Burning Man 2018 Financial Analysis

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017

2018 Burning Man Project IRS Form 990

The Burning Man juggernaut smashes on. Since they declared the business a “non-profit”, it sure has become profitable.

Commodification Camps are running rampant, and Black Rock City has become one of the world’s most sought-after selfie destinations. BMorg even has its own private airline now to bring in the “high” rollers.

Sales were $46.6 million, up $2.1m from 2017. A cash surplus after expenses of $2.6m was generated.

A record of $2.2m in grants was given out; offset by $1.75m in donations and government grants received. About a third of the grants went outside the United States.

The Org ended the year with net assets of $26.26 million. Cash at bank was $8,981,108 with additional savings and temporary cash investments of $5,468,564 – call it $14.5 million.

It’s not enough, of course: ticket prices must still be increased every year.

We predicted that top-tier tickets would be above $2000 by 2020. We’re pretty close – adding in vehicle pass, handling fees and taxes, VIP tickets that were $390 when we started this blog in 2012 are now going for $1760.86.


Financial Comparison – 2018 to 2014

The organization employed 946 people and approximately 10,000 volunteers.

They have 16 directors; 11 of those are “independent”.

In 2018 Dennis Bartels was appointed Chairman of the Board. He was formerly the director of the SF Exploratorium.

One thing that I was highly skeptical of has now come to pass, and I’m pleased to report that BMorg did the right thing:

Finally, in 2018 we completed the transfer of Burning Man’s trademarks from Decommodification LLC to Burning Man Project. These marks include “the Man” logo and the names “Burning Man” and ‘“Black Rock City,” among others. The LLC was established to temporarily protect these words and symbols of Burning Man culture, in order to limit their commercial use and comport with our Decommodification Principle, while our new nonprofit got off the ground (more info here). With the Project well-established by 2018, the trademarks transferred on schedule in April.

Source: burningman.org

Perhaps the intense scrutiny from this site helped to keep everyone honest.

BMorg are grumbling about a 2-cent per gallon water increase which would see the local town of Gerlach making $25,000 from water sales instead of $18,000.

“Unnecessarily increasing the price to consumers will drive business away,” said Burning Man Associate Director Chris Neary in a statement at a Dec. 5 meeting with the Gerlach General Improvement District, an 8-person board.

The money earned from Burning Man for water would help to pay off the loan that the town had to take out for the federally mandated water treatment facility, which cost about $1 million to construct, Jackson said. It costs another $40,000 or so each year to maintain the treatment facility, not including labor, Jackson said. 

“I thought maybe Burning Man could add $1 per ticket for Gerlach. That would be great,” said Jackson, who suggested the dollar could go toward infrastructural improvements. “But they said no.” Burning Man representatives at the December meeting said that they were grateful for Gerlach’s resources, but it seemed unfair for the expense of a municipal water system to fall on Burning Man’s nonprofit. 

Source: Reno Gazette-Journal

The hypocrisy of these people knows no bounds. “An increase in ticket price of $1 will drive consumers away”, when it comes to the local town of Gerlach that they invade every year. Yet an increase in price of hundreds of dollars over the last few years has only led to record population counts in Black Rock City, and record revenues for BMorg. $1 per ticket would be 0.17% of revenues – less than a tenth of what they spend sending their staff around the world.

The Org are also suing the Federal Government in an attempt to reduce their permit fees.

They still haven’t figured out what to do with Fly Ranch, which they acquired in 2016 for $7 million of Other Peoples’ Money. There’s a new contest for Burners to come up with ideas.


Other Statistics

Thanks very much to our Pershing County source who provided these graphs. Some of the information is available thanks to their FOIA requests.

Note: there is 2019 and even 2020 data included here. The financials above are from 2018.

Maybe a tiny slice of those bumper profits could be shared with the local communities that have to deal with the year-round consequences of this rave in the desert. You know…to make the world a better place.

[Featured image: Rene Smith]

3 comments on “Burning Man 2018 Financial Analysis

  1. Not getting info from PLPT ?
    I am assuming that you are non native.

    If you are ,non-native, yeppers. .PLPT will be quiet.
    It took 95 years to get their water rights back…..so they stay tight.

    You won’t get answers, Soveriegn Country .

    I’ll give you a direct email :. Tvsr426@gmail.com

  2. Thank You.
    Thank YOU
    THANK YOU

    Your analysis and breakdown is so so appreciated

    Burningman’s unclear P&L is at least staring to make sense thanks to you.

    Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe ( from now on referred to as: PLPT) is NOT a big winner in this Burningman event.
    Actually, PLPT, has EXTRA costs and labor because of the BM event.

    I have posts at various sources since 2013 post BM, my first year.
    All of my posts will be under DrScott.

    What Burners.me has now published is a massive amount of information
    And perhaps will turn the, “attitude tide ” towards the PLPT.
    Up till 2019, BM was “just something that happens every year”……no questions asked.
    PLPT reservation IS NOT, some unexplored territory.
    It’s home to 1800+ full-time Native Americans known as
    Pyramid Lake Paiute.
    Home of the oldest petroglyphs in the U.S. over 12,000 years old .
    So Burners, please don’t act like this is some “new moonscape” that needs to be tramppled on.
    Abuse of the ingress and egress of Tribal Lands during the 3 months of use of the NV447- NV445-NV446.
    BM is ONE week, but the highways and trespassing lasts for about 3 months.
    Be Respectful at all times, you may even learn a few things on the way

    Burners.me, thank you again for your hard work.

    There will be a camping sitea at Sutcliff,onmy wife’s property, during BM, if you like. Contact me directly.

    • I have been unsuccessful in getting information from the PLPT though not from the BIA via a FOIA. If you have relevant data please provide it. I will admit I am Pershing County centric and want factual data not BMOrg spin. Let the facts speak for themselves.

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