Burning Man Could Be Moving To Utah [Update]

So says the CEO, in a recent hour-long interview on the Positive Head podcast.

From VICE:

“The biggest danger facing Burning Man right now is that the State of Nevada has levied an entertainment tax,” Goodell stated further. “We still believe that we don’t fit under a form of entertainment. Frankly, we’re not a Las Vegas show. We’re not a car race or a concert in a stadium.”

Goodell claims that the Silver State is enforcing a massive 9% entertainment tax on the Burning Man project, crippling revenue flows and long-term sustainability. “We’re not able to absorb that,” she said, before balefully concluding by saying, “That’s the thing right now that makes us look longingly towards Utah or any other state that might not have levied that.”

Their sold out event can’t absorb an increase in Ticket Prices from $390 to $425? File that one under things that make you go Hmmmm. They seemed to have no problem jacking Vehicle Pass prices 25% from last year. Perhaps the real issue may have something to do with them spending so much money on lawyers and accountants in order to become “tax exempt”, only to have politicians route around them by implementing a new tax. More lobbying and lawyers required, where does it end? (Hint: it never ends).

Fest300 asks Will Burning Man Be On The Playa Next Year? and then takes it further, intrigued by the suggestion that we’ve outgrown the desert and it’s time for some permanent infrastructure:

Goodell continues, “We’re running out of space on the Black Rock desert, so we’re doing everything we can” to nurture regional Burns.

And, right above the 1-hour mark, Goodell brings up the intriguing possibility of Burning Man’s first permanent structure beyond its office in San Francisco: “For the long-term survival of the culture, we are going to need a physical space…We will, as time goes by, find it hard to only be in the Black Rock Desert. We may need to find a place that would allow for infrastructure. I’m certain that’s in our future.”

Marian shed some more light on what’s behind the Dance Music Zone. It’s to make Robot Heart “more free”, and because of a “long standing” dispute with Dancetronauts:

“Burning Man is not a festival,” Goodell was early to iterate. “A festival, for many people, now means stages and food vendors and having your comforts more taken care of. We’re definitely not interested in providing a typical festival atmosphere.”

That statement may be a tougher sell to the much maligned, but now-entrenched upper crusters who glamp amidst luxury and a minimal sense of radicalism that sits starkly against traditional Burner tenets.

“We have watched the change in the type of people that come to Burning Man,” Goodell acknowledged. “We’re not gonna get in front of certain things and force issues. We are gonna nurture the process so we all get the best results. Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community, and we’re the stewards of that process.

Time for a change? Bear Kittay, Marian Goodell and Danger Ranger. // Photo by Christoper Michel

Time for a change? Bear Kittay, Marian Goodell and Danger Ranger. // Photo by Christoper Michel

This year, that process involves stewarding some of the rowdier art car dance parties away from Black Rock City. Goodell acknowledged that longtime Burner crew The Dancetronauts were disinvited to the Playa in 2015 after a long-standing dispute with the jumpsuited spacemen, while the Opulent Temple camp was denied camp placement after dropping their levels of camp interactivity.

Made more notable after the famous debacle last year in which Skrillex and Diplo dropped “Turn Down For What?” to a bemused audience of hippies, is the institution of the Deep Playa Music Zone, a distantly situated area in which art cars like Robot Heart will be more free to post up and blast electronic dance music for as long and as loud as they need, want, or are physically able to.

Damian Lazarus at Robot Heart. Image: VICE

Damian Lazarus at Robot Heart. Image: VICE

Goodell was at the center of this change after an encounter with the untz last year left her reeling: “I was one of the people who was awakened at 3 in the morning by the sound of thumping music. My trailer was vibrating! Several of us came out, shocked, and couldn’t understand, even though I’ve been doing this for 19 years. We got in the cart and went out and it was an tart car facing its speakers towards the camp. It was past the man and it woke me!”


Hmmm again. This doesn’t sound like it was Dancetronauts. So why was it them who was punished? What happened to this other “too loud” art car – anything?

And what’s the CEO of Burning Man doing trying to sleep at 3am anyway?


[Update 8/19/15 1:06pm]

She’s certainly not building her own camp. About ten minutes into the interview she completely justifies paid sherpas – as long as they get to eat at the same dinner table as the other campers, rather than “staff” versus “guests”, an “us and them sort of thing”. She states “The culture of Burning Man can really flourish with money…[for example] to bring great musicians to your camp”.

Stereolambda has made a very interesting observation in the comments here.

This certainly adds context around why the org is suddenly asking sound camps not to list DJ line-ups. It seemed odd at the time that they would suddenly come out with this policy after so many years, but now it is clear they are trying to make sure they can argue that Burning Man is not entertainment, and therefore not subject to the entertainment tax.

Could there be a link between a new “entertainment tax” and a new “crackdown on EDM”? Or just more coincidences?

“we don’t believe we’re a form of entertainment. We’re not a Las Vegas show or a car race or a concert in a stadium”