There was a bit of an uproar last year when we shared that Festivals Concierge Service were making money from Burning Man. Well, it seems they’ve read the rules and done their best to comply with them – and no less than Larry Harvey’s words are being used to pitch their product.
As we predicted, Larry & Co’s response to last year’s Commodification Camp Concerns has been to give a full green light to concierges, commodification camps, Mistresses of Merriment, and anything else the VIPs require.
From Festival Concierge Service:
Burning Man is not a festival like no other, it is a community experience based on 10 principles that serve as guidelines.
The services we offer for Burning Man are intended to assist you in the preparation and organization of your Burn.
We do not offer on-site concierge services.
In any case we sell the Burning Man Experience. It is a unique personal experience, and is made possible only through your participation and understanding of the ten principles.
“Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them. This is because our city has always been a place where old and young, and rich and poor, can live on common ground. The word for this is fellowship, as in the fellowship of a club or lodge whose members, however diverse, are united by common values and a sense of shared experience. But common ground is not a level playing field, and should not be interpreted as mandating equal living conditions.”
The services, which are all provided by BLM-Licensed Outside Services Contractors, include:
ON-SITE RV SERVICES
TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION TO AND FROM BURNING MAN
PLUG AND PLAY CAMP PLACEMENT
MUTANT VEHICLE (ART CAR) PRODUCTION AND RENTAL
SEGWAY AND ELECTRIC SKATEBOARD RENTAL
BIKE AND DECORATION
COSTUME DESIGN AND PERSONNAL SHOPER
These are the same people as last year. They were in touch with us then, and they’re in touch with us now. The New York Times already wrote about it (quoting Burners.Me as a trusted source). The Key Group, private concierge service out of Luxembourg, has a highly desirable existing customer base of Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals. A-list Hollywood stars, princes and princesses, Billionaire’s Row, Mega-Sparkle Ponies, political pundits, the DEA, FBI BLM and other unnamed alphabet agencies, experimental Google technologies, even now frikking cartoon characters…this is Burning Man 2.0. Everyone requires a handler, for their Radical Self Reliance. If you handle yourself, you’re doing it wrong.
The Placement Team is up and running at full complement and the Burning Man Headquarters team is fully operational.We made some changes to our Theme Camp and Placement policies following events in 2014 involving TurnKey camps, and we wanted to inform you of them so you can plan accordingly.Definitions:TurnKey is a category of camps along a spectrum. At one end of the continuum are camps that depend on supported infrastructure to create on playa projects. At the other end are camps providing vacation type experience packages for campmates with no specific requirement for contribution.In 2014 Burning Man placed 12 TurnKey camps all of whom indicated they would offer an interactive aspect to be enjoyed by the entire Burning Man community.For 2015, all Placed Camps (other than infrastructure support camps) will be held to the same standards in order to receive placement, early arrival passes and access to the Directed Group Sale.
Theme Camp Placement Criteria / Standards:
Other than event infrastructure camps, all camps will be held to the same standards of inclusion and participation regardless of how the camp is structured. All Theme Camps requesting placement will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
1. Theme Camps should be visually stimulating, have an inviting design and a plan for bike parking and crowd management.
2. Theme Camps must be interactive. They should include activities, events or services within their camps that must be available to the entire Burning Man community.
3. Theme Camps must be neighbourly. This includes keeping sound within set limits, controlling where camp generators vent exhaust, and easily resolving any boundary disputes that may arise.
4. Theme Camps must have a good previous MOOP record (for returning camps).
5. Theme Camps must follow safety protocols designed by the organization (this includes traffic management on the streets, proper handling of fuels, and any other areas defined by the organization’s production team including alternatives to RV lined streets).
Entering BRC with Early Arrival passes:
Only Theme Camps meeting all of the above criteria and receiving Placement, will be given Early Arrival Passes from the Placement team for entry to BRC for pre-event set up
Post-event evaluation, Theme Camp Standing and access to the Directed Group Sale (DGS):
Post event, all placed Theme Camps will be reviewed on the criteria above, as well as:
1. MOOP score. If a camp receives a yellow or red MOOP score, the Placement team expects the camp to be proactive in addressing the issue.
2. Strain on resources. This refers to whether a camp requires extra BRC infrastructure support, which could include undue communication or interactions with Placement, Rangers, DPW or the playa restoration team. This could also include the processing of negative feedback from other departments. If a Theme Camp attracts negative attention by violating principles and cultural norms, this will similarly strain resources.
If a Theme Camp meets all of the criteria they remain in “good standing” and may be eligible to receive access to the DGS. Exemplary camps are the most likely to be invited to the following year’s DGS.
Good standing is of benefit as it will affect future placement.
Camps not in good standing will be contacted and will be expected to make substantial changes to their submitted camp plans to qualify for future placement of the DGS for the following year.
For most of you, this information is familiar and reflects what you are already doing. For some of you, this information means you are going to need to increase your interactivity and upgrade your public facing spaces to reflect the spirit of radical inclusion.
We are here to support all of you create an amazing and interactive city for everyone at Burning Man to enjoy.
For more information about this and other topics you can watch the Theme Camp Forum. We recorded the March 21 event.
Fuze Meeting link: https://www.fuzemeeting.com/replay_meet … e9/7113130
[Update 5/22/15 10:51am PST]
Thanks to Pooh Bear for bringing this to our attention. BMOrg are openly promoting one of the oldest tourist packages, Green Tortoise, which is about $1000 per head. Many major camps charge much less in dues, I am curious to know how this pricing sits with everyone.
The price of the tour is not so important. It’s nonsense to say “this is great at $1000 because they funded some art and gave people rides on their bus to Gerlach, but it sucks at $16,000 because they funded some art and gave people rides on their art car”. BMOrg have decided “it’s a spectrum” which makes all things welcome. If any Burners thought Commodification Camps would be shut down, I hope now you realize that despite whatever words were said, and however many feedback forms were filled out, that isn’t what actually happened.
The Voices of Burning Man has an official response, from “Burning Man” – yes, the symbol now speaks.
YMMV on how much actual caboose actually got kicked, and with what level of force.
They’ve said they’re trying to stop it. Even though FCS aren’t actually doing business at Burning Man…what’s next, any TaskRabbit services for Burning Man get banned? No more trunk shows?
We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:
- Notifying participants in our Outside Services (OSS) program not to do business or subcontract with concierge companies like FCS or their clients.
- Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system.
- Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
- Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
- Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
- Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.
Can anyone explain to me how BMOrg could possibly think the Ticketing Team might be involved with FCS acquiring event tickets for resale? Isn’t the event sold out, there are no more tickets?
The messages seem mixed to me. Concierge culture is OK (says Larry), and then it’s forbidden (says “Burning Man”). Shouldn’t we be focused on bringing more beautiful art into the world, rather than what things can They stop that They were previously promoting a few months back?
[5/22/15 9:35am PST]
Some hilarious commentary from some of the usual crew of haters on the official BM Facebook page, suggesting that we are lying about this story. Well, just click the links people, you can go to the web site yourself. It is very real, despite whatever “caboose kicking” is being talked about, there they are: still in business. With even burningman.org advertising their offering now. That is, if any Burners have any kind of anti-authoritarian, rebellious spirit in them…
And don’t think FCS are the only ones offering this service – they are just facing the wrath of Burnier-Than-Thous because they were brave enough to “stick their heads above the parapet” as Ross Asselstine describes it. They visibly tried to conform to the rules and promote the Ten Principles, after receiving community feedback last year. Most other concierge services aren’t doing anything remotely like that – that we can see, anyway…instead of “great, thank you, we asked you to make some changes and you did that”, they will face attacks from Burnier-Than-Thous and factions within the Org. All in the name of…what, exactly? Are they going to ban First Camp and Board Members Camps from having concierges? Paid staff? Nope, nothing’s changed, just more hot air, diversions, distractions, smokescreens. All part of the carnival, the hucksters, the chumps and suckers and rubes, making the spectacle for the ringmasters.
[Update 5/27/15 2:26am PST]
FCS has updated us with the statement below (emphasis ours).
Despite BMOrg’s claims, they were well aware of FCS, who have been in contact with them and trying to do the right thing for months now. There are many other concierge, catering, and event planning services operating at Burning Man – and it seems like the ones that DIDN’T try to do the right thing in dialog with BMOrg will still be operating on the Playa. Perhaps under the radar, perhaps with a “wink wink nudge nudge” tolerance, or perhaps with official support and free advertising (like the Green Tortoise tourist packages).
If BMOrg really wanted to put an end to concierges at Burning Man, then they shouldn’t have got their founder and philosophical head to write a lengthy blog post accepting and justifying them.
According to FCS, BMOrg may even be breaking some laws by trying to dictate who licensed OSS vendors can and can’t do business with. Isn’t their Vendor License with the Bureau of Land Management? Or is there a second contract also?
From Festivals Concierge Service:
A few days ago Burning Man posted an article on their blog about our company stating that concierge services did not exist at Burning Man and that they will do everything possible to prevent us from working on this event. Which is a total nonsense and in conflict with Larry Harvey‘s post of last December and even with our long discussions with BMorg.
Who will believe that BMorg just discovered that there are some wealthy Burners and they spend their money on services and organisation during the event?
After our last year mistake thus receiving a lot of community feedback, we agreed not to propose any direct on-site services and to only propose services through official Burning Man Outside Service Program suppliers (who refund 3% of their Burning Man business income to Burning Man organisation), and to respect the use of the Burning Man’s IP. April 20, 2015, a Counsel of BMorg even replied, “In the spirit of Radical Self-Expression, please use your own words to explain the Burning Man event to your clients.” Now BMOrg is stating publicly that we never tried to find a way to work with them, which is for the record totally false.
It seems that the Burning Man organization is influenced by opinions emerging from group of Burners who have an distaste for wealthy individuals and refuse changes to « their » event. Although their actions violate the first of the ten principles they claim to defend: Radical Inclusion. As Larry Harvey, Burning Man co-funder wrote recently “Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them.”
Concierge culture existed at Burning Man early before we started any business there. Larry Harvey even confirmed it himself on his December 3, 2014 post on Voices of Burning Man: “Equality, Inequity, Iniquity : Concierge Culture”. As explain by Marian Goodell (Burning Man CEO) at the Global Leadership Conference, BMorg highly supports this business by its OSS program, and even takes financial advantage of this system. The near to 100 outside services companies who are supporting the Plug and Play camps are a most important part of the new business model of Burning Man, they are not going away, despite most of the Burner’s community dislike of them. The BMOrg personally deals with the outside services companies, towards satisfying the desires of the Concierge Camps, and of the Plug and Play Camps.
After trying to be recognized as a Burning Man Outside Service Program (OSS) official provider, Burning Man organisation finally replied us that they refuse to add concierge services to their program. We have therefore decided to propose a page on our website, clearly explaining that the services we offer for the Burning Man event are only intended to help our clients with preparation and organization, and the we didn’t offer any kind of package of the type BMOrg are trying to describe, or any other kind of unauthorized on-site services.
We are probably the only one type of concierge company who tried to do it in the official way, who tried to conform to the rules, who accepted to participate by paying the OSS contribution, who promoted the ten principles and who do our best to educate our clients to the Burning Man culture. Despite that Burning Man decided to lie and slander us publicly. This attitude is unacceptable.
The plug and play camps are increasingly numerous each year, and they do not relate anymore only to the wealthy Burners. There are some beautiful tunrkey camps starting from $500 for the week, including food, showers and electricity. These camps mostly host a large majority of campers, and RV’s are a minority. Some observers suppose that in a few years the Plug and Play Camps will represent more than 50% of the event, in accordance with the new business model of Burning Man.
Even if it displeases some Burners, the event evolves over time and we clearly are on the way to a Burning Man 2.0 with increasingly Virgins and wealthy Burners: people with annual income up to $150K grew from 5.8% of the population in 2010 to 10.4% in 2014 and newbies from 21% in 2010 to 39,99% in 2013 (cfr. BRC Census).
This craze causes an obvious shortage of tickets that causes so much hatred from some Burners who have no more access to “their” event.
Also, by saying that they will notifying Outside Services (OSS) applicants and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if they learn that they are doing business or subcontracting with us or our clients, they will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs, BMorg is asking OSS applicants to violate the U.S. Anti-Discrimination Laws and also the first Burning Man principle: Radical Inclusion
About this ticket problem, all our clients are already in possession of their own tickets. FCS does not have the task of verifying networks used by our clients to obtain their tickets. But we still allow doubting the good faith of BMorg when we know that they sells themselves a large amount of tickets to most of the Plug and Play camps.
We will continue to offer our services to help our clients organize and prepare their Burning Man experience. In any case BMorg may not oppose us from doing business outside of the event. We never claim to sell the Burning Man Experience, and even we really do our best to educate our clients to the Burning Man spirit. We also tried to create an art foundation (Art on Playa) to help our clients to sponsor art at Burning Man, but we met so many obstacles when we explained that we request financial transparency on projects that we wanted to support that we finally preferred to suspend this project. It seems that no one wants us to have a look on how they spend OUR money on their project. At least many of our “wealthy clients” continue to financially support art at Burning Man and by their actions, let all the community enjoy their gifts…