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]

Play)A(Skool Co-Founder Found GUILTY, Faces 32 Years

In 2017 we brought you the news that Play)A(Skool co-founder Scott Pack had been arrested in Colorado.

Founder of Play)A(Skool Indicted After Major Drug Trafficking Bust

The case is now complete, and the verdict is GUILTY on 6 felony counts.

Source: Westword

From CBS Denver:

Scott Pack, 41, was convicted of six felonies — two counts of pattern of racketeering and conspiracy (under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act), a first-class drug felony, conspiracy to cultivate marijuana, and two counts of securities fraud.

Pack, who now lives in California, faces up to 32 years in prison. He scheduled for sentencing on April 6.

According to Brauchler’s office, Pack was at the top of the business, Harmony & Green. Although it was a legally licensed marijuana business, Harmony & Green never produced any marijuana that was legally sold, never reported legal marijuana sales, and never paid marijuana-related taxes.

Pack also sought and obtained millions of dollars from investors to back the operation. Prosecutors called it a scam.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Darcy Kofol said, “This defendant thought he could avoid prosecution by having subordinates do all the dirty work. He thought he left no trail. He told them, ‘If anything happens to you, I have the money to hire the attorneys. So none of this can touch me’. He was wrong.”

The ring allegedly shipped pot to Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri.

Among the others charged as a result of the investigation is Renee Rayton, a former Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Pack allegedly hired Rayton away from her position with the state‘s marijuana enforcement team where her responsibilities included inspecting marijuana warehouses for compliance.


The story at Westword has some further details about the operation:

 Investigators discovered 845 marijuana plants weighing 2,535 pounds worth more than $5 million...the beginning of an investigation that uncovered a major drug trafficking organization…illegally cultivating, processing and distributing marijuana and marijuana products to at least five states. The DTO [drug-trafficking organization] produced well over 300 pounds of marijuana each month at sites in Denver, Elizabeth and Colorado Springs. The distribution was arranged and executed throughout Arapahoe, Douglas and Elbert counties, and other locations along the Front Range.”

Read the full story at Westword.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 9 2020.

Pack is on the right. Image: 9news.com

Submission to NZ Venture Capital Fund Bill

Today I was invited by the New Zealand Parliament to address their Finance and Expenditure Committee about my submission to the 2019 Venture Capital Fund Bill.

Here’s my submission:

Steve-Outtrim-Sep-2019-Submission-to-the-Venture-Capital-Fund-Bill

There were a dozen submissions in total. I was pleased to see the Ākina Foundation calling for many of the same things as me.

Here is their submission:

Akina-Foundation

New Zealand is punching above its weight when it comes to innovation but we still have a long way to go to be a worthy competitor to Silicon Valley. I hope the Committee listens to my recommendations and uses this opportunity to massively accelerate Kiwi entrepreneurship.


I’ve received some good feedback about my presentation to Parliament. People can’t believe how bored the politicians looked. I was the last speaker of the day, at the end of a 2 hour+ session, so they probably wanted to wrap it up. I was pleased that the Chair Dr Deborah Russell acknowledged and supported my point on inclusiveness.

The following submission was sent in by John Holt, who founded the Kiwi Landing Pad which has helped more than 6000 New Zealanders launch their businesses in San Francisco and elsewhere. I agree with everything he’s saying, he has some great ideas about metrics.

Submission_-Policy-Statement-on-the-Venture-Capital-Fund-Act-September-20th-2019