Burning Man announces new sound policy for Art Cars

Seems like BMorg does not ♥ Robot Heart!

All hail Robot Heart's awesome speaker stack



The Issue of Sound on Mutant Vehicles

The volume level of music played on the playa has long been an interesting issue for Black Rock City. Over the past several years it has been an increasing concern for many BRC citizens in regards to the number and size of sound systems on mutant vehicles. With sounds systems being large and mobile, it makes it very easy to effect the experience of many others, often this is good, sometimes it’s not. Too many times over the last few years we have had too many issues come up. Artists have complained that the experience at their art installations have been infringed upon, many people who have intentionally camped in the quieter parts of the city have been woken up in the early morning hours by rogue mutant vehicles blasting music, and there have even been reports of hearing damage from people who were just sitting on the playa and trapped in crowds at burns when a vehicle drove by or parked and blasted it’s sound system at extreme levels.

IF IT'S TOO LOUD, YOU'RE TOO OLDLast year at Burning Man, I was having a great, passionate discussion with a friend of mine at our camp. We were talking about the different things we were doing to make the world a better place, and figuring out if there were any opportunities to collaborate. I was then rudely interrupted by a grumpy neighbour. “Keep it down!” he yelled. “People are trying to sleep here!” He gestured towards their shade structure, where a couple of people were completely passed out.

It was 2 in the afternoon. On Saturday.

We have also seen an increase in the number of Mutant Vehicles with sound systems of a size and power that would normally be designed for a stadium or arena. While the volume of these types of systems can be more easily assessed and appropriately placed when they are stationary in a Theme Camp, when they are on Mutant Vehicles they can be taken anywhere on the playa and pointed in any direction, making a cone of sound that may be heard by literally tens of thousands of people at a time. This creates a situation where one person or group is essentially forcing their music choice onto many others who may not want to hear it, are trying to enjoy other music, sleep, etc.

The solution to this is:

1) people who want quiet should camp on the outskirts, at the perimeter. This includes kids. It’s a freaking party people, it’s only a week, if you don’t like naked people and loud music, there are plenty of other places to go rather than Black Rock City.

2) any sound system over 5000W, don’t crank it too much except on the Playa.

Somewhat surprisingly, the DMV has never had it’s own policy that specifically applies to Mutant Vehicles, despite the fact that these vehicles carry some of the biggest sound systems on the playa. This lack of guidance no doubt helps allow the problems described above to exist, and persist. To help address this community problem, the DMV has developed a basic sound policy to help MV owners use their sound to the best benefit of the community. There will also be additional questions regarding sound upon registration of Mutant Vehicles.

They’ve never had the policy, because WHO THE FUCK RESTRICTS NOISE LEVELS OF GUESTS AT THEIR OWN PARTY? If the cops aren’t complaining, TURN IT UP!

A few things to consider:

Bigger is not necessarily better. A well engineered and well tuned sound system can create a high quality experience for those nearby without blasting out thousands of others further down playa. Do really need a sound system big enough to reach miles across the playa when the crowd in front of your vehicle only goes out a few hundred feet?

Yes! Definitely! Is this a trick question? Why the fuck else put a huge stereo on an art car? You could just listen to your iPod in your RV. Do we really need lasers and flames shooting out of a car? Does a car really need to look like a giant pussy?

Consider pointing your speakers inward so your sound is directed on those on your vehicle vs. on everyone else. Point your speakers downward vs. outward to minimize how far sound travels.

Consider how many offs you need to fuck.

Remember not to play your sound system at higher levels while riding on city streets after midnight, or in a manner that dominates all other sound as you pass.

Robot Heart pulls up to Distrikt. Partying ensues
Some of my best times at Burning Man have been watching art car battles like this. I’d rather they used bass cannons than flame throwers!

Keep in mind that if we continue to have the level of complaints and issues that we have been having for the past few years, we may have to take greater steps to limit large sound on vehicles. Please consider your impact on the community and help us all keep sound on MVs a positive experience.

I have a suggestion for you. Anyone who complains about the noise at Burning Man, take their name down and put them on a list. Next time you scrub your ticket lottery, remove any name that is on this list. They won’t be happy at a party with (literally) Gigawatts of sound, in the middle of the desert miles from anywhere. They would be better off in Yosemite or the public library.

The vehicle owner (registrant) is responsible for all aspects of the vehicle, including the use of sound systems. Rogue DJs are not an excuse for your vehicle getting complaints.

“It wasn’t me it was the DJ gone rogue”…classic. I think a more realistic excuse would be “party poopers” are the reason for your vehicle getting complaints.

Mutant vehicle sound systems can be classified into three levels.

  • Level 1: Normal car stereo / average living room (under 90 db at 30 ft)
  • Level 2: Dance Club or Theatre (90db and up at under 100ft)
  • Level 3: Large Dance Club, Arena, Stadium (100db or more at 100ft or more)

To put this in perspective, a fire engine going past you on the street in San Francisco is  120 DB at 10 ft.

According to this, a typical rock concert is 125 DB

Vehicles with Level 1 systems may play anywhere playa, but must be mindful of your volume and surroundings, especially in quieter areas in the city or later at night.

Vehicles with Level 2 systems may only play at high volume on the open playa (not in or pointing right into the city streets) and must be mindful of where you are playing — e.g. around art pieces, burns, etc. — and turn it down when appropriate.

Vehicles with Level 3 systems may only play at high volume at 10:00 and 2:00 by the Large Scale Sound Camps, with speakers pointing out to the deep playa.

If you get more than two warnings about your sound system, you may lose your MV license and right to drive it for the rest of the event.

Why not just have an “Art Car Loud Noise Zone” on Deep Playa. Super-loud art cars are encouraged to go that way. If an art car offends the noise police and has to be punished, rather than taking away their right to drive, put them on the “Naughty Step” and make them stay in the Loud Noise Zone for 24 hours.

Just because you call yourselves “The DMV” doesn’t mean you have to act like The DMV.