by Whatsblem the Pro
The principle of Decommodification that so many burners hold dear takes yet another brutal pounding this week as Australian chartbusting singer-songwriter-actress Missy Higgins releases her new music video. . . ‘We Ride,’ also known as the theme from the film Spark: A Burning Man Story. The single, along with the rest of the Spark soundtrack, is now available on iTunes.
The film, featuring footage shot at Burning Man 2011 – in other words, images of thousands of unconsenting, uncompensated burners and the art they built and transported to the Black Rock Desert at their own expense – would be forbidden by the Decommodification rule, if not for the fact that the people who forbid you from doing things like making commercial films at Burning Man happen to have a large financial stake in this one.
If you or I attempted to release a documentary shot at Burning Man, and followed it up with a soundtrack and a single by one of Australia’s top musical acts, the corporation that runs Burning Man would initiate legal proceedings against us in the name of protecting the culture from commercial exploitation. The fact that they have no problem with that kind of profiteering as long as they themselves have a financial stake in it and get a cut of the money should tell us something: that, once again, they’re not at all interested in protecting us or our culture, and care only about making money and protecting their monopoly on exploiting us and our creativity.
If the culture, the event, and burners as a group need to be protected from predators with commercial interests, then there should be no exceptions.
When challenged on what some consider their money-grubbing hypocrisy, the Org typically has one of two general responses, depending on the nature of the complaint: either they take the stance that Burning Man is a culture in an attempt to justify the exploitation of so many hard-working volunteers, uncompensated artists, and other unpaid participants, or they take the stance that Burning Man is a business entity in an attempt to justify their iron grip on the trademarks associated with it.
How long will we allow them to have their cake and eat it too? If Burning Man is a culture, then everyone who participates in and contributes to that culture should share ownership of the trademarks, and either be equally allowed to profit from them, or equally forbidden from doing so. . . no exceptions! If Burning Man is a business, on the other hand, then there shouldn’t be a single volunteer putting in a single minute of unpaid work on it. So which is it?
The film has already made over a quarter of a million dollars since it was released less than three months ago.
It may be worth noting while watching this film that the general consensus among old school burners seems to be that it sanitizes quite a lot of the dark side of Burning Man, and functions a little too heavy-handedly as pro-Org propaganda, and not an accurate reflection of reality.
What else should we have expected? Caveat emptor. . . and caveat possessorum, too.
[update from BurnersXXX] – note the “ignite.me” in the video credits, that seemed like an independent site to me at first, but now it appears to be yet another sales and propaganda channel for BMOrg. It was launched in December 2012 and the movie premiered at SXSW in Austin in March 2013…