The BLM and local cops want more resources to handle a large population.
BMorg says the BLM’s demands would cost $10 million, and lead to “substantial” increases in ticket prices – which are already more than substantial for an event where the punters have to bring all the entertainment and facilities themselves.
The 10-year Permit for the event is at stake. This is needed for the largest event on Federal land to continue.
Among the contested changes suggested by BLM in the draft report, according to the Burning Man website, were:
— Federal oversight over certain parts of Burning Man‘s operations
— 10 miles of either plastic or cement barriers around the perimeter fence
— Dumpsters within the city and along Gate Road for the 80,000 participants
— BLM-approved private security funded by Burning Man who would be screening for weapons and drugs for anyone entering Black Rock City.
One suggestion, labelled as “brazen” in the Burning Man staff statement, was that the group would pay for the maintenance of County Road 34, which takes participants to the entrance…
Further complicating matters is the fact that organizers are seeking a 10-year permit with BLM to continue to hold the event at Black Rock Desert, which has been “home” to Burners for 27 years. The environmental impact statement was done in part to look at the potential outcome if the event grows to hold up to 100,000 people, versus its current attendee numbers of 70,000, or not holding the event at all.
The field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Black Rock Field Office said its suggestions are “attempts at trying to solve problems” in comments to the Gazette-Journal, emphasizing that the report is not yet finalized
BMorg’s response is, predictably, to raise ticket prices. No matter that they are able to sell another 30,000 more tickets. At current VIP Price of $1400, that is an extra $42,000,000 revenue per year – plus handling fees, vehicle passes, and all that jazz.
Initial cost estimates for BLM’s recommended stipulations are nearly $10 million per year and would raise ticket prices substantially. Importantly, BLM would benefit financially from these increased expenses through their existing requirements to take a percentage of a permit holder’s gross revenue.
They couldn’t just keep ticket prices the same, and bank the extra $32 mil?
Revenue from Burning Man event $42.8 million, up over $5 million from 2016
Annual Surplus (Revenue less Expenses): $3,733,876
Donations received almost $1 million
salaries (including contractors) increased $2.1 million
Cash and receivables: $11.75 million, up from $9.5 million in 2016
Total assets: $27.8 million
Sales of inventory was $1,605,516. That’s a lot of ice and coffee. Ice cost $596,177.
Medical expenses were $649,000.
Their stock donation program seems to be working, with a donation of $26,517 in marketable securities.
Most of the key personnel got pay rises in 2017, though some went down:
Overall payroll including contractors is $18,703,754 = 42% of revenues.
Grants as a % of revenues = 3.8% . Note this includes the cost of building The Man, the base structure, and partial funding of Playa art projects including the Temple.
The list of grant recipients contains many familiar names.
Burners Without Borders made 4 grants, totalling $4,900. [* this is for grants outside the US and has been disputed by BWB director Breedlove. See comments. I have asked him to provide the correct information, I will add it to the post – Ed.]
The annual Artumnal gathering took in $629,404 in 2017. About $100,000 of this went to pay for the use of the facility:
This is a substantial increase on 2016:
A huge thank you to A Balanced Perspective, DS and Anonymous Burner for their contributions and thoughts.
Artists receive less than 2% of the budget (approx $800,000)
Regionals receive about 4% of the budget ($1,717,766)
About 9% of the budget gets piled up in the bank account as cash.
Anonymous Burner says:
The art funding is constantly presented as a central tenant of the event, but is actually getting funded like an afterthought. Artists are the face and the creativity of the core of the event, but have to carry their art on their own backs while others claim credit for making things so great for them
What does an organization trying to “make the world a better place” through art need with so much cash, into the tens of millions of dollars? Why do they spend such a tiny amount of the money given to them by Burners every year on art? Why do the ticket revenues increase 10% a year but the art budget seems to keep proportionally shrinking?
How can they justify spending $1 million a year on insurance without providing insurance for the 10,000 or so workers on site building the city, art installations and camps? Would it really kill their vision to make $3.5 million a year instead of $3.9 million, and look after their workers better?
Why does the main “charitable” organization have to spend more on the Regional Events than they give out on grants? It’s about double the art budget. Is the purpose of Burning Man to spread Burner culture around the world through art, or is it to expand their inefficient bureaucracy? Can’t the Regional events support themselves?
The number of paid participants according to calculations in the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office report was 69,493.
I filed a FOIA request to get the 2017 vendor list: 84 companies selling things other than ice and coffee.
DS has also been filing FOIA requests for information about Burning Man. He was able to get this heavily redacted information for 2017, the calculations used to pay the Bureau of Land Management’s 3% fee.
Why the need for such secrecy?
The bulk of the $4,349,723 in Permits, Taxes and Fees appears to be the 9% Nevada Live Entertainment Tax. [* see comments – Ed.]
One of the interesting things in the 990 is the listing of “related entities”. It includes Decommodification LLC, but the share of end of year assets is $0.
Decommodification LLC is the organization that was created at the same time as the non-profit Burning Man Project, to hold all the intellectual property. As far as we can tell, it gets paid $75,000 per year in royalties from the Burning Man Project for use of their trademarks. We have no information on what other royalties it earns, for example from sales of the documentary “Spark” or the “lines around the block” Smithsonian exhibit. Google recently commissioned Burning Man to design a $2 million art installation for their campus: where does this money go? Five lucky artists will get a share, most likely the “big names” who appear in the grants list on a regular basis. Is there a royalty component to deals like this?
Decommodification LLC made two filings to the California Secretary of State on January 16, 2019. One was that “nothing has changed”, and another one requested that the company registration be canceled. It seems strange to me to file “no change” and “cancellation” notices on the same date, if anyone has knowledge of how this process works please leave a comment.
According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, the trademarks were transferred from Decommodification LLC back to the Burning Man Project on 28 April 2018 – the day Larry Harvey passed away.
The “nunc pro tunc” is a retroactive assignment to correct an earlier ruling. Was this something to do with Larry’s estate?
What happened to the rest of the intellectual property, including the rights to future royalty streams?
Were the trademarks assigned back to the Burning Man Project for free, Decommodification LLC dissolved, and the accumulated cash of 6-7 years of royalties distributed to the members? Or was some of that $12 million cash hoard used to purchase them?
These transactions occurred in 2018, so perhaps will get covered in next year’s IRS Form 990. There is no mention of them on the Burning Man web site, despite this being perhaps the most significant thing BMorg have done since spinning off their non-profit in 2012. BMorg like to claim they’re a “leader in radical transparency”, but Decommodification Inc has always been a mysterious black box.
The 2017 Form 990 values the Burning Man Project’s intangible assets at $4.23 million, but this was before the trademark transfer. This amount first appeared on the books in 2014. We believe it represents goodwill on the acquisition of Black Rock City, LLC from the Founders.
In 2016 BMorg bought a 3800 acre parcel of land known as “Fly Ranch” with big donations and paid $6.5 million. This is why the 2016 donations were more than $8 million.
Around 42:30 in the above video, they start talking about “community ownership of land”. The communist social justice component of this vision is that “living off the land is a version of Universal Basic Income”.
Five minutes into the video, they reveal that the land has been sub-divided into 53 different parcels.
Who gets a permanent Burning Man lot? Presumably the 6 5 Founders and the millionaires who put up the $6.5 million. Will the rest be auctioned off to the highest bidder, or handed out to the most favored staff, artists, and camps? I’m tipping Dancetronauts are not on the short list.
This reminds me of an earlier post, Get Your Timeshare Slot in the Sultan. There, I postulated that the “ironic timeshare sales” brochures being handed out from a booth at the Man base was actually Burning Man’s way of bringing that in as a future reality.
The same thing happened with hotels, where BMorg director Chris Weitz opened an “ironic hotel” at Ashram Galactica, which paved the way for the proliferation of luxury Plug-N-Play hotel camps today.
Some information about the original intention for Fly Ranch is available thanks to the Wayback Machine
You can see from the plan above that the property is adjacent to another playa. Hualapai Flat is land administered by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.
From the January 2018 report, it looks like this deal is close to being done:
Who else would want empty desert playa?
The original vision for the Fly Ranch site was a sustainable community of one acre lots for employees and affiliates, with its own airstrip. This plan talks about 9 parcels of 5 acres, each with their own access roads; and 73 parcels of 1 acre each.
Village and Residential sites
The two communities are based on Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and this will be it’s first year-round expression. Employees and affiliates may build on a ‘Homestead’ basis, or rent or buy into the Village community at the project’s north end. For others, one acre lots may be bought for home construction in the project’s central development (and separate H.O.A). These areas will be allowed to grow incrementally, with roads and utilities phased as required. Geo- thermal electricity will serve all the lighting and cooling needs of residents (and possibly the valley’s ranchers as well), and hot water will provide all heating.
Organic vegetable farming will be developed as an economic base for the village community. Geo-thermally heated greenhouse organic farming will be operated for local needs, and for transport and sale. This can supply Reno with organic vegetables throughout the year, while creating a wholly independent economy for the community.
Even with limited use, the grassy banks of the vernal pools are being sloughed in by bathers, the pools gradually churned into shallow mud holes. Bathers also leave tanning lotions, insect repellants, and other contaminants behind to ill effect. The pond waters contain a species of pupfish which are isolated by the underground source and terminal outflow.
A nature preserve requires control and enforcement, accordingly this area must be properly fenced to admit access only to indigenous animals, but excluding horses or cattle which trample wetlands. Human access must be highly regulated, with trespass, hunting and public use of existing pools and hot springs banned.
Anticipating the utter destruction of too much love, together with the projected costs of controlling and insuring against increasing liability, it is suggested that a Land Conservancy that is affiliated with Burning Man be created to manage the Geyser and wetland area.
This will epitomize the style of Fly Ranch, and become a beacon for the greater community. A restaurant, rooms and services will be available. Fly Lodge will be available for public and corporate use, while also serving as World Headquarters for Burning Man’s Regional organizations around the globe.
Burning Man Board Member Chip Conley’s experience with luxury boutique hotels and AirBNB would come in handy for a plan like this.
How Much For That Oasis In The Desert?
Burning Man’s balance sheet shows land, buildings and equipment of $11.9 million; net of depreciation, $9.9 million. Schedule D, Part VI lists the value of land as $7,233,545 and buildings at $979,870. In 2015, before the Fly Ranch purchase, land was $198,000 and buildings $979,780.
According to Nevada property records, Fly Ranch only cost about $2.6M. The Washoe sales records record two transactions for $2.377M and $0.240M. The water rights came under two different transactions and appear to not have specific value attached to them. The water rights transactions gave the prior owner only about 64 acre feet of water for livestock.
There were four transactions in 2016:
1) sale of 3,381 acres that was the majority of FR,
2) another 276 acres that was part of the FR with the geyser
These sold the mineral rights but not the water but referred to other linked sales of water rights.
3) transfer of water rights with a carve out for the prior owner for item 1).
4) transfer of water rights with a carve out for the prior owner for item 2).
Surface water rights initiated by applying water to beneficial use prior to March 1, 1905, and which have been perpetuated or continuously used through the years are known as vested water rights
The main water rights for the hot springs, Cottonwood Creek and Little Cottonwood Creek are the rare and highly coveted “vested water rights”, granted before 1905.
My source tells me that the Burning Man event draws 12 million gallons of water per year from this property (27 acre feet).
We recently published discussion from the Washoe County Commissioner’s meeting about the possibility of redrawing district boundaries so that Burning Man would be part of Washoe County (which gets the economic benefits from event-related tourism) instead of Pershing County (which gets a massive spike in crime rates with no economic benefits).
Fly Ranch is next to Hualapai Flat. Burning Man was held at this location once, in 1997. Hualapai Flat is where Pershing, Washoe, and Humboldt Counties meet. Fly Geyser is in Washoe County.
Is the proposed Washoe Boundary move related to long-standing plans to purchase Hualapai Flat? Is BMorg sitting on $4 million from the Fly Ranch donations to acquire this land?
I guess time will tell.
[Update Feb 7, 2019 2:11pm]
The plot thickens, with this post saying that Burning Man was under contract to purchase Fly Ranch in 2009, and real estate developer Build SF helped organize their corporate restructuring to provide “personal financial security” for the 6 Burning Man founders.
In 2009, the BUILD partners were introduced to Larry Harvey and his partners at the Burning Man Organization. Burning Man was in contract to acquire a 4,000-acre ranch in the Nevada desert on which they planned to move the annual Burning Man event as well as develop a desert art center.
BUILD facilitated a transaction that allowed Burning Man to adjust its corporate structure, manage tax requirements, protect trademarks, establish a permanent office, and provide personal financial security for the six Burning Man partners. Real estate provided an elegant solution for these complex, multi-dimensional challenges, while preserving and honoring the basic precepts of Burning Man. We are proud of the part we played as advisors to Burning Man in establishing a clear path and solid foundation for everyone’s long-term benefit, including the event itself.
I have another trusted source who drew the “intellectual property in a separate company” structure on a napkin for CEO Maid Marian. I will ask their opinion on this.
[Update Feb 13. 2019 4:06pm]
Breedlove head of BWB has updated us with some more detail:
It’s interesting to see the difference between Part III 4c & Schedule F Part 1. I don’t quite understand how they split the difference between those two sections.
We also provided grants for Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief at $21,317.12
There was also a series of Fiscal Sponsor funds that were raised and given out. One of those being the $30,363 for the Camp Epic Santa Rosa Fire Relief (which is in one of your screenshots above)— but I don’t have the ability to pull up all those numbers at this time.
I’m also realizing while going through my data that it isn’t the easiest to find some of this stuff unless you know where to look. So taking a note on improving our reporting systems for the future– I appreciate the opportunity to look at how we can do better at reporting in a more transparent and better to find way.
Registration is open now for Burning Man tickets. As with the past few years, you have to create a Burner profile and register for the sale to be eligible to enter. Do that by noon Friday. Then next week you have to log in within the first few seconds after 12:00:00 on Wednesday, and watch a little dude crawl across the screen for up to 2 hours without knowing if you won the lottery arrived in time to secure a place in the ticket queue.
If someone would have asked me at the end of Burning Man 2016 what my prediction for ticket prices would be, I would have said there will be more VIP tickets, less low income, prices will go up, and they will find some sneaky way to raise prices further like increasing the vehicle pass price or the handling fees. Don’t be surprised if the population cap increases too. This is pretty much my default prediction for every year now.
Sure enough, all of that is true. The good news is, more tickets: 4500, “approximately”. The bad news is, predictably, prices went up, from $397 to $437. Handling fees were $7, now they are $12 – for EACH ticket or vehicle pass “handled” by this computer system. Which means vehicle passes are now $92. The number of low income tickets has decreased, from 6000 to 4000. That’s 2000 extra sherpa positions created on Billionaire’s Row – thanks Trump! Prices for these have increased from $197 to $202 – low income or not, you still have to pay more. It’s a charity tax-exempt entity now, there is important work to be done making the world a better place. You think it’s cheap sending social alchemists to Costa Rica? Try sending whole teams of them.
The number of VIP tickets has increased, to 5500. Prices for these have been bumped only slightly, to $1212. The higher end VIP tickets are no longer called “Da Vinci Tickets”, they are called 1200s – a nod to the DJ crowd, perhaps? Anyway, you can load up on these still via the Burner Profile.
The number of tickets now is approximate. There are “approximately” 500 more of the expensive tickets available for sale. They “may” have 27,000 vehicle passes, or they may sell thousands more. We will never know, since this “unlikely leader in transparency” (indeed) no longer discloses such things to mere Burners. If you need 10 tickets and you don’t mind paying about fifteen grand, I would be very surprised to learn the web site rejected you.
It might seem like ticket prices didn’t change that much compared to last year, but BMorg have artfully found a way to milk another almost $10 million tax free dollars out of the community. An impressive feat of capitalism, I salute them. But I’m still scratching my head on how this rave is making the world a better place, even with all this extra dough coming in since they went “non profit”.
I am offering $1000 via PayPal to anyone the first person that can give me a copy of the 1996 Burning Man Helco Contract, called “Standard Short Form Contract for Purchase of Soul”. The contract is discussed and shown in this presentation around 1:57:00:
Crimson Rose hails Satan (Flash Hopkins) while Larry Harvey explains the devil in the details to a reporter. Note the shadow black cross on the wall
I can’t quite make out clause 1 but the sections appear to be:
NO COOLING OFF PERIOD
TERM OF CONTRACT
WARRANTIES BY SELLER
OWNERSHIP AND LIEN RIGHTS
TAXES AND FEES
TIME OF ESSENCE
VENUE AND JURISDICTION
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF UNDERSTANDING
ADDITIONAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS
From the table with the skull on it (very Masonic) it seems like there is also some sort of certificate which was presented, in addition to a copy of the contract. It may well be that BMorg kept all the contracts and did not give the signers a copy. I have had more than one reader over the years tell me that they have a copy, but I have not yet been able to get an original document. I hope the reward will inspire someone to come forward with this important piece of Burner history.
the terrain was alien, the people were all different colors, there were huge and frightening creatures, and the name of the place – Black Rock City – doesn’t appear on any map at all.
We worked really hard on our vacation this year. So hard I’m amazed we all stayed friends through the vacation! We bought a rocket ship disguised as a bus and got it all gussied up for the trip. We got ourselves a big old tent and a giant scaffolding to make a tower with and packed ’em up. We nabbed lotsa couches and carpeting and loaded ’em on the roof rack to decorate with. And of course, we brought lots of t-shirts and contracts to buy people’s souls with.
Souls sure are cheap! We brought back 150 of ’em, each one purchased for a t-shirt, condom, and fortune cookie. Most of ’em we got pictures of in our book of souls, and all of ’em signed a contract as airtight as we could make it. Heck, if it weren’t for the dust storm, pretty naked girls, and other distractions, I’m sure we would have filled out all of the 300 contracts we took with us.
Think you’re cool for buying Leonard Da Vinci tickets for triple the price? Are you on the Burner100 list? No? Well, you might have to up your Gifting game if you want to swing with the Big Playa Players. If you kiss the right asses they might even name a Principle after you.
Halcyon with his dad, Bob Weir. Image: BJ
Pink Jesus, aka John Halcyon Styn, raised the radical idea that what used to make the art at Burning Man so magical was that people created it for free to share with each other. So paying artists could be Commodification.
He was roundly shot down by the group, but after breakaway sessions they came back with the idea that not paying artists was excellent, and they could blame it on him: aka “The Halcyon Principle”.
Gifting is the answer the everything. Or my answer, at least. Over and over at the conference, I brought the conversation back to Gifting. While there is so much magic happening in the Burning Man movement, I think the core of it is in Gifting. A) It teaches us to receive joy from giving joy.
B) It helps us to start seeing ourselves as having talents and art of our own to share.
Shifting people’s from self-identity from “consumer” to “creator” is world-changing. I spoke up on the first day and questioned a line of thought by reminding people that, while I want to get artists paid, I am more passionate about making sure the art remains a gift. I said I was transformed by that first awareness that all this amazing stuff on the playa was created — not for financial reasons — but purely to blow my mind. It created an energetic surplus in me that made me want to give back to this place and community for the rest of my life. There was a quick rebuttal to what I said and I instantly regretted speaking up. Maybe I am too naive for this conversation I thought. I shouldn’t be here.
But the next day, someone approached me and thanked me for saying something. Then another. Then a breakout group told me that they had a long conversation about what they were calling “The Halcyon Principle” based on what I had said.
A surreal highlight of the week (that was already a highlight of my life) was having Maid Marian, CEO of Burning Man, write “Halcyon Principle” on the whiteboard during the final Symposium wrap-up.
It’s not about paying artists! We can just give them hugs! Remember the Halycon Principle!
I’m not knocking Halcyon, he makes some good points and he has been kind enough to write guest posts here. Forgive me for being cynical about groupthink and congruency between words and actions, but I’ve been writing about BMorg for almost 5 years now. The ratio keeps growing, in the wrong direction. More people at the off-site symposia and invite-only conferences, more TED talks and panel discussions, lots of people being flown all around the world for words; less visible actions promoting art or making the world a better place. Who cares about which gender Burners identify with, buy some kids a skate park or a library.
This collective experiment in temporary community has owned Fly Ranch for half a year, and Burners are mobile and self-reliant even in harsh conditions. Especially the Top 100 of them. Yet somehow the future of Flysalen needed to be plotted in the acid-laced hot tubs of Esalen, rather than the oil drilling byproduct hot springs of Fly Ranch.
Being on the boards of both Esalen and the Burning Man Project, Chip Conley swings both ways. Image: Fest300
For $6.5 million They could have bought a lot, and done a lot. At Esalen it’s $900 for no accommodation or a sleeping bag and $1300 for a dormitory bunk bed; if a couple wants their own room it’s more than five grand. At these rates they might as well just have their symposium at Caravancicle or White Ocean. Was this a pay-to-plug-n-play deal, or did Halcyon and 99 others get comped? Where does your ticket money go?
The 2014 Afterburn report claims a total of 896 paid employees. Obviously at least 90% of them didn’t get invited to the Esalen symposium. There are about 100 year-round staff on the Burning Man web site, wonder what percentage of them got to attend? The last payroll figure we have for the Burning Man Project is for 2014, $7,485,059 (plus another $3,441,179 in contractors). So one week of the Burning Man Project’s time is around $150k of salaries. For $150k I will give them a vision, I’m sure it will be better and easier to implement than whatever the Burner100 came up with.
100 people had a bunch of ideas and told each other how great they were…for a whole frikking week. Were there hugsies involved? Some form of Orange cordial, perhaps?
I got in the tubs twice. Most people were in there as much as possible. I spent much more time standing on the cliffs looking out at the jagged coast