“Nothing For Sale On The Playa”: 2017 Burning Man Vendor List

I had to file a FOIA request to get Burning Man’s vendor list, even though I spoke to the BLM’s Winnemucca office some time ago and they initially told me it would be no problem to provide it. Somehow that got intercepted, just like the arrest statistic information seems to have been. Maybe #Chocotacogate caused a distraction.

Perhaps it is time to stop the charade that Black Rock City is a world where nothing is for sale except ice and coffee. I count 84 different vendors, none of whom appear to be selling those products. In addition we have BMOrg ($40 million+), the Feds ($4 million), the State ($3.6 million), the Counties (hundreds of thousands)…and whatever black market activity might be going inside a Utopian pleasure city of 80,000 people…and about $100 million being added to the local economy from all the Burners hitting up the casinos, Wal-Marts, gas stations, CostCos and Whole Foods on the way.

Licensed to Sell

I just got off the phone with David Freiberg at the BLM’s Black Rock Field Office, who said he’s a fan of this site. He is going to track down the 2014 list of vendors who were granted a Special Recreation Permit to sell on the Playa this year, we will update this story when we get it. The number of vendors has increased from 45 in 2013, to more than 80 this year.

He said that BLM were looking into the Plug-n-Play camps, which are required to have a permit and pay a 3% share of their revenues to the BLM. He wasn’t aware of any such camps that did get a permit, but it seems like most of them should have.

Some of the triggers for if a permit is required:

  • advertising to the general public, or only to friends
  • camp dues as cost-sharing, versus funding a commercial enterprise
  • it doesn’t matter if you’re a bad businessman, if you lose money, that’s your problem; if you’re selling spots and paying staff, that’s probably commercial activity not casual recreation

It appears that Caravancicle had a commercial deal with The Lost Hotel to build their camp, commercially engaged sherpas and managers who were paid to work there, and produced promotional materials that were advertised to the public.

In JT’s recent “apology“, he claimed that his web site was “meant to be password protected”. It certainly wasn’t when we first wrote about caravancicle.com (now blacked out).

caravancicle room outside

Space Cubes at Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

JT says that even though he “gifted money” to the camp, it was not meant to make a profit:

I can assure you our camp generated no money and was not, in any way, a money making venture

This conflicts with Danger Ranger’s version of events, in which he claimed JT “lost money” only because the camp’s un-named producer embezzled “took the money and ran”. Allegedly. It also conflicts with Sherpagirl’s inside information, that campers paid $17,000 for a hotel room space cube. If you’re selling 68 rooms for $17k a pop , your camp is generating money. Discounting or even comping some of the rooms doesn’t alter that fact.

In their marketing materials, Caravancicle quite clearly state that this is based on the “mind-blowing” hotel they built last year at Camp Olympus. There’s no indication that this page on their web site was made by anyone but Caravancicle.

I printed their caravancicle.com/about page to a PDF on September 5 – no password was required, and there was never any indication that this was “camp-only” private information.

2014 Caravancicle – About Camp

Here’s their very commercial-looking Participant Agreement:

2014 Participant Agreement, R… and Assumption of Risk

It specifically mentions the following individuals and corporations in their risk waiver:

  • Back To Earth, Inc dba “dovetail events”
  • Ari Derfel
  • Jim Tananbaum
  • Space Cubes LLC
  • Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc/Peik Investments LLC
  • Black Rock City LLC
Image: Phillippe Glade

Image: Philippe Glade

JT said:

Our camp breakdown was also compromised because the group responsible for providing the infrastructure was also responsible for part of the breakdown. In the end, our camp manager and some other members of the camp, plus breakdown staff, cleaned up our camp by Saturday after the event

Staff, responsibilities, infrastructure providers, managers – it sounds pretty commercial to me.

We hired a team to produce the camp…but Caravancicle did not participate in any advertising. The ‘promotional materials’ and website were sent to guests who were invited to join the camp. We did not actively promote the camp. No one in Caravancicle made money off of the camp

We’ve provided a link to some of their advertising and promotional materials, the About page at caravancicle.com. Creating a website and putting your commercial-looking brochure up on it surely counts as “participating in advertising”. There is no question that people who worked in Caravancicle were paid, so JT is not telling the truth here.

we used wristbands

some of our campers were “plug and play” participants

Seems pretty clear to me.

2014 lost hotel bathroom

From Interior Design:

Inside a Space Cube

Inside a Space Cube

Scott Mahoney created the camp “The Lost Hotel,” using his modular tent system called Space Cube that can stack up to three stories high. Mahoney used Adobe Illustrator to design the entire project from the stairs to the bed frames, and constructed everything within 10 weeks. Mahoney’s inspiration was “constrained only by ease of setup and breakdown,” he says. Also collaborating on the project was Joey Rubin of Adar Partners. Rubin’s process was one of “resourcefulness and adaptability,” he says, especially when designing two theme camps at the same time, since Mahoney’s team also assembled 68 Space Cube tents for Caravancicle, a camp produced by Ari Derfel…

Caravancicle Camp offered an all-inclusive experience to affluent deciders and Powerball winners who enjoyed a level of sophistication never seen before at BRC.
It took the teams of The Lost Hotel and of LMNOP 5 people working for 7 days 18h/day to complete this pushing the envelope of refinement camp

Here is how the Federal Government defines commercial use, in relation to their requirement for a Special Recreation Permit (SRP):

Subpart 2932—Special Recreation Permits for Commercial Use, Competitive Events, Organized Groups, and Recreation Use in Special Areas

§2932.5   Definitions.

Actual expenses means money spent directly on the permitted activity. These may include costs of such items as food, rentals of group equipment, transportation, and permit or use fees. Actual expenses do not include the rental or purchase of personal equipment, amortization of equipment, salaries or other payments to participants, bonding costs, or profit.

Commercial use means recreational use of the public lands and related waters for business or financial gain.

(1) The activity, service, or use is commercial if—

(i) Any person, group, or organization makes or attempts to make a profit, receive money, amortize equipment, or obtain goods or services, as compensation from participants in recreational activities occurring on public lands led, sponsored, or organized by that person, group, or organization;

(ii) Anyone collects a fee or receives other compensation that is not strictly a sharing of actual expenses, or exceeds actual expenses, incurred for the purposes of the activity, service, or use;

(iii) There is paid public advertising to seek participants; or

(iv) Participants pay for a duty of care or an expectation of safety.

(2) Profit-making organizations and organizations seeking to make a profit are automatically classified as commercial, even if that part of their activity covered by the permit is not profit-making or the business as a whole is not profitable.

From Burning Man’s FAQ (old site):

http://burningman.com/themecamps/delivery_faq.html

Q: Does my delivery driver need a BLM Special Recreation Permit (SRP)?

A:The Burning Man Event occurs on public land administered by the BLM. Commercial activities (services rendered with the intent of making a profit or financial gain, or delivery of goods and services onto public lands for a fee) are prohibited within the Burning Man Closure area unless specifically contracted by Black Rock City, LLC, and permitted by the BLM through a Special Recreation Permit (SRP).

In 2012, Minister of Propaganda Will Chase said:

we would like to address a few key areas of confusion, so everybody’s on the same page:

  1. “Adventure” outfits (defined as purely commercial businesses offering a full service camp experience that have no connection to our culture and community) providing “a Burning Man Experience” are not considered to be Turnkey camps, and as of this year they will no longer be allowed at the event. Before we had a formalized process for making deliveries to Black Rock City (introduced in 2011 as a “vendor pass” then renamed to Outside Services in 2012 to better reflect the variety of deliveries we facilitate which help build the city) we had no way of identifying these enterprises. Now that we do, we will actively prohibit adventure businesses that are not part of our community and merely capitalizing on our event. It will not be a completely clean process the first year; there are innocent people involved who need to be considered and, as always, a spectrum of outfits that could fit into this category or may be of benefit to the community. They will need to be evaluated and treated fairly, but rest assured, we will not allow our city to become a revenue stream for these sorts of businesses any longer. We are calling on the community to help us with this effort by identifying operations and reporting them to us by emailing outsideservices@burningman.com.
  2. There has been confusion on an issue referred to as taxation for Turnkey camps. These are the facts: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently informed us that they will require any business in operation at our event to obtain a permit and pay 3% of gross revenues to the BLM, just as Black Rock City LLC is required to do. This has always been their right. They began enforcement with commercial air charters at our airport in 2011 and this year they will require RV and trailer providers to pay as well. This will not apply to small “mom and pop” style operations or one-time deliveries. The BLM is not interested in capitalizing on every opportunity, but they do have federal permit regulations they are required to uphold, and this allows them to hold larger commercial operations accountable with regard to our event stipulations and their commitment to environmental stewardship.

Although Caravancicle is the most public of the Commodification Camps, and particularly egregious because it was backed by someone on the Board of Directors, it’s by no means the only such enterprise. Answergirl said they placed 25 of these camps on October 29, this was watered down to 12 by December 3 when “Burning Man” gave us their official response. If these camps are running commercial activities on the Playa, without a Special Recreation Permit from the Bureau of Land Management, they jeopardize the permit for the whole event – and thus are an existential threat to Burning Man itself, as well as a threat to our culture.

From burningman.org:

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

References:

BLM 2014 Burning Man Operating Plan

BLM 2013 list of permitted vendors

 

 

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

DJ Booth above the bar, Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

DJ Booth above the bar, Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade