no more than 25 people. Also playing to hardly anybody were Brad Tumbleweed, Dave Synthesis (aka “Dsyn”), Craig and Terbo Ted. Terbo Ted has the mantle of being the first person to DJ at Burning Man. Ted informed me that in 1992 he “played on Friday afternoon to literally no one, with only ten miles of dust in front of me. It was awesome”. While he can’t recall it with precision, the first track played was some “spacey stuff” from a Jean Michel Jarre 12 inch from Craig Ellenwood’s record pile, “a record he was willing to sacrifice to the elements … it was literally a sound check” (ibid). Here is a link to a short excerpt from Terbo Ted’s live acid techno set in 1995, which was the first electronic music recorded at Burning Man to be released on CD (“Turbine time” on Shag).

The period was primitive to say the least. As Charles A. Gadeken reported in 1993: “I remember going out to the rave camp, it was five guys, a van, a couple of big speakers, a card board box covered in tin foil, colored lights and a strobe light. It was all cool.” But the reception was generally less than enthusiastic. Ted recalls that the punk (add your own prefix: anarcho, cyber, steam, shotgun, etc.) sensibility predominating at Burning Man held DJ culture complicit with “consumer society and a stain on an otherwise anarchistic, art-oriented event.” 

Even in the early days, this was an issue for the hippies – one they were ready to get all “stabby” for…

On one morning near sunrise in 1993, a hippy dude came up to me while I was playing music on the sound system and he holds up a knife towards me and yells “are you crazy?” And I say “no, you’re the one with a knife”. And then he says he’s going to cut me or the speakers. So I turn it down, ditched the decks and circled far and wide off into the desert. He tried to cut the speaker cones with his knife but they had metal grills on the fronts, he looked like a fool and gave up and wandered off. I put on a cassette of Squeeze’s Black Coffee in Bed as he was walking away. 

As early as 1994, there was an “official rave” listed in the Burning Man brochure.

Burning Man forced the techno reservationists to maintain their isolation a mile from Main Camp between 1992 and 1998, during which time the camp evolved into a kind of outlaw satellite of Black Rock City. Over the following two years, San Francisco’s DiY music and culture collective SPaZ (itself co-founded by Ted and D syn, along with Aaron, No.E Sunflowrfish and various others) orchestrated the sounds exclusively. It was extreme, eclectic and haphazard…Listed as the official “rave” in the Burning Man brochure for 1994, SPaZ would effect a great influence on sound system culture at the festival. 

It was the ravers who encouraged Burning Man to let anyone bring their sound, big or small. A number of music collectives then converged on the Techno Ghetto. This was the first expansion of Burning Man’s crowd beyond its San Francisco Cacophony Society roots that kept numbers steadily in the low hundreds for the first 7 years. After the rave camp was established, Burning Man’s population started doubling every year.

SPaZ, members of which later initiated the Autonomous Mutant Festival, were effectively encouraging Burning Man to be “more like the UK festival vibe where anybody could bring their sound, big or small”. So, in 1995, while SPaZ set up their small system at four points amplifying everything from minimal techno and drum-n-bass to psytrance under a four story three-cornered scaffolding with lights and “variously garish and random streamers, banners and tarps, from punk to dayglo-indian-balinese-cybertrance-batiks to outright monstrosities” visible from Main Camp, Wicked (the famed UK derived outfit who held full moon and other parties on beaches and in parks around the Bay area between 1991-1996) arrived with their turbo rig and scaffolding supporting their black and white banner. SPaZ hosted artists including Minor Minor (Gateway), Theta Blip, Chizaru and Subtropic. Featuring himself, among with DJs Markie and Bay area guest’s Spun, Felix the Dog, Rob Doten and Alvaro, Wicked co-founder (and now running Grayhound Records) Garth stated to me that they “played for 4 days and nights through hail, wind, rain and electrical storms”. North America’s first free party tekno sound system, Pirate Audio, also made an appearance that year. On the windblown frontiers of techno, in this nascent vibrant ghetto accommodating the eclectic, experimental and inclusive sounds of SPaZ, the house sounds of Wicked, and other sounds besides, Burning Man had begun to attract a variety of socio-sonic aesthetics, paving the way for the mega-vibe it would later become  

Poop was being MOOPed at dance camps even then: by BMOrg, who were dropping it on rave camps from the sky:

shit apple laheyIn this period, besides differences between the habitués and proponents of varying dance aesthetics (from the inclusive to the more proprietary) there was considerable conflict between those who regarded themselves true Burners and those they held as little more than raving interlopers. As Ted remembers, “ravers were always pariahs at Burning Man …. it’s like we were the poor people on the wrong side of the tracks and the wrong side of the man”. At one event, a bag of human excrement was dropped on the dance camp from a low flying aircraft. According to Garth, Burning Man had the porta-potties removed from the rave camp before the festival ended. “When people started crapping on the desert for lack of options, someone carried over a bag to main camp …. Burning Man was so enraged by this they flew over and apparently dropped it on one camp.

From the beginning, Rave Camp was a mile away from The Man, but back then it was still possible to drive your car around the Playa. That all changed when tragedy struck in 1996: a stoned driver ran over a tent, sending one person into a coma for months.


In 1996, the year of Helco, they tried to re-integrate the rave camp with the rest of the city – creating the Techno Ghetto as an outer suburb. The plan failed:

But, things didn’t go according to plan in the ghetto. According to Garth, “the honeymoon ended that year. The theme was “Hellco” and that was what they conjured up… by this point there were too many [sound systems], all bleeding into each other…. it felt more like a super club on the playa”. As Terbo Ted recalls, the “ghetto” was an “abysmal failure … DiY gone mad… Music snobbery and cliquishness and DiY anarchist tendencies prevented an orderly camp from forming and the resulting spread-too-thin sprawl proved to be dangerous in an era when cars were still driving at every vector on the playa at high speeds in dust storm white outs”. Both Garth and Ted are in part referring to a tragic incident in 1996 when three people were seriously injured sleeping in their tent near the Gateway sound system, one in a coma for months, after being collected by a stoned driver.  

It looks like ravers got the blame for the incident. An “unofficial anti-rave policy” was formed, to appease the complainers:

Together with an apparent perception that the “rave” was giving Burning Man a bad name within official circles, and the likelihood that techno was perceived as disturbing electronic chatter for many participants…this incident generated an unofficial “anti-rave policy”, which was effectively countered through the compromise entailed in Gosney’s innocuously named “Community Dance” in 1997.

We have an unsung Burner hero to thank for rave surviving at Burning Man in the face of this early anti-EDM sentiment from the old-timers. BMOrg, predictably, tried to ban doof – saying that only 100W systems were allowed. Luckily Mark Heller, Raver Marine, saved the day – and Burning Man was able to grow from 4,000 in 1995 to 70,000+ in 2015.

Ironically I was looking for info on Global Underground – looking to see how or if Narnia was still going on, and something of a TRUE RAVE which I attended 90-94, before moving to SF…. And of course hitting Burning Man 95-02… However I have news for you in the context of BM and raves… And not the stuff you can copy out of wiki..

Burning mans ‘community’ was, and IS rather anti-raver… They are just not openly hostile any longer – yes you heard me – hostile!

Let me explain the experience this stems from. I first heard of BM in San Diego in 94, with some irony at Narnia a much different ‘music based’ event. Much of my set, after finding that I was headed to SF decided to hit ‘The Man’, and we did. As I had an inordinate amount of time off that day and age, I volunteered and went early. (As I did following as well for a number of years.)

Anyway, a little correction of view and history is in order. And I’ll provide that for you here. In ’95 and years prior, were just tagging along, to the “Art Festival” that is BM, 95 being a clear demarcation of that. With two clear and distinct camps seperate and litteraly 2 miles away from each other. I’ll explain, upon arrival in 95 I got early and full access as a volunteer, as well as insight in the controversy of the time. The ‘Art crowd – Organizers’ were sick of the noise, and relagated “Rave Camp” to be at a distance, with a connecting road, and was seperately organized and paid for by an asphalt paving company to boot.

This distance proved FATAL, as a couple were run down in their tent along the ‘road’ I planted flags to demark. These were deaths #2&3 of 3 that year. (The other being vehicular suicide of sorts.) In response, driving, apart from art cars was banned the year following in 96. Also of interest in this context. [Clarification: 3 people were critically injured, 1 person died from vehicle accidents before the gates opened in 1996]

96, came no cars, and with it, NO RAVE CAMP! And a full blown discouragement of the rave community to attend by the BM authorities that be to this day. Find a ticket and map for that year, and you’ll find the typical desert death disclaimer on the back and with the hand outs, and also an interesting RULE, the first of many. “No sound systems over 100 watts allowed” yes you heard me! Where did 100 watts come from? – it was the biggest boom box you could find… Generators were also not encouraged, and a “centralized power system” would be provided for the limited center camps. (I have a unique perspective here as well…)

In 95 through 97, I volunteered with the guy running the generators in the BM base camp, which was very similar to what I did in the Marine Corps. (Yes, I was a Raver Marine – put your finger on that – try…) Anyway, on arrival in 96, the animosity was high, most of the art community was pleased with no rave camp & sound policies, thinking they could finally get some sleep…. I kid you not! HOWEVER – there were a lot of familiar faces from Rave Camp from the year previous and I got to know them much better this year as they were trying to fit into the new BM mold. And here’s why. I was the guy going camp to camp to find out your ‘power needs’ and drag the cables to many of them. “Hey how many amps you need?” And this is when the REVOLUTION began! And likely the only reason BM survived and grew! 95 was TOO BIG TOO LOUD TOO DANGEROUS! 96 was to be smaller quieter – but more people showed up…. To include a lot of ravers upset about what they helped build shunning them. 1/2 of the base camps requested 50A to 100A. And of those, almost all had HIDDEN DJ BOOTHS AND SPEAKERS IN GIANT PAPER MACHE ART! 10-20 THOUSAND watt systems. Right in the middle of the main camp.

In the few days prior to the first official night, the running joke was ‘don’t call the cops, my boom box is over 100w’. The first official night – THE SOUND CAME ON! AND IT WAS AWESOME!

You don’t have ME to thank for still referring to Burning Man as a “Rave” I was just a cog in a wider revolt that I did not even know was happening until I was trusted to help in the effort in an exchange of winks and nudges. An enabler…

But it was then, that the “Art Festival” known as Burning Man, embraced the chaos and the Rave community that helped make the event what it was at the time. (IMO it’s not what it used to be, and maybe that’s good too – different topic)

[Source: Burners.Me]

Burning Man flyer advertising DJs, 1998

Burning Man flyer advertising DJs, 1998

bm flyer 1999

Burning Man flyer advertising DJs, 1999

In 1998 Burning Man was described as “the ultimate meta-rave”. This year saw the integration of EDM and big art burns, with 2000 people at the Temple of Rudra (yes, they had Temples there before David Best’s first one). BMOrg shut it down on the first night, pulling the plug from the generator:

In 1998, a community sound system featuring New York’s Blackkat collective, The Army of Love, SPaZ and Arcane was unpacked on the playa. Holding their own desert dance gatherings over the previous five years in the Mojave, Moontribe also set up that year, with artists performing for three consecutive nights next to The Temple of Rudra, with the final party drawing 2000 people following Pepe Ozan’s opera. Symptomatic of the ongoing tensions, as Ozan apparently neglected to inform the Burning Man organization about his deal with Moontribe (they were providing the soundcheck for his opera), the event’s unique peace keepers, the Black Rock Rangers, unplugged the generator at dawn on the first night. With the all-too-familiar experience of having “Rangers” shut them down, Moontribe’s Treavor successfully pushed for an agreement for an all-night party after the opera on the Friday night, which also happened to be a full moon. According to Treavor, with himself, Petey and Matthew Magic performing: “we kicked in with some full on Psy Trance/Techno madness and tons of people came over and stayed in front of our system until around noon when it was about 110 degrees and time to end”

The anti-raver sentiment went beyond just BMOrg and the Rangers.

That known DJs were being targeted by Burning Man organisers was a circumstance endured by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), who was apparently pursued on the playa by “Pipi Longstocking” in the mid 1990s. But the tension between ravers and Burners seems to have been appropriately dramatized in a performance which saw a standoff between Goa Gil and a giant peddle-powered flamethrowing drill and Margerita maker called the Veg-O-Matic of the Apocalypse—or, more to the point, anti-rave crusader Jim Mason who was peddling the beast. Mason’s Veg-O-Matic is described by Robert Gelman in his article Trial by Fire: “It’s straight out of hell, suggesting engineering from the industrial revolution transported to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Part vehicle, part flame-thrower, part earth drilling device, I envision this machine being used to battle creatures in a 1950s monster movie, or to torture souls of the damned in the realm of satan”. With a pressurized gas-charger spurting flames as far as seventy feet from its barrel, and a gathering mob inciting it to greater acts of destruction, the Veg-O-Matic was known to burn installations in its path following the demise of the Man. On its post-Burn rampage, when the Veg-O-Matic rolled into the first Community Dance camp in 1997, Mason found Goa Gil directly in his path:

The crew of the machine is tilting the flamethrower’s barrel up at the console. Gil is staring down the 12-foot barrel of this jet powered char-broiler. I had to remind myself that this is theatre, or is it? I’m still not sure. “Burn it!” the mob chants, “Burn THEM!” Like an opposing pacifist army, the ravers are standing their ground, some shouting in defiance of the threat, some in disbelief that this could really be happening. Chicken John, like the demented circus ringmaster that he is, issues his now-familiar warning over the bullhorn [“Stand Aside”]. We seem to have travelled back centuries in time. I don’t remember ever feeling farther from home than this.

Ravers have been far more effective at bringing Burning Man culture back into the Default world than any other group. What have the hippies done to spread our culture, other than a few panel discussions?

The spirit of Burning Man is raised throughout the year in San Francisco at events such as the pre-Burn Flambé Lounge, the annual Decompression Street Fair, the How Weird Street Faire, the Sea of Dreams New Year’s Eve events and numerous sound art camp fundraising events held between May and August every year. The Decompression events have become hugely popular multi-area dance parties, and attracting many who’ve never been to Burning Man. The San Francisco “Heat the Street Faire” Decompression party is a reprise of the Burn held on 8 city blocks two months after the event.

[Source: Edgecentral]

So EDM has been at Burning Man pretty much as long as there’s been a Burning Man. This is nothing new. It hasn’t turned into Coachella or Glastonbury in 23 years, so why are people suddenly afraid that it’s going to now?

edm artistSurely a bigger problem is the miraculously consistent quota of 40% Virgins – every year it just gets harder and harder for Veteran Burners to get tickets, and more safari tourists come. BMOrg is trying to blame EDM for this, but we had EDM 20 years ago. What we didn’t have back then was a Ruling Group determined to promote themselves in the mainstream media: The Simpsons, Wall Street Journal, New York Times,  Inc, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fast Company, Town and Country, Bloomberg, CNN, CNBC, PBS, the New Yorker, airline in-flight magazines – not to mention all the celebrities and politicians encouraged to name-drop Burning Man and give media interviews from the Playa. I think if anyone is to be blamed for ticket scarcity, it should be the promoters who did this massive PR push into Default society so they could sell more tickets at higher prices – not ravers, who have been gifting awesome experiences at Burning Man on their own dime over the past 3 decades.

If ravers were there 10 years ago, and not creating huge amounts of MOOP ; and they were there 20 years ago, and not creating huge amounts of MOOP – then it is false to blame ravers now for MOOP. What else has changed, over all those years that EDM has been at Burning Man? Perhaps the entitled attitude of the Millenial generation who think they’re making the world a better place just by being in it is more of a factor.

The philosophy that has been promoted by the official propaganda channels in the past week is that if someone sees Burning Man on The Simpsons on FOX and wants to visit once to have a drug experience like Marge, they are a good person and coming for the right reasons; but if someone sees that Lovefingers is going to be on the Mayan Warrior on the art car’s Facebook page and wants to go because they like that DJ, that is a bad person and we don’t want them at our festival. Which isn’t a festival.

You can’t have this AND Radical Inclusion.

See also: Ranting and Raving

138 comments on “The Techno Ghetto – the History of Dance Music at Burning Man

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  21. Reblogged this on Terry Gotham and commented:

    It’s a lot bigger than diplo & Robot Heart. Trust that the intolerance of electronic dance music by the older universe at BM is the same level of shit you get from a techno head in his late 30’s when you talk about chillstep.

    The cycle continues.

  22. Thanks for the historical view. Love to have Michael Gosney weigh in on this.

    Yes, there has always been EDM at Burning Man. And yes, there have always been hostilities. In the early days the “raves” were events, not spontaneous throw downs.

    We are having these issues specifically because Burning Man is NOT a music festival. If it were a music festival so called “rouge stages” would be banned. Those that attempt it are shut down. (Check out LIB)

    What music festival would allow an arbitrary radiator to wander. Really?

    In 2002 I brought a pair of Mackey 1532s (1,300W ea) to our Esplanade stage knowing that I was reaching and prepared to moderate. As it happened Disorient was place across the 8:30 road from us with 100,000W. We, PlayaVideo, were all live acts and screenings. Talent would show up and just walk away. My RV nearly de-laminated. The following year big sound would be relocated to 10:00 and 02:00 aimed tangentially. BItter? Nawwwww…

    I offer the specious assertion that a majority of the sound systems are for the benefit of wannabees that exploit the freedom of the playa to gain the experience, confidence, to take their “craft” out into the default world. I can’t fault them for that.. I started performing again, after a 15 year hiatus to make babies, because the playa was an excellent way to put your shit out there to a non judgmental, accepting audience,

    If you want Burning Man to be an EDM fest then for fucks sake tighten this shit up like every other music festival.

    But then, Burning Man is NOT A MUSIC FESTIVAL

  23. i love the music at Burning man, its just too damn loud, especially when someone is fucking with your experience or your ability to sleep. we were parked up near the man for the burn, getting slowly hemmed in our art car, when some huge ass guy, dressed as Elvis pulls his huge ass doubledecker art TRAIN behind us with his huge ass speakers. We were listening to our own non amplified curated music that we had lovingly created for the burn, when elvis, pimp daddy pulls in , blocking our egress, with 70’s bar mitzvah/bad wedding music, music blasting as loud as it would go, painful,. when my hubbie asked him to please turn it down, he refused, so, i got out and asked, by now, we were pinned in, he ignored me, then, the Ranger asked him to turn it down, he said ‘OK”, and didnt. i went over to his machine and yelled at him for 5 minutes , DPW style,”shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up!” while he and his little honey comfortably and smugly ignored me staring out over us at the man. I took my boots off and threw them at his speakers. He pretended not to see me.I could feel the discomfort of the people riding on his car, they were noticeably bothered by his ass-holiness.We had 20 people on our car, and it was torture. I hated him, and Im not a hater,..arrogant, spoiling experiences for others is NOT cool.

      • admittedly, i AM somewhat of a raver, love faux-fur, el-wire, and deep house,! I could (and do)dance all night at the sound camps, I stay in a well known sound camp at 2 and esplanade for years, where the thump thump is my heartbeat, but i CHOOSE to stay there. conversely, when someone pulls in and you cannot escape and politely ask and are ignored, well, thats damn wrong.,Choosing to be in a sound dance camp is one thing, having another burner infect my personal experience and not being able to ‘work it out” sensibly is another. Some people feel that THEIR experience is the best one, and only one. Those of us who understand the idea of COMMUNITY, understand that we all have different likes and are kind enough to particpate in someone else’s experience.It doesnt matter wherther I like rave or not, Im not going to shove it down your throat, up your ass, or through your tent because I like it. 70’s disco shoved up my ass does make me a wee bit peevish, especially by elvis

    • May I humbly request that you not play your “non amplified curated music” near me or I’ll be forced to throw my socks at your non-amplifiers. And I hope the rest of you tens of thousands of burners are listening… you best start to behave exactly the way I want you too on burn night as well, because, well… I have lots of shoes and socks!!!!

    • First Camp can afford their own sound meters, I think. 🙂 Maybe I’ll gift them a view of my bare, hairy ass.

      • Their choice of 90 dBA appears to be an under-informed textbook decision. I suspect that there are not enough people who have a feel for SPLs. Gifting a $30 SLM would invite them to play with it to see what’s what, maybe put it in the hands of people who have not had a chance.

        Most of my work has been at the other end of the sound spectrum, NCs and such, looking to make things quiet. When I pulled out my old SLM yesterday, I took those readings without consulting the references about permissible limits, only looing for the 90 dBA threshold. My ad-hoc observations, sitting at my desk, playing with the meter, were within 4 dB of what the various references described for conversation, and such, and maximum tolerable level of 85 dBA.

        Would be nice if the BOrg were making decisions based on measurements.

  24. Thank you for this run-down. So now it is clear that Burning Man has never been a music festival and the policy has been to limit the impact of non-participatory music camps from the beginning. I think that should settle the argument and stop the bitching from the sound cars that feel they are being oppressed. I assume they will honor the spirit of Burning Man, stop promoting their lineups and paying DJs so we can get back to the balance achieved in previous years.

    Thank you. This article was a public service.

    • Not a single camp or car has been been accused of paying Djs. Trumpeting this over and over again does not make it true. There are dozens if not hundreds of non-music artists who make their living by building burning man projects then selling them after. Believe, steampunk treehouse, flaming lotus girls and hudzo european tour, marco cochran and more. Rockstar librarian wants $5000 just to print out a schedule, now thats some profiteering!

      • As long as all the sound cars and sound camps agree to not pay DJs and not advertise their lineups, I am happy. I am also happy with whatever people do with their art, including music, after the event as long as they aren’t advertising it on playa.

        • That’s key for me, too. I think artists and DJs absolutely should be able to make money from the work they bring to the playa, ONLY after the event, and not using the Burning Man name. DJs should not be paid to come to the playa, just as artists should not be paid to come to the playa. I’d even go so far to agree that the BMORG could direct some Honorarium funds to sound camps/cars to help cover build costs. But before and during the event, nothing should be advertised and services should not be compensated monetarily.

        • What does the first line of that story say?

          “At burning man the music is free”. The whole story is about what these guys charge outside of Burning Man. Stop coming here to spread lies.

          • What’s the second line of that story say “That’s because someone else paid to gift that to you”. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that you yourself had paid for a DJ to appear. Paid DJs are not gifting their art to BM. Those paying the DJs are not gifting their art to BM, because it isn’t their art. They are disrespecting the community and commercializing the event. There are plenty of DJs that will play for free. Those are the ones who are gifting.

          • To amplify Pooh’s point: burners should not come to BRC to do their day job. Their activity should be something entirely new and different. And that’s why LE and BLM cannot be burners, at least when they are (or act as) on-duty. That’s also why the guys who drive the pumper, water and diesel fuel trucks are not burners, even if they were to volunteer their time for that task. No discovery. Nothing new.

          • If I’m wrong and you agree that no DJs should be paid to appear at Burning Man, I am sorry. You should really publish an article explaining that to the EDM/raver community.

          • Because you were wrong, I need to drop what I’m doing and write an article. Yeah right. How about you write an article for a change?

          • Interesting way to avoid answering the implied question(s), so I’ll ask it straight out. Do you think it is alright for DJs to be paid to appear at Burning Man? Are you aware of any cases where DJs have been paid to appear at Burning Man?

          • I don’t care if djs are Sherpas or vice versa. There are now thousands of paid workers at burning man, you should blame the Board for that not EDM. To answer your second question, absolutely not. Are you?

          • Well we all agree that paid sherpas are an abomination and should be banned don’t we. If DJs fall into that category, they should be banned, right? So you agree paid DJs should be banned…am i getting this right…because that’s what it sounds like you are saying and I think that’s great.

            I assume you think if someone who is giving up months of their life to live in a difficult environment, putting together the infrastructure, they should be compensated.

          • If someone’s gift is to bring Juno Reactor, I’m going to gratefully accept the gift, not ask how much it cost and where all the money went. I never said Sherpas should be banned. I’ve always said it’s too late to stop this so we might as well just embrace it. We should focus on more blatant Decommodification problems like Fest300 making commercials at Burning Man, and the high end plug and play camps getting tickets.

          • BTW as far as I know there are now dozens of people who get paid to produce Burning Man. Not thousands.

          • “If someone’s gift is to bring Juno Reactor, I’m going to gratefully accept the gift, not ask how much it cost and where all the money went. I never said Sherpas should be banned. I’ve always said it’s too late to stop this so we might as well just embrace it. We should focus on more blatant Decommodification problems like Fest300 making commercials at Burning Man, and the high end plug and play camps getting tickets.”

            I don’t ask either, but I hope everything was done in the spirit of decommodification. I totally agree that Fest300 and plug and play tickets are big problems, but in many ways, more isolated instances than the broader commodification going on within the burner community.

          • So to make it clear, Burnersxxx is for the comodification of Burning Man through paying DJs.

          • “If someone’s gift is to bring Juno Reactor, I’m going to gratefully accept the gift, not ask how much it cost and where all the money went.” This is the most hilarious thing you’ve ever posted, because when it comes to the org, all you ever do is ask “how much does it cost and where is the money going”. Hypocrite much?

          • The org gifts us nothing. They are a registered 501(c)3 non-profit, taking in $34 million a year in ticket revenues, and asking us to donate further. They are telling us they’re transparent, while hiding their accounts. It’s not even remotely the same thing.

            Are you saying that if someone gives you a gift, you DO ask them how much it cost?

            And only a fool would try to twist all of my words into “burnersxxx says DJs should be paid to go to Burning Man!” What is this, junior high?

          • You have the opportunity to say DJs should not be paid to go to Burning Man. I’m not asking you to be DJ police. I’m just asking you to be clear about your position. I think if you came right out and said paying DJs is against the principles and spirit of Burning Man it would be important, because you are a strong proponent of the EDM/Rave community. I think you are trying every way you can not to say it because either A. You don’t believe it. B. You know full well DJs are being paid, or C. You are afraid your EDM fans will get mad at you because they don’t believe it.

          • “Are you saying that if someone gives you a gift, you DO ask them how much it cost?” No I’m saying if someone gives me a gift and it erodes my community, it really wasn’t much of a gift.

          • Wrong…a perfectly good 501(c)3 could spend 100% of their money on overhead, like, say, building a temporary city. A bad charity would spend 90% of their money on overhead, but most 501(c)3s aren’t charities.

          • The city gets built by people under the direction of an LLC which exists entirely within the non-profit. Typical misdirection. So back to my original question. Do you think paying DJs is against the spirit of Burning Man or not?

          • It was against the spirit of Burning Man 1.0. However we are now in Burning Man 2.0. Compared to the Decommodification violations we’ve seen from the top, it would be pretty minor. Like I said, equivalent of sherpas or artist crews getting paid. I have no problem with this, since it has always happened. Define pay anyway – “you can stay in my RV”, is that pay? “You can ride with me on my plane”, is that pay? “I will get you your flight on my frequent flier miles”, is that pay? “Here’s a wristband for our camp meal plan”, is that pay? “You can stay in our camp but you don’t have to pay the camp dues because someone else gifted them to you”, is that pay?

            Where do you draw the line? – common question
            Do you think DJs should be paid to go to Burning Man? – no
            Do you think DJs ever got paid to go to Burning Man? – it’s possible, but I never heard of that
            Would you care if they did? – no, no more than I care if the Man Crew got paid.

          • No burner should get paid to do their default world job on the playa, because, by definition, you are making the playa the default world. That is not the only rule, but it is the most obvious for the DJ issue.

            If you are coming on playa to do your default world job it should be something that is required (sanitation, dust control, diesel fuel, licensed safe construction machinery operation), you should not be ticketed (not a burner), and you should leave as soon as your job is done. You must not be intoxicated at any time you are there, and you must not promote the company that pays you.

          • As for the payment/barter thing, the person receiving compensation should, again, not be doing their default world job; otherwise, it is just a barter exchange. In fact, I would bet that the IRS would agree with me, and you would need to declare the FMV of your “gifts” as taxable income along with other income from your job.

          • So to be clear, Burnersxxx is totally for the commodification of Burning Man. I assume that means he won’t be writing any more articles on BM finances since, in his mind, from what I can tell, all things are permitted. Granted, Burning Man 2.0 is a figment of his imagination, so the rest of us can continue to protect the integrity of our community.

          • What you are talking about is gibberish. You are just making up your own ideas about what you want me to say, no matter how clearly I try to re-write it for you. Once again, I give up with you, I’m not playing your little troll games any more. I note that you’re still here doing it though, even after your hissy fit a month ago that you got banned – more lies from you.

          • I’m sorry if I’m misunderstanding your position. I thought it was a pretty straight forward question. Is paying DJs okay or not. What I understood you to say is, it’s fine now because we are in BM 2.0 and commodification no longer matters. What did I get wrong?

  25. It’s good to see the history written down. Especially those early SPAZ camps and that veg-o-matic episode. Despite being a producer/DJ myself I honestly regret that “we” have overstepped. Burning Man itself seems to have (barely) survived EDM, but most the spin-off festivals are little more than sound systems + some wacky costuming. The core DIY/libertarian/cacophany spirit lost in the dust… but then maybe it has more to do with massification and less to do with beats.

  26. Great article, I’ll add that some friends of mine and I threw an ‘official’ rave fundraiser for Burning Man in 1996, with the full knowledge and consent of Larry and Marian, we named it as a fundraiser for Burning Man presented by our 1995 camp name THETA. It was a rave, to my knowledge possibly the last one that lasted all night at the old Acme Warehouse spot SOMA, DJs included DJ Alex, Dutch, Thomas Trouble and more.
    The funds raised were donated to Terbo Ted to help with infrastructure ‘ flag road markings’ at the Techno Ghetto / Rave Camp.
    That year I was based at main camp as we also built an interactive art piece (Chapel Perilous) and had a theme camp too, it was my second year and I was one of those overzealous burners who worked year round after my first burn for that second burn.
    At ‘main camp’, while setting up we encountered talk and even threats from gun toting theme camp builders about those ‘city slicker ravers’ and found ourselves holding our tongues at times out of fear of being shot or otherwise accosted.

    As someone who continues to DJ and support sound camps and also has experienced Burning Man for 21 years, I find it abhorrent that the organization still refuses to acknowledge the positive contribution of these camps have on the broader community, attendees at BM and the incredible art (self funded) and community it builds on the playa.

  27. MOOP was not fine 10 years ago and it was not fine 20 years ago and it is certainly not fine now. I don’t care what the rave camps do for fun. My problem with them is pooping on the Playa, trashing the Playa and ignoring basic courtesy toward their neighbors. It’s not an issue of Radical Inclusion, it’s Common Courtesy and personal responsibility.

      • The Moop Map and the law of gravity. …Unless you want to say that it was an ad-hoc conspiracy of burners making the trek to the sound camps to dump their moop. A pretty inconvenient conspiracy. The CCamps make a better moop target.

        Nope, the Moop Map does not lie: there is a correlation between the sound camps and moop, IN SPITE of their extraordinary cleanup effort they cited here. That does not mean that the majority of ravers moop; instead, it means that the majority of moopers are ravers.

          • Do you have any evidence to support that? The most time I have spent at a rave camp was 20 minutes because that hot blond who was with me wanted to – then I left her there.

            Your stats need to tally the people and people-hours, as I suspect that the number of people-hours may be high, but the number of different people is much smaller. And the virgins, your favorite people, may only know how to engage a rave setting, not the Burning Man experience, so they spend most of their time at the sound camps to stay in their comfort zone. That means they don’t get exposed to the variety of burners, just the raver variety, who cannot converse with them in an ambient sound level of 90 dBA.

          • Sounds camps absolutely have the biggest crowds in BRC. I wouldn’t the majority of burners go, but maybe up to 40% (hmm, where else have I seen that percentage?). It’s not possible for members of those camps to effectively de-MOOP if a large enough percentage of people going to sound camps aren’t taking care of their shit. Bad MOOP levels threaten the existence of the event based on BLM permitting stipulations. So, what to be done? Maybe make the dance events smaller by regulating sound levels? Seems fair to me.

          • I’m fairly certain MOOP levels in the DMZ will be abysmal. I wouldn’t be surprised if during the event, it gets shut down due to MOOP levels. But you know, that ain’t my fault. It’s people coming to Burning Man for the first or second time who are used to EDM festivals where kids high on molly leave their shit wherever they please. And what is bringing those people to Burning Man? It ain’t the interactive science camp, unfortunately.

        • Perhaps this is the setup. Dmz is created. 30,000 people go there. MOOP is atrocious because it’s miles from camp. Ravers get blamed. Ravers get banned.

          • Finger crossed. Ha, not really. But, that is very possible. If it does happen, why shouldn’t those who are attending the dance parties in the DMZ get blamed? Just because it’s far from camp? That’s bullshit.

          • “MOOP is atrocious because it’s miles from camp.” WRONG! Your logic presumes there are waste cans “at camp.” Most burners travel “miles from their camp,” and plan accordingly, usually with a moop bag in their day pack, to transfer to the big garbage bags at camp.

            You know who is NOT prepared to LNT? Virgins and the ravers that don’t care.

          • And it’s not “raver getting blamed.” It’s people attending the dance parties getting blamed, whoever they are. If it’s the majority of burners, then THAT’S who’s getting blamed, but the fact remains it’s happening around the sound camps and cars. So the only practical thing to do to remedy this is to direct policy at the sound camps/cars. It’s unfortunate, perhaps, but if indeed the majority of burners go to sound camps, then maybe these restrictions will resonate with them and the majority of burners will be more mindful of their MOOP. That’s a good thing.

          • The sound camp-to-moop correlation has been established. The most direct solution is to reduce the sound camps, regardless of whatever causal theories are presented. Even if there is conservation of moop – that is, the amount of the moop is the same just distributed differently – concentrated moop is worse for the playa ecology than more dispersed moop. Solution: attenuate the sound camps.

          • We’ll see if creating an unmarked zone far out on deep playa will reduce MOOP. At least no one can be blamed for it if it’s not at their camp, so in that sense it probably helps the Level 3 crews

          • ” At least no one can be blamed for it if it’s not at their camp.” What? The sound camps will be blamed for DMZ moop. I thought that was what you were complaining about. Or will you postulate in September that moop in the DMZ is not the fault of the mobile sound camps that were there because they were not “camped” there?

          • Meant to post this here:

            I’m fairly certain MOOP levels in the DMZ will be abysmal. I wouldn’t be surprised if during the event, it gets shut down due to MOOP levels. But you know, that ain’t my fault. It’s people coming to Burning Man for the first or second time who are used to EDM festivals where kids high on molly leave their shit wherever they please. And what is bringing those people to Burning Man? It ain’t the interactive science camp, unfortunately.

          • Oh no! All the people will be at the DMZ, and BRC will be empty – tumbleweeds and all. No one to see our camps and cars. I suppose we will just have to trek out to the DMZ where all the action is to get some attention and hearing loss.

            Be sure to bring your moop so you can dump it there.

          • Which mainstream media campaigns? The Simpsons? The cat was already out of the bag by then. From what I can tell, the millions of views that “homemade” videos like Oh The Place You’ll Go!, featuring fit young things and EDM as the soundtrack, in addition to all the marketing that recent DJs have done, have made a larger impact on the Burning Man image in the mainstream, than that Taco Bell commercial and whatnot.

          • “No it’s the mainstream media marketing campaigns.”

            So let’s see… it’s not the fault of the ravers, or the sound camps, but is the fault of the media? *I* think it is the fault of gravity – if gravity were weaker, then EDM-life would not have evolved on this planet, if the planet had formed at all.

  28. I love burning man and i enjoy my share of music festivals. BM is really the only ART festival of it’s kind. There are 1000’s of music festivals.. If we do not fight back a little against the music, BM will just become one more of those 1000’s of music festival.. So please help save the Art Festival! There nothing else like it.

  29. It doesn’t matter to me whether DJs used to be promoted at Burning Man other than as an interesting factoid, I’m glad they no longer are. And not out of hatred of the EDM scene, but because I love the fact that I don’t think for a second about who DJing or who created that art piece. For a week, these things just appear and disappear, and that otherworldly and ephemeral feeling is paramount to the Burning Man experience, in my opinion. I wasn’t trumpeting my name when I spent 100% of my savings on a damn art car, because building an art car isn’t my main gig. Doing your main gig at Burning Man is kinda missing the point, anyway.

  30. Interesting history. I guess the conflict is intractable. Is the BMORG Israel and the ravers the PLO in the scenario?

    • Which ever side you think is being persecuted the most, that is the side we should assign to the ravers (actually just the whiny bros and douchbags), because they love to feel persecuted. “I can’t ruin your experience of the art and shit on the ground? STOP OPPRESSING ME!!!”.

      • The side using air strikes to drop excrement on the other and threatening violence and destruction with knives and flame throwers is the oppressor. The pacifist resistance is the oppressed.

        • So the air strikes would be the missiles from Hamas, threatening violence, and the Israelis are passive…. Did I get that right?

          Wait, how about the people who are occupying the other’s property for their own use without their consent. Lemme see…. which side would that be?

          • Yes there is. Some camps are placed, others are simply occupied parts of Open Camping. You see all the camps claimed by spreading out gear. You are being an idiot.

            That is the property – my camp – whose acoustic environment is being commandeered by a sound car without my permission. Sounds cars should create no more than 60 dBA – conversation noise level – at any camp for more than the time it takes to pass, maybe 5 minutes. That at least lets you shout to be heard, if only for safety reasons: “Hey, Burnersxxx, your pants have caught fire!” If you give them 70 or 85 dBA, the verbal communication environment has been commandeered for the pleasure and amusement of the sound car, without permission.

          • I’m definitely not objecting to the 3 SPL levels. In fact, it seems that they clarified their policy in response to our criticism – which I commend BMOrg for. Likewise this Loud Car Naughty Step they’re calling the DMZ was my idea also. I am simply objecting to the anti-raver sentiment, which in my opinion is AGAINST BURNING MAN.

          • You “object to the anti-raver sentiment?” WTF!? How are you/we going to “fix” that?

            Tell you what, bring it up at the next staff meeting, and we can pursue with HR about getting rid of those who won’t buy into the approved group-think. When you bring it up, be sure to point out that you are Burnier than them. I suggest that you exclude your desire to commercialize the entertainment.

          • When there weren’t so many loud cars, the occasional one was fun. I remember being awoken from my tent by a particularly loud car one early morning, and as I poked my head out, they all applauded. I couldn’t help but laugh. But now that they’re a dime a dozen, sadly they need some regulating.

          • I don’t think it’s anti-raver to be addressing actual issues related to sound camps/cars. In fact, the BMORG is being as respectful and mild as possible while also still moving to address the things brought up in the BLM letter threatening the permit. And the fact that most if not all of the original group of burners never did like dance music and didn’t bend over backwards to accommodate sound camps doesn’t mean anyone is being anti-raver. Most people don’t like the constant (CONSTANT) EDM on the playa, and have only tolerated until recently, when it’s gone way fucking overboard.

          • “We’re not anti-raver. We just refuse to tolerate EDM any more. I see.”

            No, not at all. Many people who enjoy EDM music (like me) also see the need for some regulation as sound levels, number of cars/camps and the sheer ubiquity of EDM music threaten to fundamentally change the nature of Burning Man towards something more commonplace. And I wrote that people have only tolerated the constant EDM music, not EDM itself. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone objecting to, say, Pink Mammoth, or the occasional loud sound car.

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