Burning Man 2015 By The Numbers Part 2 – Census Highlights

random number dilbert

Along with the 2015 Afterburn report, BMOrg released the results of their 2015 Census. I’ve had a chance now to go through this in a bit more detail. Some highlights:

There are a lot of dudes (60%) and it’s pretty gay (1/3rd LGBT) and pretty white (86%).
The minorities at Burning Man these days are double digit Burners (just over 5%).

“40% Virgins” is still about right, which is really still about 68.9% newbies, as only 31.1% of Burners had been to Burning Man more than twice prior to 2015 – our previous definition for Veterans. It’s up slightly from 28% the previous year, it is remarkable how these virgin and veteran percentages remain about the same, year after year. Coincidence? Random chance? Or the result of Burner profiles, ticket lotteries, and all the other socially engineered ticketing hoops Burners are forced to jump through?

 

Screenshot 2016-02-20 16.47.07Screenshot 2016-02-20 16.47.47
Screenshot 2016-02-20 17.02.52
20% of Burners are aliens, about a third of those from the biggest country, Canada
Screenshot 2016-02-20 16.49.15
Scalpers are not a problem, and STEP is not very useful.
Screenshot 2016-02-20 17.19.21
Burners are very affluent. 44.1% have an average household income of US$100,000 or more.
Screenshot 2016-02-20 16.55.22
About 7% of Burners are in the 1% – and we even have some in the 1% of 1% of 1% of 1%, the 62 people with as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the planet combined.
We’re smart, too. 77% have a college degree, 6.1% of Burners have a  degree in healing or beauty
Screenshot 2016-02-20 16.53.34
Despite the vehicle pass scheme, 10% of Burners still arrived alone. A third used a plane in their journey to Black Rock City.
Screenshot 2016-02-20 16.57.18
Although 17.9% arrived in an RV, 26.2% ended up staying in one.
Screenshot 2016-02-20 16.59.20
Only a third of those RVs got pumped – incredibly disappointing, given the amount of money being spent across Black Rock City on site services – and BMOrg’s intervention to make it hard for camps to make their own deals with vendors of their choice.
35.9% had access to some form of renewable energy – iPhone charging, perhaps?

69.7% of Burners were connected to electricity from generators – not exactly “off grid living”.

It is, however, a great place to go to get away from conventional forms of religion. Only 5.4% of Burners identify as religious.
Screenshot 2016-02-20 17.04.17
How many of those are Satanists is unknown, but let’s call it 5%: 3.2% of Burners worship “other” and 1.2% are Pagans.
Screenshot 2016-02-20 17.05.58
Download the full Census from their new home within the borg. Here are the team credits, thanks to everyone who participated:

Principal investigators and project coordinators: S. Megan Heller (Countess), Dana Lilienthal DeVaul (DV8), Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost (Hunter), and Kateri McRae (Variance)

Data analysis: Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost (Hunter), David Nelson-Gal (Scribble)

Report coordination, graphics, layout & design: Rebecca Mason (B^2), Aaron Shev (Murse), Dana Lilienthal DeVaul (DV8), David Nelson-Gal (Scribble), Jason Lankow, & John Nicholson

The 2015 Census Lab: The project also involved more than 150 volunteers whose contributions were essential in many ways: research collaborators, volunteer coordinators, statisticians, camp builders, gate samplers, keypunchers, census lab hosts, graphic designers, and many more. These contributors will globally be referred to as “the Census Lab”. We would also like to thank the Burning Man organization for the resources that they provided both on playa and off playa and for believing in the project.

Burning Man 2015: By The Numbers Part 1

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

BMOrg have just released the Afterburn Report for 2015.

Some information that used to be provided, is now hidden. Here are some of the key details missing:

  • medical services visits, nature of injuries
  • arrests and citations
  • number of vehicles
  • number of aircraft at the airport
  • entry and exodus times
  • volume of ice sold
  • number of people watching live video stream

All of this was freely available in the past; it’s hard to see how BMOrg can claim to be “more transparent”, when they are sharing less information. Maybe now that they’re down one Minister of Propaganda, there will be a reduction in the Orwellian double-speak. One can only hope…

 

Here is a summary of what was released in the report.

 

POPULATION

67,564 paid participants. In 2014 this was 65,992 and in 2013 it was 69,613. The definition of “paid participant” seems to have changed between 2013 and 2014. In 2015 there were 68,000 tickets officially sold, so 436 people managed to get a ticket but didn’t show. Or, something went wrong counting them – however, the report says Ticketing and Will Call went super-smoothly last year. The Box Office line was never longer than 30 minutes.

There were 1150 placed camps, out of 1300 applications. What was wrong with those 150 camps? We’ll probably never know, which is a pity – because if we could all learn together, we could reduce the amount of mutual time wasting between camps, volunteers on the placement team, and BMOrg’s holocracy of a hundred-plus full-time busy worker bees. Assuming that some of the camps get rejected for some of the same reasons, that is.

ART

BMOrg granted $1.2 million cash to more than 100 art projects on the Playa. They also provided in-kind support in addition to this $1.2 million.
This works out to $17.76 per ticket , or about 4.5% of $390. Seems like an increase from previous years, and we should know in a year or so if it’s true – when the IRS returns for the Burning Man Project in 2015 are released.
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The Artery handled 1139 service requests on playa from art projects, a 50% increase over the previous year.
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There were 326 art pieces; 75 of them incorporated fire art. There were 210 self funded projects and 56 “walk in” projects. Presumably this means the remaining 60 were the ones BMOrg had any involvement in: 18.4% of the total.
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In 2014, The Man was 105 feet tall, and took a long time to Burn. In 2015, it was reduced to 60 feet tall.
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There were 33 regional midway projects, with participants from 16 countries.

TRANSPORTATION

The Burner express brought 3,884 people in, and took 3,334 out. 250 people camped in the Burner Express bus camp.
Screenshot 2016-02-19 11.04.38
No word yet on if there will be any price hikes on bus tickets, additional luggage fees, or bike fees for the 2016 Medici theme. But it looks like this service is bringing in close to a million bucks.
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There is also a Gerlach-Empire shuttle bus, though usage was modest. Total shuttle bus ridership increased 45%, from 85 passengers in 2014, to 123 in 2015.
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17,000 Burners flew in through Reno airport.
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88NV, the Burning Man Airport, saw a 30% increase in traffic. 2,330 Burners arrived this way – at $40 per head landing fee, that’s about a hundred grand. At its peak, the airport was handling 210 landings per day.

BIKES

Image: Phillipe Glade, burningman.org

This year there were 631 yellow bikes. Someone donated 180 huffy bikes to the total.

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527 came back like they were supposed to. 56 had been painted and 28 had been decorated. The bikes are supposed to be free for all Black Rock City citizens, not just free bikes for you to grab and claim as your own for the whole Burning Man. 20 of the bikes were stolen outright.
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There were a total of 1,625 abandoned bikes. This works out to 2.4% of the population – about the same ratio as the portapotties. For each portapotty you see, there is one Burner MOOPing their bike.
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How many of these were stolen? How many were from Burners leaving in the Burner Express, planes, or car-pools, with no room for bikes and no spare $50 for the transporation fee?
Fortunately, 200 of the retrieved bikes will be recycled back into the Yellow Bike program for next year.
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AUTHORITIES

This year there were more than 700 rangers – a veritable army battalion.
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BMOrg worked closer than ever before with the Feds, achieving “Unified Tier 1 inter agency integration”:

BRC has relationships with Federal, State and County agencies including Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Highway Patrol, NDOT, Washoe and Pershing County Sheriff’s offices, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and Nevada State Health, amongst others.

BRC works year-round with these agencies to ensure legal compliance and public safety at the event. In 2015, BRC led joint training and table-top exercises to further align operational process and interagency communication.

Also in 2015 BRC updated the Unified Command to a Tier 1 management process, joining all the bodies (both event and agency) together, ensuring safer management in the event of unplanned incidents. This system was tested thoroughly during the repeated whiteout conditions of 2015, and proved to be highly effective for event operations emergency management.

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You may have seen the news this week about Apple fighting the Federal government over unlocking an iPhone related to the San Bernardino alleged terrorist attack – even though they were happy to hand over details at least 70 previous times. It doesn’t sound like BMOrg are going down the route of Just Saying No to the government, preferring total co-operation and integration of systems, Burner profiles, and databases.

VOLUNTEERS

The Playa Information tent had 130 volunteers, supporting 30 computer terminals.  There were 2,299 visitors to the V Spot, and 1,117 of them were connected with volunteer opportunities. 794 went to Burning Man teams, 155 to theme camps, 158 to art projects, and the rest were assigned MOOP duty.
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The total number of Greeters was 850. 325 were pre-scheduled general Greeters, 50 or so were “walk-up” volunteers. 18 theme camps greeted as a group(425 people).
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210 volunteered to be Lamplighters – 130 of them camping in the Lamp Lighter Village. They report that “the interdepartmental communication and cooperation is the best it has ever been”. There were 319 lamp spires and 917 lanterns total.
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Tips from Arctica were donated to three worthy causes: Polar Bear International, the Gerlach Senior & Community Center and the Washoe County Family Planning Clinic. No information about who got what is available.

SANITATION & INFRASTRUCTURE

50 dump trucks working 24/7 serviced 1600 porta potties. That’s one WC for every 42 people, in case you were wondering (I was!) How does that stack up against Defaultia?
Screenshot 2016-02-19 10.54.53

Source: American Restroom Association

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We’re about the same as a nightclub in Florida, and doing better than your average stadium.
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At the company ranch in Gerlach, they stored 300 containers, 120 vehicles, and 30 semi trucks. The property operates entirely off the grid.
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30 yard dumpsterThe recycling camp processed 5000 lbs of aluminum cans, 2 30-yard dumpsters’ worth. This was approximately 170,000 cans. Recycling them resulted in a $1500 donation to the local school.
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The city burned through 20,020 gallons of propane. 17,673 gallons were used for flame effects in Mutant Vehicles, theme camps, and art projects. The other 2,347 gallons were used for infrastructure, utilities, and cooking.
According to the US Department of Energy, burning a gallon of propane produces 12 lbs of CO2 emissions. So that’s 212,076 lbs, or 106 tons of greenhouse gas generated – just for the art. And that’s not even counting all the non-propane burning, especially The Man and The Temple.
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BMOrg did bring us exciting new news just over two months ago that they had listened to the community based on a petition last year to make Burning Man greener, and were starting a new chapter. This doesn’t merit a single word in the Afterburn, perhaps it is still “coming soon”. Maybe some of that $2 million a year vehicle pass windfall could be reallocated to habitat preservation or re-forestation projects.
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Read more at burningman.org

Over at the Reno Gazette-Journal, staff Burning Man reporter Jenny Kane reports that the Medici VIP tickets sold out in less than a day.
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The first 500 da Vinci tickets, a new tier of tickets that are three times the cost of the main tickets, were sold out as of Thursday morning, according to Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller. An additional 4,900 $990 pre-sale tickets, which were $800 last year, also were sold out by Thursday morning.
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No comments on what happened to the other 100 of the $990 pre-sale tickets.  Jenny asks the question “will any of this windfall money go to art”? The claim is made that $1.5 million was handed out in art grants in 2015, compared to $800,000 in 2014 (actually, $911,955). Corporate PR supremo Megan Miller says:
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“There’s definitely money from those revenue streams going to art grants,” she said, noting that Burning Man distributed $1.5 million in art grants last year, compared to $800,000 the year prior.

Part of the increase in net revenue may go toward another increase in art grant spending this year, although the organization has made no final grant decisions yet, Miller said.

Continue reading at Part 2 – Census Highlights

Analysis: 2014 Burning Man Project Financials [Updates]

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Image: Burning Man Project

Image: Burning Man Project

BMOrg have finally released the financial information for the Burning Man Project for 2014, beating our estimate that we’d have to wait until 2016 by a whole 2 weeks. They have provided a lot of commentary and analysis to go with the IRS Form 990. They are required by law to share this form with the public now that they are a tax exempt non profit. This has always meant that we the Burners would get access to some information about the inner workings of Burning Man that we had never seen before – in particular, revenue numbers and salaries of high-level insiders.

The IRS 990 data is accompanied by an Annual Report.This is in addition to the 2014 Afterburn Report.

This combination of legally required form, commentary, and an annual report is a step in the right direction of transparency. It is certainly much more than many non-profits provide. BMOrg should be applauded and encouraged for moving in this direction, as they told us they would in 2011 and promised again in March 2014 when they revealed the mysterious Decommodification, LLC company that owned everything and was/is still private.

So how transparent is it? How accurate is the commentary? And are there any juicy details?
Here is our previous coverage of the 2013 and 2012 financials.

Some quick 2014 stats:

Population 65,992

Volunteers: 7,500

Paid Burners: 896

Registered art projects: 311

Honoraria art grant funded projects: 61

Mutant Vehicles: 652

Regionals participating in the Souk: 24

Regional Events in 2014: 65

Placed Theme Camps: 975

Walk-up volunteers: 902

Volunteer Departments: 32

Attendance has slipped, down from 69,613 in 2013 to 65,992 in 2014. There was a minor change in the interpretation of “paid participants” in the permit, if you add in the 896 people who get paid to do Burning Man and the 7,500 volunteers we’re up to a city size of 74,388. Plus cops, dogs, robots, and kids.

In the previous financial charts, shared in the Afterburn reports, we did not get Revenue information. We had to ask pros from companies like the North Shore Advisory to decifer spending patternes and other information, we had to infer that from ticket sales, a task made easier with an allegedly sold out event. So that is a positive step for transparency – one that was required by the IRS. We also did not get a detailed list of the salaries of Founders and senior executives before now.

We did get quite a detailed breakdown of expenses: 42 categories.

This has now been reduced to 19 categories.

The effect of this has been to greatly reduce transparency. How, you ask? Well, let’s look at some of the more glaring anomalies.

  • We can no longer see how much gets spent on Fire Safety and Medical Services
  • We can no longer see how much is spent supporting the Regionals.
  • We don’t know how much was spent on The Man
  • Donations to Local Schools in Nevada seems to have been totally eliminated.
  • The cost of fuel is no longer tracked separately.
  • Utilities, Internet, and Phone are now all lumped together, and thus less visible. This is not aligned with the “be more environmental” post we got last week.
  • Food costs have greatly reduced, and the cost of sales for ice and the cafe seem to be lumped in with that too.
  • There is no sign that any money spent on ice and coffee is given to charities.
  • We can’t see how much gets paid to local agencies, and how much to the BLM. The Permit fees of $3.65 million were less than expected from the Chocotacogate numbers.

These are just a few examples, there are many more expenses that have also been hidden. Basically, 23 expense categories that we now can’t see because they’ve been eliminated by lumping them together with other expenses.

Some new information has been revealed, but only because it is legally required. Other information that we used to get every year, that would indicate to us that the pool of Burner money being collected by this group of companies was being well spent – that has been obscured.

We now get to see who the true big-wigs are on the payroll:

Marian Goodell $276,913

Larry Harvey $232,381

Harley Dubois $212,671

Crimson Rose $171,069

Doug Robertson (CFO) $167,267

Ray Allen (general counsel) $158,574

Charlie Dolman (runs Burning Man event) $150,673

Heather Gallagher (IT) $136,384

Heather White (Managing Director) $130,535

Stuart Mangrum $130,045

Will Roger Peterson $79,604

Michael Mikel $76,072

Total: $1,922,188

plus Board of Directors

Terry Gross (legal services) $192,153

Jennifer Raiser (annual report) $34,605

Kay Morrison (art grant) $8,500

Insider Total $2,157,446 (6.7% of revenues)

CFO Jennifer Raiser got paid $34,605 for producing the annual report. That would be quite a lot of money just for a single IRS form, but it seems all of that work was done by others – this contract is presumably for writing the report that accompanies the form. Total accounting costs to count the money and fill the form out were ten times that, $319,363.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.07.43

Board member Terry Gross got paid $192,153 for legal fees, on top of Ray Allen’s salary and about a third of the $518,931 total legal expenses. He generously gave them a 20% discount to his usual super-lawyer rate.


Here is a comparison of the financial charts of the last 3 years. 2013 and 2012 Burning Man event revenues are estimates.

2014 bmp comparison financials 2013 2013 burnersdotme 2

We can see the Medical services from the list of 5 largest contractors:

Screenshot 2015-12-18 00.44.40

Bruno’s makes $400,000 a year in revenue from Burning Man, and is still for sale.

There is another contradiction, with the $1,415,645 bill to Spectrum Catering for Food Service listed in the tax return, and the $1,199,534 reported in the Annual Report.

Lawyers and Accountants has gone – I’m assuming that has moved to “Contractors”. The information is separated out in the 990, the 2014 total is $838,294 – back to around 2012 levels.

Costumes has gone, there is a new category “Performance Supplies” – I’m assuming that is the same.

The royalties is to Decommodification, LLC, for licensing the Burning Man trademark.

Taxes, License Fees, Interest – as a 501(c)3 non-profit, they don’t pay tax; they don’t seem to have a lot of long-term debt, so what is this for? It’s about half a million a year.

“Toilets” I’m assuming is now part of “Safety Equipment/Services” and not “Heavy Equipment Rental”

“Medical Services and Supplies” is now “Safety Equipment/Services”


Contradictions in BMOrg’s Version

Here’s what they say:

Some highlights from 2014:

  • Black Rock City, our primary annual event and largest program, brought 65,992 participants together from 80 countries for 8 days of mind blowing creativity and participatory community building.
  • Burning Man Arts supported the creation of more than 100 artworks on and off playa through over $1.1 million in grants and support services.
  • In terms of Civic Engagement, Burners Without Borders celebrated its 123rd grassroots initiative and has 17 active chapters nationwide.
  • And our Global Network of over 250 Regional Contacts hosted the 8th annual Global Leadership Conference and our first ever European Leadership Summit.

And straight away, we find a contradiction between the form and the narrative.

It was not $1.1m of grants – according to the tax return, a total of $911,955 was paid in Grants. If $200k of in kind support is there somewhere, I can’t find it.

And what about the 80 countries? A contradiction with the CEO’s Letter, which says 68 countries:

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.59.23

In their FAQ and tax return, they say

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.11.33

But their own expense chart says

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.10.05

So there is $172,135 gone missing somewhere. [see Update below – there are some adjustments with BRAF]

$23,227,579 was spent on programming costs related to Black Rock City. Another $7,634,810 was used to support management and general expenses of Black Rock City and our off playa programs. Funds remaining after covering the cost of producing Black Rock City stay in the community and are used to fund Burner projects and initiatives (for more detail check out our 2014 Annual Report). This includes year-round staffing and infrastructure to support the administration and management of our Black Rock City Honoraria and Global Art Grants, Burners Without Borders projects, the annual Global Leadership Conference for Regional Contacts and community leaders, and the annual leadership summit in Europe for the growing Burner community there. What do we not spend money on? Advertising and promotion (not a dime).

These numbers don’t add up either. $23,227,579 + $7,634,810 is $30,862,389. A different number again, one that appears nowhere else in their calculations or mine, or in the IRS Form 990.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.19.29

The IRS Form 990 says total expenses of $30,013,511, and a “profit” of $2,350,498. My spreadsheet, and Burning Man’s, says expenses of $30,185,646, which would leave a profit of $2,178,363.
Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.25.29

You’d be forgiven for thinking, having read this, that $25,118,300 is how much the Burning Man Project spent directly on programming in 2014. But didn’t they just say it was $23,227,579?

Looking at this another way: Burning Man the event brings in $30,679,219, and it cost $23,227,579. If that was all the Burning Man Project did (throw Burning Man), then it would make $7,451,640 profit. Having “BMOrg” there to do all the things they do year round AS WELL as the event, costs another $7,634,810. So we’re actually behind. Luckily, donations and other revenue came in.


What are they doing with the surplus? Either this means something different from how it reads, or they are spending more than half of it on lobbying politicians. For what?

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.30.44

$33,000 of the $911,955 grant money was spent on 4 overseas projects:

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.33.17

The bulk of the overseas money, $24,000, went to David Best’s Temple in Ireland.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.35.23

Two grants of $15,000 were also in support of Best:

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.01.52

Burners Without Borders got support for 8 projects in the Phillippines. I guess money goes a long way down there, because the total grant to all the projects was $4,000.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.04.32

As regular readers of this blog will know, they also have been out there saving the world through speeches and panel discussions.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.05.59

35, to be exact:

Requests for speakers and panelists from the organization continued to increase across geographical lines and sectors of interest. Leaders from the organization represented Burning Man in 35 speaking engagements, introducing aspects of Burner culture to a broad cross-section of professional and public audiences. These included two TEDx talks from CEO Marian Goodell, presentations by Chief Transition Officer Harley K. Dubois at The Feast and DLD Cities, a presentation at the Long Now Foundation by Chief Philosophical Officer Larry Harvey, and a keynote by Black Rock City Event Operations Director Charlie Dolman at the Project Management Institute’s annual conference.

Burning Man culture and methodology has proven to be of great interest to diverse audiences including municipalities, nonprofits, corporations, and organizations devoted to civic engagement, the arts, volunteerism, and process management. Burning Man representatives participated in conferences and public events — teaching and sharing the Burning Man story — including the Skoll World Forum, the Whole Earth Festival, San Francisco Earth Day, the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, San Mateo Innovation Week, and South By Southwest Interactive. Burning Man also hosted several outreach events at our offices in San Francisco, including a well-attended panel discussion on pop-up urbanism and temporary spaces

Was this a worthwhile fundraising activity?

Screenshot 2015-12-18 08.47.11

So they used $57k of grants for this – 6.2% of the total. It cost $234,520 and brought in $10,108. No word on how many lives were transformed for that.

Other outreach activities seem to have fared better. They netted $223,501 from the Artumnal, Decompression, and 3 other events.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.37.17

What of the “In Kind” contributions to art grants?
Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.38.48

25 BRC artists without LLCs shared $372,600 of cash grants an average of $14,904 each. One community-based project got $7,500. There were no non-cash contributions to any of these, nor to the LLC grant recipients. How BMOrg managed to inflate $827,000 of art grants to $1.1 million of donations is a bit of a mystery.

The big grant recipients were:

art grants 2014

It looks like David Best got a total of $119,000 – about 13% of the whole pie. Other perennial favorite grant recipients like Flaming Lotus Girls, Iron Monkeys, Jen Lewin and Box Shop all got the nod once more. Board Member Kay Morrison got a $8,500 Honoraria art grant.

An interesting tidbit here – BMOrg wants the IRS to know that they get the Intellectual Property transferred or licensed to them…

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.50.40

…at least the rights are going to the Burning Man Project and not Decommodification, LLC.

Royalties of $75,000 were paid to Decommodification, LLC for use of the Burning Man trademarks. They have reiterated their intention to donate this company to the Burning Man Project in 2018.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 23.01.55

Black Rock City, LLC appears to be the owner of Black Rock City Properties LLC, which owns $1.2 million of real estate.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.11.18

There is also Gerlach Holdings LLC, an insider company that the Org rents real estate from:

Screenshot 2015-12-17 23.04.43

Ticket Services Expenses were $768,219. This has been lumped together in BMOrg’s accounts summary with a mysterious charge of $1.34 million in “merchant bank fees”. One reader has suggested this could be “credit card processing fees” – if so, BMOrg or Ticketfly may want to renegotiate their merchant facility, because 4.15% seems a little high.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.46.29


Image: Burning Man Journal

Image: Burning Man Journal

So how much of your dollar goes to supporting artists?

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.15.28

You could be forgiven for thinking, if you read that, that $0.58 of your $1 went directly to supporting artists in the form of grants.

But wait a minute…

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.17.13

Doesn’t that mean $0.84 out of each $1 goes to support artists?

Sadly, no. This 83.69% number includes Burning Man. They sell tickets – it’s not tax deductible for us buying them. They put on the party, travel around the world doing panel discussions, pay $827,000 towards the art on the Playa, pay themselves around $11 million in salaries. After all this, at the end of the year, there’s a left over pile of about $2.5 million bucks. So about $33 of your ticket money is just going to add to that pile, while only $13.82 gets actually handed out as grants to Artists.

Grants of $911,955 on revenues of $32,364,009 is 2.8% 

So yeah, when you buy a ticket to Burning Man, a lot of the money gets spent putting on Burning Man. That doesn’t make them some kind of philanthropic heroes. The way I calculate it, for every dollar we hand over to the Burning Man Project, 2.8 cents goes out again in the form of Art Grants. That seems more like 97.2% inefficiency, than 84% efficiency.

Another way to look at it, is leaving Burning Man aside, how much of the pure donations went back out to Art Grants? Leaving aside “Other” and “Other Misc” and “Other Program Revenue”, because I don’t know what those are, and just looking at Donations and money from fundraising events and merchandising, gives $1,355,710.

And how much went to non-Burning Man art, and projects spreading the mission of the Project in The Mission?

Well, we get some more contradictory numbers from the 2014 Annual Report (Arts section)

Screenshot 2015-12-17 23.15.13

There is another contradiction here: the arts report says grants went to 80 playa artists, elsewhere in the report it says 61.

Working backwards, $911,955 in grants minus $827,000 of on Playa grants = $84,955 of grants that went to non-Playa artists. That’s 6% of $1,355,710.

Of the surplus generated from revenues less expenses, $2,350,498 according to the first page of the IRS 990 form, the grant amount is 38.8%. Much less than the 84% efficiency they are boasting about.

The $675,000 of in-kind installation and support services mentioned by Burning Man Arts don’t show up in the tax return, and this number doesn’t add up to the $1.1 million of grants claimed.

BMOrg used their resources to promote Jennifer Raiser’s book, making it an Amazon.com best seller and selling 14,000 copies, but this didn’t merit a mention in the “Conflict of Interest” section – just the $34k for putting the annual report together.

Buried in the arts report above is some really good news: they found a non-profit that will provide insurance to artists.


In summary. Is it a step in the right direction? Yes. Is it more transparency? Yes in some ways, no in others. Overall, it is less transparency. It’s harder for us to see what’s going on, and there is a big disconnect between what the numbers say and what the commentary says.

“We’re achieving our mission because Burning Man”…doesn’t work if your mission is to spread Burner values beyond the NV Burn. 2.8% of revenues goes to art grants, that’s the real bottom line here.

Is it a “clean well lighted suite of rooms”? That’s not how I would describe it. Does it reveal any skeletons? Not yet, that I can see. Just more spin from the Propaganda department.  What do you think?


[Update 12/18/15 8:37am]

There is some confusion in that the Black Rock Arts Foundation was only assimilated into the larger Burning Man Project in the middle of 2014. They have filed their own IRS Form 990, but that has not been made public. We will have to wait until it comes up on Guidestar to piece together what really happened. You can read BRAF’s 2014 year in review here, but there is no financial information.

This might be able to explain the discrepancies between 61 funded Honoraria projects and 80; between $911,955 in grants and $1.1 million claimed; and $675,000 of “in kind support” that Burning Man Arts say they provided but I can’t find any evidence of in the tax return.

Screenshot 2015-12-18 08.41.50

The anomaly of $172,135 is explained by this, at the very bottom of their FAQ. I must have missed it last night.

Screenshot 2015-12-18 08.43.01

This means that the higher expense figure we are using in the spreadsheet here is more accurate.

It looks like BRAF made a net contribution of $176,663 and had $633,053 of expenses, including the $287,836 in grants they disbursed. How this matches up with the claims in their pie chart that they spend 75% of their funding on program services is a mystery to me, perhaps someone out there can shed some light.

Was their “total grants awarded” therefore $911,955 + $176,663? It adds to $1,088, 618, they said:

  • Burning Man Arts supported the creation of more than 100 artworks on and off playa through over $1.1 million in grants and support services.

If this is how they came to the figure, then “support services” must have been $11,382 – different from the $675,000 of support services and in-kind contributions claimed in the annual report. If this is the case, then BRAF’s Civic and Global art grants of $287,836 mean the contribution to on-Playa art was actually $812,164, not $827,000.

Cost of Goods Sold looks to have been $521,794, of which $477,770 was for ice.

Screenshot 2015-12-18 09.08.54

Screenshot 2015-12-18 09.14.47


[Update 12/18/15 11:11am]

They are sitting on $6,068,794 in cash and equivalents.

Here’s the 2010 Afterburn Financial Chart, which is no longer available at Burning Man’s web site. 2009 is also hidden.

I have updated an earlier spreadsheet I made tracking BRAF and BMP combined, to add in the Honoraria art grants for previous years. Viewed this way, total grants have either gone down slightly from 2013 (combined $931,836) if you go by the 2014 tax return figure of $911,955; or increased 28% ($1,199,791 combining BMP and BRAF numbers as per the Burning Man Arts Annual Report). Confusing, isn’t it?

Screenshot 2015-12-18 11.08.54

[Update 12/18/15 1:01pm]

Here’s art compared with lawyers and accountants over the past 6 years. Note this assumes that Jennifer Raiser’s fee for preparing the annual report is included under the Accounting total, and Terry Gross’s fees are included in legal (but not Ray Allen, he is payroll/contractors).

Screenshot 2015-12-18 13.00.08


[Update 12/19/15 2:06pm]

Nomad Traveler queried into the $14.2 million in assets the Burning Man Project has, and how it could have grown nearly $7 million in a year, when “only” $2.1 million of profit was generated.

Here’s the Balance Sheet from the IRS form:

Screenshot 2015-12-19 14.10.14

The “net worth” of Burning Man, assets minus liabilities, is $9.62 million.

The Burning Man Project ended 2014 with $14,243,495 in total assets, and $4,620,573 of liabilities.

This year, they are holding $4.2 million in intangible assets. What could this be? The trademarks are owned by Decommodification, LLC – as far as we know. This large asset wasn’t there last year, but another whopper was – investment in securities of $7.4 million.

I can’t find any narrative or explanation in the accounts or the annual report for the change in the nature of these assets. However, their cash at hand did suddenly jump up – from $198,205 at the beginning of the year to $2,080,043 at the end. It looks like a bunch of assets were cashed out, and the Project ended up with some very valuable intangible assets and millions in cash. What those assets were, is up to you to speculate, dear reader – or perhaps someone from BMOrg will be kind enough to explain in the comments.

[Update: A Balanced Perspective thinks the $7.4 million is the donation of Black Rock City LLC to BMP from the Founders; this is now accounted for as Goodwill, being the $7.4 million less the value of the Fixed Assets.]

The assets include $3.4 million of Land, Buildings and Equipment – netted down to $3 million after Depreciation. Specifically:

Screenshot 2015-12-19 14.29.26

Of the liabilities, the $276,000 represents payments of $46,000 to each of the 6 Founders of Burning Man, for their share in Black Rock City LLC. That’s all they got for 20-30 years of work…that plus a couple of million a year in salaries, a tax deduction, royalties for Decommodification LLC, and the typical benefits that accrue to executives of a $30 million corporation like travel and expense accounts.

The biggest liability is Accounts Payable of $2.45 million. Since a company with $2 million cash in the bank and another $4 million close at hand should be able to pay its bills, I suspect most of this is to the BLM for the annual permit fees, some of which are not due until months after Burning Man.

There is a secured mortgage or note to an unrelated third party, of $1.6 million. This is also new. Bank financing related to the $3.4 million of real estate and other assets on the Burning Man Project’s balance sheet, or the related companies Gerlach Holdings LLC and Black Rock Properties LLC? Maybe someone lent them some cash and that’s why they’ve got $2 million in the bank. They also hold on to a list of expert credit repair companies, it seems a little unnecessary when there’s an average of almost $3 million a month flowing into the company.

BMOrg claim “nobody’s getting rich off Burning Man”, and perhaps it’s true that the 6 Founders themselves couldn’t figure that out over three decades. They’ve been surrounded by some of the most successful capitalists in history at the epicenter of wealth creation on the planet; perhaps they were too shy to ask one of the many Billionaire Burners paying them homage over the years for help or advice. As a businessman myself, I look at Burning Man and I see a lot of money being made. Millions in fuel, rental, insurance. $50 million a year estimated spend by Burners just in Nevada – not to mention California, New York, and the rest of the world. I see thousands of places where ads are being sold around Burning Man-related content: Facebook, Google, YouTube, Huffington Post, Business Insider, the Daily Mail, and so on.

Did the Founders miss out on the gold rush? And if so, why? Altruism? Ignorance? Dysfunction? Or perhaps they didn’t actually miss out. We can’t say, because it hasn’t played out yet. For some reason, this handover is taking many years, and it is only now, as we enter 2016, that the simple transparency of a set of accounts is being shared with Burners. Assuming that IRS compliance now, shows that there has been the same transparency for the previous 29 years is a clear sign that you have sipped too much from the Kool Aid dispenser.

We don’t know the full details of the hand-over transaction, and not only that: we don’t know why we don’t know. “Oh we want to assure that the business is in good hands and it won’t all be absorbed by the State if it goes bankrupt” is the party line…but doesn’t explain the secrecy, or the continued wait to 2018 (when this transaction is presently scheduled to happen) and more likely 2020 (when they will perhaps disclose some limited details of the transaction).


[Update 12/19/15 4:08pm]

And another thing…

Where is the Vehicle Pass revenue? Is that just part of “ticket revenue”? There should be 27,000 or more passes at $50, or $1.35 million. That is to say, much more than the entire combined art budget at Burning Man and around the world.

If this were broken out separately, it would be more useful in assessing the environmental performance of the business. Remember when vehicle passes came in? They were sold to us on the basis of BMOrg might have to pay for road repairs. Wonder what ever happened with that?


[Update 12/19/4:36pm]

There’s a shoutout to Burners who have made donations in the Annual Report. There are a few high profile names in there, including 2 Rockefellers,  2 Russells, and a Pritzker.

All these Burners’ names will now be publicly linked with Burning Man forever thanks to Google, hope they were expecting that at the time of Gifting…

2014 Afterburn Report: The Death of Transparency

spend_money_good_time_442305We’ve been duped, Burners. For 4 years now, we’ve been sold on a “pie in the sky” vision. Burning Man would no longer be about exploiting volunteer labor and the financial and artistic contributions of Burners, to create profits for a small group operating in near-secrecy without oversight. Instead, it would now be a charity, with our tax-free deductions supporting an altruistic vision to bring Burning Man’s Principles to the world. The Founders would step down, but leave the infrastructure in place to maintain the integrity of Burner values into the next century.

A noble vision, but here’s what really happened:

  • the Founders set up a private company and transferred the main assets of the business to it; this company earns royalties for the use of the Burning Man name, logo and trademarks
  • the Founders each got a $1 million+ tax break for passing their share of future profits from the LLC over to the new tax-exempt non-profit
  • transparency was removed, except for public IRS Forms which were filed late.
  • people who had given substantial amounts of their lives volunteering for Burning Man, were arbitrarily shunted out the door to make room for new, paid employees.
  • ticket prices went up, revenues doubled
  • it got harder for veteran Burners to attend, while remaining relatively easy for Virgins

bravenewworld_cover_large

Rather than the transparency we’ve been promised for so many years, and a new BMOrg focused on charitable works, we get higher ticket prices, more revenue streams, and more secrecy. I’m not so sure that Burning Man has jumped the corporate shark – it seems more like it’s been eaten by it.

The new Afterburn report is buried deep in the new web site. If you read “Voices of Burning Man”, the section of the new site that seems to actually update, you’d have no clue about it. If you go to burningman.org, there’s nothing on the main page. If you navigate their menu system – The Culture, The Event, The Network, Stuff & Things – you will have to really dig to find anything about it (the correct sequence is Menu, The Culture, Historical Archives, Black Rock City History, Afterburn Reports, 2014 Afterburn Report). Basically, to read the Afterburn, you need to subscribe to the Jackrabbit Speaks or click this link.

This year’s report begins with the type of statement we’re used to seeing from this crew:

Our AfterBurn reports will continue as they have since 2001, except they’ll now be consolidated, and focus exclusively on the production of the event in Black Rock City.

“Continue as they have since 2001” in OrgSpeak means “be completely different from how they have been since 2001”.

The word “consolidated” in this context means “much smaller”. Significantly, BMOrg are no longer publishing Burning Man’s financial chart. This was always an incomplete document, since for some reason they didn’t share their revenues; we had to make assumptions based on ticket and ice sales. At least it highlighted things like BMOrg spending more on travel and costumes for themselves than they did on donations and art for the community. Read our analysis for 2013 and 2012, as well as the IRS returns for Burning Man Project 2013 and Black Rock Arts Foundation 2013.

BMOrg continue to insist that transparency is still “coming soon”:

Separately, Burning Man will begin producing an annual report, in addition to the yearly IRS Form 990 financial reporting. That report will focus on Burning Man’s nonprofit activities and year-round global programming, as well as updates about Burning Man’s organizational infrastructure and support departments (such as Communications, Technology, Legal, Accounting, Human Resources, etc.).

Given that we just got the 2013 information in February 2015, it seems unlikely that we will be able to have any meaningful discussion about Burning Man 2014 for a year and a half after the event. What’s the point of that? It seems like it would be fairly straightforward to ask the various department heads to write a brief report on the event by December 1, then post these to burningman.org. What do we gain by waiting a year and a half? This is all for charity, right – so why not have openness, sharing, participation, communal effort, civic responsibility, radical self expression, radical inclusion? Why run it like a typical profit-driven corporation, where any disclosure of information must be signed off by the Board and PR team? The event is sold out, so it’s not like their revenues are at risk. At this point, the global culture will grow from participation and authenticity, not exclusion, hypocrisy and secrecy.

BMOrg have just had professional auditors going through the books for 2013 and 2014: will these accounts be published? It seems very, very unlikely.

It is now well more than a year since Larry Harvey said

larry worldIt has been asked if we intend to reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC. The answer is yes; that too will happen at about the same time as the Burning Man Project reveals its information—these two entities will then become a clean well-lighted suite of rooms thrown open for inspection.

So will there be an event in the future when “the Burning Man Project reveals its information”? Or did he just mean the IRS Form 990 filings? I’m not holding my breath. Right now, it seems that there is no intention to EVER reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC.

In January, Communications Director Megan Miller told the Reno Gazette-Journal:

megan miller“It is definitely incomplete information,” said Megan Miller, communications director for Burning Man Project.

While all of the information required from the Internal Revenue Service is in the documents, Miller said, Burning Man cannot yet disclose revenue information from this past year’s festival, nor the one prior since the organization currently is undergoing an outside audit for 2013 and 2014.

All of this missing information that Burners have been seeking should be available before this year’s end, Miller said

The audit has been signed off, so what are they waiting for? Still counting the money? Or perhaps, so busy counting the $30.5 million from 2015’s ticket sales that what happened in the past doesn’t occupy much attention any more.

The increase in ticket prices and population cap over the last few years has led to a massive windfall for BMOrg, but only a slight increase in the number of art projects sponsored by Burning Man. Artists still have to raise funds themselves, half to two-thirds of project cost.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 09.34.23

For 2014, $800,000 was spent on art, across 61 projects – an average of $13,115 per project. There were another 200 art installations placed on the Playa without any financial support from BMOrg.

And what of the giving back to the community? It’s now more than halfway through the 2014-2015 Burn year, and more than a year since BMOrg “fully completed their transition to a non-profit”. So we should be able to point to lots of great outreach activity, right? Maybe I just can’t find that section of their website. There’ve been a few TED talks and panel discussions.

They’ve gone from “the only things we sell are ice and coffee, and all proceeds from that go to local charities” to “the Arctica volunteers donate their tips to charity” – which was about $13,000 last year.

Perhaps when we finally get to see the 2014 financial information for the Burning Man Project, it will describe some wonderful things that the self-appointed custodians of Burner culture have done to promote it, and we can all feel like we’re saving the world together. Maybe we’ll see a new, fair contract for the artists, when the art grant recipients for 2015 are publicly announced.

Remember 6 months ago, when the community was outraged about the Burning Man Project Director running an expensive Commodification camp with dozens of paid employees? The Minister of Propaganda told us:

(shhhh, just between you and us …) we’re working on a really really BIG project that will serve to tell the Burning Man story as it is today and into the future, and it’s gonna be RAD. You’ll know it when you see it.

Could we get the rad thing now, please? Pretty please?

tanabaumBuried within the latest Jackrabbit was the news that Jim Tananbaum has stepped down from the board of the Burning Man Project. This could’ve been a positive, if it had happened in response to the crisis, showing that BMOrg listened to the community.  Instead they published his statement blaming all his paid employees for his camp’s problems, and lecturing us on what a great example of the Ten Principles it all was. The resignation now comes as too little, too late to have any meaning. We’ve seen what BMOrg’s real response to the AirBnB-ing of Burning Man has been: “camps that get placement have to have an interactive element”. Or, in OrgSpeak: “all systems go, plug-n-players! Charge as much as you like, employ as many sherpas as you like, just buy the $800 VIP tickets. Get your Citibank Gold festival packages now!”

 

Exploring the Other: 2014 Edition

Burning Man requires its Regional Events to have transparent financials, donate to their charities, and obtain a license to use their trademarks. For themselves, the requirements are not so strict. Sure, they have to disclose the activities of their non-profits to the IRS. And they share numbers with us in their Afterburn reports. The Afterburn numbers are not audited as far as we can tell, and are not a complete financial statement. Significantly, Revenues are left out. Also significantly, very general category headings are used for expense items. We know that Decommodification, LLC, a private, for-profit company, owns all the rights to the trademarks, images, videos, soundtracks, fine art, and other intellectual property of the event. We believe that Black Rock City, LLC pays royalties to Decommodification, LLC, to call their event in the Nevada desert “Burning Man”. But there is no line item for this payment. How much are those royalties? That’s a secret.

cartoon_accounting_2In order to estimate it, some forensic accounting is required. It may not be perfect, but it’s better than nothing. And Burners.Me is the only site on the Internet that is even trying.

Last month, right before the event, Burning Man added a page to their site explaining “where does my ticket money go”. The page appears to be an “orphan”, which means it is not linked to by any other page there. The Reno Gazette-Journal somehow found this page, describing it as an “announcement”, and used it as a reference for their story “Where does your ticket money go?”. The Journal said:

Burning Man announced today where ticket sales money goes to shed light on why tickets cost what they do

We looked for the announcement on their web site, their press page, their blog, and in their JackRabbit speaks newsletter – couldn’t find it. Some claimed they posted it to Facebook, but it doesn’t appear in their official feed. The page seems like it was added to the site for the purpose of the RGJ story. It is filed under “What is Burning Man?”, but that page has no link to it.

Water please, he's got mud on his advertising!Was it really an announcement, designed to shed light? Or was it a ruse, designed to muddy the waters and confuse the language, figures, and facts used in public discussions of the event?

The story raised an issue with us here. Both Burning Man, and the RGJ, were claiming that “BLM fees were $4.5 million”. The entry in the Afterburn accounts says “BLM and Other”. So what is the Other? And how much are the payments to them?

We have speculated that “Other” is Decommodification, LLC. Payments to them may be lumped together in this figure, and may also be included in “Taxes and Other Licensing Fees”. We said:

the reason that the word “other” is significant in the original report is that in 2013, this category jumped from $1.8m to $4.5m – with no explanation given for the gigantic leap ($2,654,919 gain). “Taxes and Licenses” jumped from $154,994 to $1,021,851, also without explanation ($866,857 gain). At the same time, “Decommodification LLC owns the rights to everything” (or words to that effect) is now on all the tickets. Coincidence? Well the fact that BMOrg is trying to gloss over it by using increasingly vague language makes that seem even less likely.

…What is interesting here is the subtle use of language to mask truth. The carefully chosen words “BLM and Other Usage Fees” are repeated and slightly distorted, through a technique sometimes called “Chinese whispers”, to become “BLM manages the event…2013 fees”.

The distorted information has been picked up and repeated by many other sites: Las Vegas Sun, High Country NewsRedditRon’s Log, Yahoo Finance, the Black Rock Beacon.

So who is correct? Burning Man themselves? Mainstream media newspapers? Or little ‘ole us, puny and pesky “social media bloggers”?

It’s us, of course. RGJ is wrong, and BMOrg are either misleading us (accidentally or deliberately), outright lying, or (to be charitable) are merely ignorant and the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

How do we know? Because we went to the source. The Federal Bureau of Land Management.

Here’s what BMOrg said:

The Black Rock Desert is public land, but we don’t get to use it for free. It also takes a lot of equipment and hours of labor to put things together out there. The following are just a few highlights of costs we incurred in 2013:

  • The space we use is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and our 2013 fees to them totaled $4,522,952.

Here’s what the RGJ said:

The following are some of the costs Burning Man said it incurred in 2013:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the land the event is held on: 2013 fees totaled $4,522,952;

Here’s what Gene Seidlitz, chief of the Winnemucca-based Black Rock Field Office of the BLM, and the guy responsible for the Burning Man permit, said in response to our enquiries:

Burning Man is required to pay fees and costs to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as part of a Special Recreation Permit (SRP) issued by BLM to Burning Man each year.  Fees are set by Congress and are currently 3% of revenue related to the SRP.  For Burning Man this includes 3% of ticket sales, ice & coffee sales and other miscellaneous revenue.  The funds go toward BLM’s overall program management within the Winnemucca District with a priority in the Black Rock Field Office.

Burning Man also reimburses (cost recovery) BLM for all reasonable and justifiable costs related to BLM’s administration of the SRP.   Processing includes, but not be limited to, the following: coordination, administration and approval of any necessary NEPA compliance; consultation with appropriate Federal, State, Tribal, and local officials; preparation of the administrative record and resolving any protests, appeals and litigation that might result from the proposal, preparation of all decisions and authorizations resulting from those decisions, monitoring the construction, operation and termination of any resultant authorization; and other necessary processing actions consistent with a final decision.

It seems that those costs jumped, big time, between 2012 and 2013:

In 2012 BLM did a comprehensive analysis of the 2011 operations after the event and determined the BLM needed and would enhance the BLM planning and implementation in 2013 to ensure public health and safety for an event of 70,000 participants in a remote environment was adequately addressed.  As a result BLM’s costs increased from $1.2 million to $2.8 million that year. This was the largest jump in BLM’s costs in the history of Burning Man. Before and since the cost increases have been more incremental and were the result to inflation, growth of the event, etc.

So did the BLM charge Burning Man $4.5 million in 2013, or less?

BLM charged BRC approximately $2.8 M  for costs and approximately $685,000 were the 3% revenue for 2013

Did the BLM do anything to enforce the Vehicle Pass restrictions, or was this something Burning Man came up with?

BRC instituted the vehicle pass program.  This was not something that BLM enforced.

We wondered if the 35,000 vehicle passes were counted in any way by the authorities. It appears not, so it was up to BMOrg to issue them and regulate itself. If they sold more than the stated limit of 35,000, their punishment would be to have more profit forced upon them. If enterprising BMOrg insiders wanted to make some cash on the side, all they needed to do was sell a few vehicle passes on the black secondary market. From the moment they were released, they were for sale for 4-5x face value on Stubhub, and remained at a premium right up until the week of the event. We’ve heard no stories of people being rejected at the Gayte for not having vehicle passes, so I think we can safely assume that they sold more there to whoever required them. Whether or not the new vehicle tax did anything about the environmental footprint of the event (which we were told was the reason for the initiative) is unknown; it definitely was a nice $1.4m+ cash drop to the bottom line for BMOrg (which we speculated was the reason for the initiative).

2014 vehicle pass pricesComing back to the BLM figures, we have:

Costs: $2,800,000

Revenue share: $685,000

At 3%, this means the event revenues were $22,833,000.

We said:

According to the official numbers, in 2013 there were 61,000 tickets sold ($23.23 million). This includes a last minute release of 3000 “OMG” tickets, when the BLM approved a population cap increase. Also according to the official numbers, 69,613 attended the event. What gives? Did anyone at BMOrg make money from the unexpected 8,613 extra people (ticket value: $3.3 million)? Or were these tickets handed out for free to volunteers, who sold them on Stubhub or STEP for personal gain? How much was made from gate sales?

At the time, we were pooh-poohed, “there are no gate sales”. Of course there are, and it has now come out from independent sources that they are called Exception tickets.

In theory, the BLM revenue share should also include sales from ice, coffee, gasoline, propane, Plug-n-Play camps, and any of the other things for sale on the Playa – in 2013, there were 44 licensed vendor permits issued for Burning Man. We have estimated ice and coffee sales as above $1 million annually.

Either BMOrg gave out 1000+ free tickets that they were supposed to sell, in addition to the 8,613 free tickets from the population cap…or there is some discrepancy in the revenues being reported to the BLM.

Could the discrepancy come from the 3000 “Holiday tickets” ($650 – this year, sold at the end of January), and 4000 Low Income tickets ($190)? Back in the day, there was a suggestion that Burners paying the enhanced price were subsidizing the low income Burners. If you count the $650 tickets as $380 (the difference being a donation off-Playa to BMP, perhaps), and keep the Low Income at $190, you get $22,420,000 – which allows for a further $413,000 of additional on-Playa revenues. It seems like ice and coffee alone would be more, and the BLM is supposed to get a share of gross revenues, not net.

In a speech in Tokyo earlier this year, BMOrg CEO Marian Goodell said their revenues were $30 million a year. If she was referring to 2013 – and why wouldn’t she be, since 2014 hadn’t happened yet – then there is $8,167,000 that BMOrg makes off-Playa, in addition to the annual Black Rock desert event. Where does this money come from? It’s hard to imagine it’s from donations, since according to the Burning Man Project’s IRS Form 990, their funding for 2012 was $591,672.

The true figure for “BLM fees” in 2013 is $3,485,000.

Which means “other” is $1,037,952.

Where does this money go?

We have no direct proof that it is to Decommodification, LLC, but I can’t think of any other candidates. The State of Nevada imposes a 5% “live entertainment tax”, but Burning Man and EDC are exempt as outdoor festivals. There are separate line items for taxes, anyway. “Taxes and Licenses” also made a massive, unexplained leap: from $154,994 (2012) to $1,021,851 (2013) – an $866,857 gain. Possibly, some or all of this increase could be going to license the trademark in addition to the Mysterious Other. We know now that Decommodification, LLC permits them to call their 30-year old party “Burning Man”, by licensing “their” intellectual property back to Black Rock City LLC. It seems strange that BMOrg would mis-state their own figures by 23%, and the way the Where Does My Ticket Money Go “announcement” was made is suspicious.

To put the Mysterious Other in context, it is more than the payments for art ($830,280) and donations to local charities ($199,329) combined.

As always, if anyone has any further information, explanation, or details, please share.