BMorg Finally Wakes Up To Culture Disaster: Is It Too Late?

Image: Business Insider, 2015

Ticket prices have gone up to $1400.

To distract us from that, there’s a huge blog post by Burning Man’s CEO Marian Goodell Cultural Course Correcting saying that after listening to several thousand people’s responses to a survey, they’ve learned that some Burners have concerns that Principles like “Radical Self Reliance” seem to be getting left by the wayside as the event catapults to celebrity superstardom.

As CEO of the nonprofit Burning Man Project, I do a lot of listening. People enthusiastically share their Burning Man experiences, ideas, and concerns with me. Lately, participants have been talking about some alarming changes in the culture of Burning Man in Black Rock City, and their speculation as to who and what is causing them…

After Black Rock City 2018, our Communications Team compiled examples of commodification and exploitation of Black Rock City and Burning Man culture. The report is 55 pages long. We’ve been observing some troubling trends for a few years, but this report stunned me.  

We have been sounding the culture alarm here for 7 years now, and so have many other Burners. Finally that message has filtered its way through the self-absorbed BMorg holocracy to the people at the top.

The solution? Keep VIP tickets, but increase their price even further, to $1400. Reduce the number of low-income tickets. Only offer 23,000 tickets (less than 1 in 3) to the general public, while beefing up the Directed Group Sale World’s Biggest Guest List to more than half the total tickets.

Here’s the 2019 ticket distribution.

Even with the price increase and all taxes and fees, it doesn’t get up to last year’s event revenue. Seems to be millions of dollars of stuff that’s not ice or coffee being sold out there, either that or thousands more tickets.

Note that every number is “approximately” and they have now admitted they oversell the festival by perhaps 7,000 tickets a year. So how “approximate” the limitation of 4000 VIP tickets is may never be known: seriously, the government is redacting that information in response to FOIA requests. How many VIP tickets Burning Man sells is a state secret…ponder that.

The camp “Humano” was named and shamed as having too much money and too many women who were both good looking and bored looking at the same time. Tickets to their hotel rooms were going for up to $100,000, and allegedly came with entertainment.

They had the classic “fortress camp” layout, that would have stood out like a sore thumb at Burning Man 1998.

Read the full story at Mashable

A lengthy Reddit thread devoted to Humano features various camp neighbors accusing them of “ruining multiple blocks” with MOOP and leaving trailers in areas zoned for other camps. There are also allegations that Humano’s packages were priced to include the companionship of multiple female models

Mashable was also shown unmet requests for refunds from Humano attendees who paid upwards of $130,000 for a stay in a luxury RV and didn’t get what they bargained for. 

And all this may be just the tip of the iceberg of bad camps. “There are a dozen other camps that have been sent warnings,” Goodell wrote. 

[Source: Mashable]

Burning Man Board members Jim Tananbaum and Chip Conley have previously attracted scrutiny and criticism for their opulent, exclusive, multi-million dollar luxury camps.

See this inside look at a Fancy Camp from 2015.

The #HumanoTheTribe Instagram hashtag sure has some purdy ladies. Maybe banning them is not such a smart idea. If these Instagram models are using Burning Man to promote a product, it’s hard to tell what that is because they’re not wearing very much of anything. I can’t see any brand names. I say comp them all VIP tickets. These pictures explain why Burning Man tickets are worth $1400 more than Marian’s blog post did.

11 comments on “BMorg Finally Wakes Up To Culture Disaster: Is It Too Late?

  1. “These pictures explain why Burning Man tickets are worth $1400 more than Marian’s blog post did.”


    I think some of the measures the BMORG is taking are a step in the right direction, but releasing only 23,000 tickets in the main sale is nuts.

  2. I’m a fan of Humano and their obsessively designed and maintained camps expanded my consciousness in regards to what is possible out there. I made a number of good friends because of their efforts. A constant part of what has always made Burning Man interesting over the decades is the contagious amounts of inspiration; these people completely were tied into that feeling, yet now we are supposed to think they are bad for how they played with that magic in a contemporary manner. Humano put their blood, sweat and tears into the festival too.

    Larry apparently missed the 11th Principle: “Conform or be Ostracized”. It’s clear that there is abundant misinformation going around slandering these people by this point. They did have a green MOOP map last I checked! The “Burnier than Thou” hypocrisy is such a vibe crusher. I don’t want to go this year.

    If there’s any consolation for the Humano organizers, it’s that they are now an important part of Burner history. There’s been a long string of people who ‘ruined Burning Man’ and I myself am way up that list for my role in bringing dance music out there in the early/mid 90s. So congratulations to Humano for ruining it, it’s harder than ever to do at this point.

    • I’m a fan of anyone or any group that can cause burners butthurt. The predominant ideology on the playa is liberal/progressive. They can’t stand the 1%, and blame them all for the 10 years they spent slacking between 20 and 30.

      They call Humano members trustfunders without any evidence, and at the same time being surrounded by (and even being) east coast (temporary) liberals – until it’s time to move home to mummy & daddy to take the nose ring out and have a white wedding. Same old story.

      Is it possible that Humano members worked hard and saved their money and felt like spending some of it to have a luxury BM experience? But I guess they ruined Christmas in the process.

      • “The predominant ideology on the playa is liberal/progressive”
        Yes. We creative/progressive/liberals are the ones who dreamed up the whole idea in the first place
        Our ideology is what created Burning Man.
        Mark Twain: “The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.”

        • A shit-ton of very creative, very influential and very early contributors to Burning Man are not politically progressive/liberal.

  3. They can’t fix the cultural problem by simply getting rid of (or somehow fixing) the plug-and-play camps. The culture shifted before those camps started showing up. The bucketlisters (I just want to ride on an art car!) and the selfie madness began about 2005. It’s 90% newbies and normies now, and the other 10% gulp down the Kool Aid.

    BMorg did this to themselves. They knew what they were doing when they mainstreamed the event. They wanted compliant, docile cows as attendees and a slave army to do the heavy lifting for them. And now they’re complaining? Just take the money and shut up.

  4. Kudos to Marian for desiring a culture change and for their awesomely penned letter, it is an excellent start.

    After a ten year drunken bender on the cash of the Plug and Plays, she was shocked at what has occurred, and she desires the cult members to shun the usual suspects. Perchance, might she have viewed your blog, burnersxxx, in the place of solely viewing ePlaya, and the Facebook groups assimilated by the Borg, whom moderate, and shun into the desert, any Burners whom do not desire to drink the Kool Aid, it might not have been a shock of that manner. At present, they desire the Burners to work for them for free, and do their biddings to gain a ticket, but, in due of they replaced the prior Burner community by the difficulty of gaining tickets, the prior Burners no longer care, and the new Burners learned from this and desire solely to attend an incredible party thrown by others.

    Kudos to Marian for taking the first step of the twelve steps, she admitted they were powerless in regards of their addiction to the cash of the Plug and Plays, and of Burning Man had become unmanageable in due of it. They took the second, and third, steps of believing in the Goddess and the Horned God, and turned towards them to restore sanity in their crazy world. But, in the place of abstinence towards their addiction to the cash of the Plug and Plays, they remain of the belief of they might manage their addiction without doing so. Numerous steps remain in their recovery.

    There is much to be queried in regards of this.

    a) Larry was in near to total control of Black Rock City in due of the Burning Man Project Bylaws states of the Executive Director is in control of the subsidiary corporations, BRC LLC, and no other board members are of the ability to interfere. Whom is the new Executive Director? Might he, or she, listen to the Burners and desire to work with the other board members?

    b) Larry was the Philosophic Director of the Project, setting the philosophic direction of Burning Man. Within 2016, Larry, and his boy apprentice, Caveat Magister, penned Burning Man Journal posts of ‘It is time to have a discussion about money’ and praised the rich Medicis of the Plug and Play camps. Whom is the new Philosophic Director, and might the prior philosophic direction be rebuked?

    c) They did not do the step five of admitted to the Goddess, the Horned God, and to the Burner community of the exact manner of their wrongs in regards of their addiction to the cash. Within 2018, the five of them, and Larrys estate, sold the valuable Burning Man ™ trademarks to their Project, but they remain hiding of the amount of cash, and other compensation, they gained in due of this sale, while they desire the artists, DPW, EDM sound camps, donors, and numerous others, to gift of their talents, labour, and cash. Might they do step five?

    d) Purposed for the shunned Plug and Play camps to not operate in the unplaced areas, might the BMOrg forbid their OSS vendors whom supply the RVs and shift pods, from permitting their RVs and shift pods to be placed in unplaced areas?

    e) What company is selling the tickets in due of Eventbright assimilated TicketFly, and they do not desire to do the bidding of the Borg?

    f) I did not state this priorly in due of numerous mates gained tickets in due of this, but, for the prior three burns, the insiders, and scalpers, gained tickets within the general sale in due of difficulties within the ticket lottery software. The Borg apologized, a little, in due of this within 2018. Might a Burner open Firefox, Chrome, and Safari on their computer, and perchance, on multiple computers, and perchance even redo the web page might the little green man be slow, they have a new chance to gain tickets with each new browser open. Might the Borg have finally fixed this difficulty within the 2019 ticket sale? There is a reason Burners whom did not know of this did not gain tickets within the general sale.

    • Great comment! I’d just like to note that ABP sat on that knowledge at the end there for quite some time, we did too.

      One thing we did point out is that hotel camps could buy basically unlimited numbers of VIP tickets. Marian has at least addressed this directly, but the proof is in the pudding. Will more than 70,000 tickets be sold? And how many of those extra tickets will be the VIP ones?

    • “If these instagram models are sponsoring a product, it’s hard tell what it is”. They are the product and their Instagram followers are the currency. They are creating content which lead to more followers which equals very real $. Lots of it.

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