Burning Man Tickets: $1500 [Updates]

 

Image: Thomas Tomaso, Facebook

Image: Thomas Tomaso, Facebook

The shenanigans have ended. As we predicted, once the dust has settled from all the propaganda histrionics, BMOrg have raised ticket prices yet again. The 9% Live Entertainment Tax will be passed on to Burners – unless a miracle happens and Nevada rules that the “Burning Man tax” was never meant to apply to Burning Man.

We haven’t yet received a response from the Nevada Department of Taxation to our inquiry. We had hoped to resolve this matter before selling tickets so that participants would not have to pay the tax, but the state is taking longer than we expected to issue an opinion. Unfortunately, this means we will have to collect the tax at the time of purchase, as per the law. At 9% a pop, this amounts to an additional $34 for each $390 ticket (if the tax is found not to apply after ticket sales commence, we will issue a refund for the 9% collected)

[Source]

BMOrg have created a new “class” of tickets for 1000 Super-Elite VIP patrons. These VIP tickets are a staggering $1200 each – which is actually $1299  including vehicle pass and handling fees. The 42% of Burners who live in California may have to pay double tax on their tickets – 7.5% sales tax plus the 9% Live Entertainment Tax. This will add almost $200 to the ticket price, for a total of $1497 per ticket.

Vehicle passes have increased in price too: now $80. BMOrg claim the vehicle pass program as a huge success, because it used to be 12.8% of participants arriving in a car by themselves, and now it’s down to 10%. Interesting that they are using this statistic, instead of vehicle numbers. Is the goal to get vehicles off the road, or to stop people arriving by themselves?

They have also hiked the price of 5,000 pre-sale tickets to $1000 each – well, $990, but you get the picture.

Regular tickets remain at $390 (plus taxes, $12 mailing charge and $7 handling fee). Half of the regular tickets (25,000, and 13,000 vehicle passes) go to those selected by BMOrg to be in the World’s Biggest Guest List – the Directed Group Sale

There will be 6000 tickets at $190, for the Low Income program and staff.

 

[Update 3/13/16 6:46pm]

Now that the sale has happened, we know a $7 “handling fee” is applied to each individual ticket and vehicle pass. Really, each ticket costs $7 more than the listed price. Rather misleading and deceptive conduct, if you ask me. Here is an update revenue calculation, including the Nevada Live Entertainment Tax also.

Screenshot 2016-03-13 18.45.44

 

Burning Man’s event revenue in 2014 was $30,679,219.

This statement from the Tickets page is a little confusing:

A 9% Nevada Live Entertainment Tax will be added to the price of all tickets and $3 of the $7 per ticket service fee. Will Call delivery is the only method subject to this tax, but the $12 fee will be inclusive so additional tax will not be charged to you for this option.

So if you get the ticket mailed to you, you don’t pay the tax? Or you have to pay an extra $3 if you go to Will Call, which is in Nevada? Are BMOrg saying they are going to cover the $3 extra tax component of a Will Call sale?

Registration for the Pre-Sale opens February 10, and the first sale takes place at noon on Wednesday, February 17.


 

[Update 2/4/16 7:55am]

I’ve been trying to confirm if the California sales tax applies, and if so is it just the $1200 or the whole transaction (including the Vehicle Pass, $19 processing charges, and Live Entertainment Tax), without any real success either way. Perhaps someone with expertise in this area can confirm whether or not CA sales tax applies to event tickets sold over the Internet via a CA web site to CA customers by CA corp Ticketfly on behalf of NV corporation Black Rock City LLC that licenses the Burning Man name from CA private corporation Decommodification LLC and distributes 100% of its profits to tax-exempt CA parent company The Burning Man Project.

I note that back in 2012, when this ticket lottery system began, the VIP price tier was $390 (and there were no vehicle passes). In 4 short years this has gone to $1200, and the cheapest ticket has gone from $229 (2011, ticket plus handling) to $489 (2016, ticket plus handling plus vehicle pass) – an increase of 113%.

Does this mean that by 2020, VIP tickets will be $10,000 and regular tickets will be $1,000?

In the same time frame the population of the city has grown 25%. BMOrg have added another $7-8 million per year in revenues, as well as being able to save millions on taxes; the city is still the same, portapotties, roads, signs, The Man, Gate, Exodus, Center Camp, First Camp, Media Mecca. Maybe there’s a couple hundred more portapotties, but otherwise it’s hard to see where this extra money has all gone to make the Burning Man event better for the Burners who have to create it.


 

[Update 2/4/16 12:06pm]

Here’s some data from tracking the secondary market prices on Stubhub in 2015.

Screenshot 2016-02-04 12.06.24


 

[Update 2/4/16 3:18pm][

Thanks to A Balanced Perspective for picking up on this point.

The revenue from these ticket sales will let us keep prices the same for everyone else. The 1,000 tickets sold at $1,200 each will raise $1.2 million. So what does Burning Man do with $1.2 million? Last year we issued $1.2 million in grants directly to artists through Black Rock City Honoraria. Add to that an additional $1.8 million in support services, and the 2015 BRC art budget topped $3 million. Again, you can learn all about Burning Man’s budget and expenses in our Form 990 and Annual Report.

They have managed to link “$1.2 million in grants directly to artists” to “$1.2 million of Medici patronage tickets being sold”.

It is hard to say if this statement is true or not, since we only just got the 2014 numbers. In 2014 total art grants were $911.955. Did they increase from this to $3 million? We probably won’t know for another year, but I call bullshit.

 

Art Cars: Now Chosen by Curators

M&R Photography

Image: M & R Photography, Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over at eplaya, Trilobyte has posted the new rules for Mutant Vehicles.

Have a cool art car? That’s no longer enough. In order to bring it, the Art Czar will have to decide that it fits the aesthetic they desire for the year’s theme – and if you are in good enough standing in your sucking up to BMOrg.

Burning Man 2.0 is about pedestrians and bicycles, not Art Cars and DJs.

2016 MUTANT VEHICLE PROCESS CHANGES

The Department of Mutant Vehicles is moving to a new system for processing Mutant Vehicle applications in 2016.

THE SHORT VERSION
The increased volume of Mutant Vehicle applications (nearly 1000 in 2015) is requiring the DMV to be more selective than ever. Having a vehicle on the playa in the past is no guarantee of
being invited in the future! Put your best foot forward in your application and give us a reason to invite your vehicle to Black Rock City. The Mutant Vehicle application form will be closing earlier than ever this year: Noon (PST) on April 13.

THE WHOLE STORY
In past years, the DMV has invited every vehicle to the playa that met the published Mutant Vehicle requirements. We strove to have an objective process to evaluate each application, focusing on level of mutation – not on quality of the art. It’s important to know that if you think it’s a good idea to art up a Car Leasing from ICL that you catch on the way, think again.

Each Mutant Vehicle application is reviewed by a committee of DMV Hotties, and we strive to reach a consensus agreement on whether the vehicle has met the criteria. Historically the DMV team has reviewed each application shortly after it was received, and responded to the vehicle creator as quickly as possible. Over the years, the Mutant Vehicle Community has steadily “ratcheted up” the bar a vehicle must pass, and we’re now at a point where we require vehicles to be completely mutated – showing little or none of the original base vehicle.

In spite of the stricter requirements, the number of applications has steadily grown, and the number of thoroughly mutated vehicles now exceeds what we can accommodate on the playa. Burning Man is primarily a pedestrian and bicycle city, and only a fraction of burners can bring a vehicle before the playa becomes too crowded with them. Our goal is to enable our creative community of artists making mutated vehicles to show off their creations, while balancing the needs of playa preservation, visual stimulation, and safety.

In response, the DMV is revising how we evaluate applications to bring a Mutant Vehicle to the playa. Rather than considering each vehicle on its own merits, we’re moving to a “curation” model, wherein we will consider each vehicle within the context of all the qualified applications we receive. A vehicle will still be required to meet the published Mutant Vehicle criteria, but that alone won’t guarantee an invitation to bring it to the playa. We will also be looking to invite a balance of different types of vehicles on the playa: large scale sound vehicles, flame effects focused vehicles, small artistic vehicles, large transport vehicles, highly participatory vehicles, etc. We are dedicated to licensing vehicles from projects of all budget levels, not just the most expensively built ones.

We will be looking for vehicles that have good execution of their design concept. We will also be evaluating the originality of a vehicle. There are already quite a number of bar-cars, furniture cars and boats, for example – and that might not be the best design choice for a new vehicle you’re considering. When it comes to larger vehicles, we will be favoring vehicles that have a sterling record for inclusivity when it comes to offering rides to the public.

So…what can you do to maximize the chance of being able to bring your vehicle to the playa this year?

  • Fill out your application thoroughly. Including more detail is better than less.
  • Make sure your application gives us a very clear vision of your vehicle.
  • The application should clearly describe the concept for your vehicle and what you have done or will do to realize that concept.
  • Good photos of both the day and nighttime appearance are necessary – If you’re building a new vehicle that isn’t complete yet, then detailed design sketches are a good alternative to photos.
  • Vehicles desiring a night license need to be detailed about the lighting plan for the vehicle.
  • Mutant Vehicles which align with or comment on Burning Man’s annual theme will be given greater consideration.

Please recognize not every vehicle will be invited. Having brought your vehicle to the playa in a prior year is no guarantee that you’ll get invited again. Your application will be considered in comparison to the other applications we receive. Make sure your application conveys what excited you about building the vehicle in the first place!

In past years, we’ve allowed vehicle creators who were not selected to appeal our decision, and offer up additional details about their vehicle, or change some part of their design. Our new process eliminates appeals, so it’s more important than ever your application be filled out clearly and completely!

Lastly, the deadline for submitting an application will be noon PST on April 13. In past years, we’ve been able to accommodate vehicles that missed the deadline. Because of our new evaluation system, we can no longer do that. So get your vehicle application in early!

Thanks for your time, and we look forward to seeing all of your amazing creative vehicle designs this year. If you have questions, please get in touch with the Burning Man Department of Mutant Vehicles at dmv@burningman.org.

RESOURCES

  • The main DMV webpage is available here
  • The DMV Mutant Vehicle criteria are available here
  • DMV Information on Vehicles for People with Disabilities is here

[Source: ePlaya]

In 2014, the last year we have an AfterBurn report for, there were 600 Mutant Vehicles in Burning Man. So 1000 applications means if you made an Art Car, you have a 60/40 chance of getting it to Burning Man. Basically, flip a coin.

Another Org decision that is just going to make it harder for Burners to plan and get excited about the Burn. They don’t know if their whole camp can go, and now they don’t know if their art car can go either.

It calls into question the entire idea of raising money to invest in an art car, if there is no guarantee it is even going to be permitted at Burning Man – or if it can be turned away on the whim of some faceless groupthink influencer at BMHQ. No appeal, no oversight. That’s it, done – and if you ever want anything approved by them again, placement or an art car or an art project or early access passes or even (gulp!) tickets – you better just shut up and take it.

The series of ticket crises and systems has ended the idea of a camp of friends who would all get together every year at Burning Man; or people arranging to meet each other at a future Burn. Now, it’s pot luck. A lottery. Planning goes out the window, when it all becomes so arbitrary. Unless you have some juice inside the Org, of course. You know people who know people – and they’re the right people.

BMOrg are still trying to figure it out. Hate to break it to ’em, but 10 tickets are really not enough to organize a camp. 5 couples is a pretty small camp – 2 RVs or ShiftPods. I have people contacting me chasing 300 tickets:

Screenshot 2016-01-29 17.48.38

Prepare to get your participation forms in, folks. In about a month, you’ll be able to fill out online questionnaires and applications, so that your process of bring art to Burning Man may finally (possibly) begin…

Heads-up, folks! The various participation forms for the 2016 event will go live on February 24th at noon PST. At that point, you’ll be able to start filling out the questionnaires and applications for your projects. The deadlines vary by project, and are listed below. You don’t have to scramble to get them in the minute the forms open, but you DO need to make sure you fill it out and hit the final submit button BEFORE that deadline.

  • Camp Placement Questionnaire – February 24, 2016 – April 28, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time
  • Mutant Vehicle Application – February 24, 2015 – April 13, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time
  • Disabled Persons Vehicle Application – February 24, 2016 – August 2, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time
  • Art Installation Questionnaire – February 24, 2016 – June 14, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time
  • BRC Media Application – February 24, 2015 – July 21, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time

[Source: ePlaya]

New Plug-n-Plays Coming Up With Their Own Principles

Soho Gardens is the latest ultra-luxe glamping experience at Burning Man. It is very much following the lead of previous sherpa-laden hotel experiences at Burning Man that have been highly promoted to the media, from Directors Chip Conley, Jim Tananbaum, and (ironicallyChris Weitz who is totally against plug-n-plays (see comments).

So, what’s the Soho Gardens twist?

Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.18.13

No maids, no sherpas. No fire. No drama. No ‘razis.

O. M. F. G.

How would one cope? This self-reliance thing is getting a little ridiculous. How are we supposed to rely on ourselves without maids or paparazzis? What’s the point of sherpas if some camps forbid them? Should we chain them to our camps and not let them ever go free range at Burning Man?

Soho Gardens promise to educate their guests in the Principles of Burning Man, but only about 3 of them…after that, there are better principles to focus on. And who’s to say that “Love” and “Green Energy” aren’t better than “Immediacy” and “Radical Self Reliance, anyway”? The principles are just guidelines.

Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.25.11

Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.25.05

Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.24.59

Wi-Fi is available at limited hours, presumably as a free gift to all Burners.

Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.10.02 Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.08.36 Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.07.00 Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.05.53

They’re pretty specific about who they do, and don’t, want to Radically Include:

Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.18.13 Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.18.05

They’re looking at a few more amenities than the BLM’s Blue Pit:

Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.19.52

They’ve figured out how to include Gifting and Radical Inclusion with the requisite VIP Exclusivity: Gift Tickets

Screenshot 2015-07-02 19.21.07

No word yet on how much per head, but we believe there are still slots available.

Radio Interview With BMOrg’s Jim Graham on ChocoTacoGate [Update]

choco_taco

KPNR has an interview with Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham about the latest controversy in the Burnerverse.

.

The Twitter-verse was abuzz over the weekend in Nevada over Burning Man.

You all know Burning Man as the Labor Day week no-holds-barred celebration in the Black Rock Desert in the far reaches of northern Nevada.

The buzz was over the perks that the Bureau of Land Management is seeking from Burning Man organizers. The federal agency oversees the week-long event.

The agency’s list of desires reads like something a celebrity might request backstage, including soft-serve ice cream 24 hours a day, seven days a week; steaks, hamburgers, the ice cream treat choco-tacos, and a list of condiments and items that number well more than 100.

Not only that, but the Bureau wants VIP quarters, flush toilets and more.

We requested an interview with Bureau of Land Management officials but received no answer.

[Source: KPNR]

Jim revealed some hard numbers for 2014 costs.

BLM Fees were:

$2.75m cost recovery

$700,000 commercial use fees – BMOrg see this as a tax on top of the ticket price. If this is 3% of the gate then ticket sales were $23.3 million.

$600,000 infrastructure

Total $4.05 million

2011 BLM fees $1.4 million, population 54,000

2015 BLM fees $4.9 million , population 70,000

Jim said that this is a substantial increase in fees, for only 16,000 more population

Of course, the 16,000 extra population is worth $6,544,000 in bonus ticket revenue to BMOrg (at $409 a ticket).

Expected population this year is now officially 70,000 – so there could be an extra 2,000 tickets floating around, to be added to STEP or OMG. This weekend I heard a rumor of 25 tickets being available for $1500 each, but you had to buy the whole 25. Not quite sure how something like that comes about…

Jim said that the $1 million cost figure being bandied around is not just for the Blue Pit Compound. The million dollars is the sum total of all of the requests for infrastructure this year: radios, catering, flush toilets. He said their catering requests were not that unusual…“We feed more than 50,000 meals during the week – our staff and volunteers.” So it looks like the BLM are asking for an increase in the infrastructure budget from $600k to $1 million.

Burning Man are not sure who the VIPs are for the 8 designated containers in the Blue Pit.

Jim said “We house all the BLM agents in the town of Gerlach, we rent out the hotels. Vast majority of them stay there, 14 mile drive from the town out to the site – we feel that’s pretty reasonable…We don’t begrudge anybody how they’re going to live when they’re out there. ”


[Update 6/30/15 1:45pm PST]

Did I say 2,000 extra tickets? How about 12,000?

At The Hill, the Deputy Director of the BLM seems to be giving a green light to 80,000 people this year. An extra 10,000 tickets to sell will certainly pay for a lot of chocotacos.

On Monday, BLM Deputy Director Steve Ellis said the agency should “take a fresh look” at the requests. 

“I am concerned about the reported costs associated with supporting the Burning Man festival. I have directed that BLM staff take a fresh look at the initial proposals for food and facilities at the event,” Ellis said in a statement.

“Our priority is to provide for participant and employee health and safety, sanitation, and environmental compliance at this unique event that is attended by up to 80,000 people in a remote part of the Nevada Desert. I have full confidence in BLM staff and their ability to develop a plan that is cost efficient and ensures public health and safety.”

That sure would be a win/win/win compromise for everybody. Burners would win 12,000 more tickets. BMOrg would win another $5 million revenues. BLM could get a nice VIP compound and increase the infrastructure budget $400k. Looks like a pretty good deal all around, let’s hope it works out that way.

“Failure!” – Tananbaum Gets Called Out by BM Director

Image: Beverly & Pack/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Beverly & Pack/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A couple of days ago, BMOrg finally posted their response to the many concerns raised by our community after this year’s event. You can read our analysis here: BMOrg Hath Spoken.

Many Burners felt that this whitewash of the major issues didn’t go nearly far enough. The only real policy change was to stop their VIP Donation Tickets program. They completely ignored whether any of the 25 12 Commodification Camps were also offered invitation-only tickets in the Directed Group sale, and whether that might happen again in the future. “Commodification Camps will be held to the same standard as theme camps” – but that was already their policy. Stating what the rules already are is not the same as changing the rules.

Something that has particularly rankled many Burners was the involvement of one of the Burning Man Project’s Board of Directors this year in running the most notorious 50-sherpa Commodification Camp, Caravancicle – which was also ignored in BMOrg’s post.

It seems that at least one Burning Man founder felt the need to single Tananbaum out for his actions. Michael Mikel, who goes by the pseudonym “Danger Ranger”, took to his Facebook page with a late night rant sharing his personal views on the situation to his 1000 followers. As well as spreading a bunch of lies about myself and this site, which he had no interest in correcting before he blocked me, the knives were out for Jim Tananbaum.

Here are some excerpts from his lengthy diatribe.

MM:

BURNING MAN BROKE CARAVANSICLE

The post-burn forensics of this internet-fuled drama of rumors on top of rumors has been challenging and time consuming…We are now at a point where there is enough information to answer some of the questions that have arisen. Larry, always the consummate lucubrationist, has posted to the Burning Man blog about this issue. I have also conducted my own personal investigation into this matter and have come up with answers that may be more specific than some of those presented thus far.

“Lucubrationist” means some who speaks pedantically or overly elaborately.

Why do there need to be “separate investigations” within BMOrg? This is an annual party that goes for a week, put on by Burners. It’s supposed to be all in good fun. If it is so hard to get to the truth that 3 months of “forensics” are required, shouldn’t the forensic investigation at least be co-ordinated? If these people can’t even trust each other, why should we trust them?

MM:

My conclusion is that Burning Man broke Caravansicle. I might add that the individual who profited from Caravansicle will not be allowed back into Burning Man.

Many Burners will be disappointed to learn that the individual he’s talking about is not Jim Tananbaum. He remains on the Board, and it looks like they are absolving him of any responsibility for commodifying Burning Man with a multi-million dollar for-profit camp – despite the requirement in their Bylaws that all Directors must uphold the Ten Principles.

MM:

When I was finally able to confront Mr Tananbaum face-to-face, my first words to him were; “You really stepped in some shit.” I believe that he truly regrets the wreckage in the wake of his camp. Mr Tananbaum started out with the best of intentions. Caravansicle was not intended to be commercial in nature. His goal was to fund and produce a large camp for friends and associates, much like the camps that he had done in the two previous years. But this year it was going to be grander and larger. His first mistake was to hire a professional camp producer from the commercial EDM world with no Burning Man experience. This is what brought in the sherpas and wristbands.

A camp with 120 guests and 50 employees that charged $17,000 per person was not intended to be commercial in nature? You really expect us to believe that?

The first time we saw public use of the word “sherpa” in relation to Burning Man was in a New York Times story before the Burn which had nothing to do with Caravancicle. They were far from the only camp or art car at Burning Man to have wristband-only VIP sections.

MM:

His second mistake was having a bar so big and so public that it ran out of liquor. Nothing is worse than a half-drunk lynch mob. 

This is the first account I’ve seen of Caravancicle having a large, public bar. It differs remarkably from what Burners have been reporting about Caravancicle. “A bar so big and so public that it ran out of liquor”? Where does Mr Mikel get his facts from? We are relying on whistleblowing testimony from one of the sherpas employed by the camp, as well as comments from other Burners who went there. Here’s what the sherpa said:

Popsicle camp advertised to customers and to Placement that they would build a lounge out on the street in front our walls that would be cooled to 45º and contain a bar inside where hot and dusty passers by could enter to cool down and indulge…The front of our camp was advertising that a second  iced tea/water lounge would be on the street and all of our customers would be there from 2-4pm every day passing out even more popsicles to people.

Neither of these structures had been built. There just happened to be more important priorities, which revolved around making sure that the paying customers never needed to use a porta potty.

The bar that was built did not run out of liquor to serve the public; rather, it was fully stocked, but wristband-only from the very beginning.

The sherpa:

We had a massive dome built that would be open for the public to enjoy. There were specialty drinks, music, dancers, couches, coffee tables with Alex Grey paintings, snacks, and much more. This we did have, and it was BEAUTIFUL.  I only ended up bar tending one shift…While serving our guests, there were random visitors and the folks from the missing motel. I was told that only our members that had paid to camp there were allowed to have drinks. Considering that we had a visible full bar and a menu containing our specialty cocktails, you could imagine the embarrassment I felt when telling some people they can not have those advertised drinks, and telling others they can. Suddenly our public dome contained some VIP options. “Only those with the VIP wristbands can have a drink, can I offer you a peanut?”

MOOP #fail

MOOP #fail

Doesn’t sound like a large public bar with no booze in it to me.

Apparently, all the MOOP of the combined Caravancicle and Lost Hotel camps was the fault of the one scapegoat, and nothing to do with any other camp organizers, or Mr Tananbaum.

MM:

And I’m sure that the professional camp producer was surprised to discover no trash dumpsters at Burning Man. None-the-less, the camp producer took the money and ran.

Most of the MOOP at Caravancicle was actually left by the Lost Hotel. The Lost Hotel built 90% of the structure of Caravancicle, and seems to have profited by renting the rooms for Tananbaum’s camp to sub-let.

The sherpa:

The building crew for the neighboring camp was in collaboration with our camp. 90% of our camp had been built and designed  by the neighboring camp. Lets call this camp “the Missing Motel” The Leader of this camp is a brilliant visionary that seemed to be very passionate about inspiring creativity with his own art. The Missing Motel rented our camp these extremely unique and beautifully constructed canvas “rectangles” that would be homes to myself and guests included. Missing Motel Build lovingly crafted every single detail of  popsicle camp. Everything from our private bathrooms, our rectangles,  and every piece of furniture in it,  the lay out of the camp itself and a majority of the beautiful details

Photo: Lost Hotel/Facebook

Aerial Photo: Lost Hotel/Facebook

The Lost Hotel were experienced Burners, and were surely aware of the requirement to Leave No Trace. Mr Tananbaum as a Director of Burning Man, is required by their Bylaws to uphold the Ten Principles, so he could not have been unaware of this either. Mr Mikel says he had already put together 2 major camps at Burning Man before, so the idea that no-one there knew they had to pick their MOOP up is unlikely.

MM:

The truth is that Mr Tananbaum lost tens of thousands of dollars on this failed project. That is not to say that the captain does not carry ultimate responsibility for his ship. While he has been quite capable of amassing a fortune in the world of venture capital, it does call into question if he is ready and able to help navigate the Burning Man ship. Then again, there is nothing like failure to add to ones experience. I think that having an 18-person board of directors is good in that it allows a larger pool to maintain overall management and guidance, which is certainly an improvement over the past when there were only 6 board members.

Barking up the wrong tree. Image: Ralph Hightower/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Barking up the wrong tree. Image: Ralph Hightower/Flickr (Creative Commons)

There’s a difference between “lost tens of thousands” and “gifted tens of thousands”. The former implies a profit motive. So basically, he’s saying “hey, Tananbaum tried to profit from Burning Man, and didn’t succeed because the guy he hired to manage it ran off with all the money. No problem, maybe he learned something that could help us – carry on”.

The “Turnkey Camps” blog post said that none of the Commodification Camps tried to make a profit – which flies in the face of logic, as well as contradicting Danger Ranger’s statements based on personally confronting Jim Tananbaum. Mr Mikel’s forensic investigation seems to have shown that Mr Tananbaum only failed to make his intended profit because the funds were embezzled by one of his paid employees. The camp charged $17,000 per person, so if Tananbaum is only out of pocket by “tens of thousands”, how much did this un-named lackey actually steal? It seems like keeping the cash from only 2 of his 120 guests would’ve been enough for Tananbaum to break even.

MM:

Bmorg is instituting new procedures/policies next year, which will bring all non-infrastructure plug-and-play camps under the theme camp registration process and hold them to the same standards.

This is exactly what they said in 2012, about the same issue. In fact, their own post of just 2 days ago explaining the Commodification Camps said that they were already required to be held to the same standards. More on that below.

MM:

The transition of Burning Man from tontine to non-profit organization has taken more that six years. Thru all of this, no one in the organization is getting rich off of Burning Man. That will become apparent after the numbers for the non-profit are published. It’s been a very complex process with many moving pieces, some of them not quite in place.

Perhaps no-one in “the organization” is getting rich, but what about “the owners”? Our reader A Balanced Perspective has calculated their take via this Decommodification structure to be somewhere between $35 million-47 million dollars, and so far no-one has been able to provide any evidence or argument otherwise. We also exposed a million dollar plus discrepancy between what BMOrg were saying they were paying the BLM and what the BLM were saying they got paid, which on an annual basis could increase this take even further.

Here’s Danger Ranger’s “tipping tweet” of November 21, 2008, which he credits with starting this whole “non-profit transition”

danger tweet 2008 nov 21

 

Others might argue that Harley Dubois’ surprise resignation was actually the event that triggered the process of unravelling their corporate structure, more so than this tweet.

How much longer will all of this take, before we get to see what’s actually going on? 6 years, and nearly $8 million on lawyers and accountants over that time, isn’t enough to open the books to the public? We still don’t have the 2013 IRS filing numbers for the Burning Man Project, and it’s not looking like we’ll see any 2014 numbers until 2016.  What exactly are these “moving pieces” that are still left to work out before the community gets the transparency we’ve been promised for so long?

The sole purpose of Decommodification LLC is to protect the Burning Man name and I’ve programmed it to automatically dissolve after its mission is completed.

I believe he is talking about the “Dead Man’s Trigger” clause he boasted of inserting into Decommodification, LLC.

MM (in March 2014):

Larry has the last word on the Transition discussion. (But I am pleased to note that I am the one who programmed the deadman switch into Decommodification LLC.)

This clause apparently says that ownership of Decommodification, LLC will revert back to the Burning Man Project in 3 years, unless all 6 Directors vote to stop that. As far as I know, this clause is not tied to “completion of the mission” in any way, it’s time based. If Decommodification, LLC was bought by another entity (eg, Foresight Capital, or LiveNation), then different directors could be appointed and this wouldn’t happen. Or if the existing Directors decide they like the royalties that are pouring in to this private, secretive company, they might well vote in their own interests to keep them coming.

It’s hard to see what Decommodification, LLC specifically are doing to protect the Burning Man brand – especially when it seems like the Tin Principles are being chucked out the window now as “an ethos, not rules”. The lawsuit they have been pursuing in Canada lists the plaintiffs as “Decommodification LLC, Black Rock City LLC, and the Burning Man Project, doing business as Burning Man” – so what does Decommodification, LLC really add to the mix, that Black Rock City LLC and the Burning Man Project couldn’t have achieved on their own? Which of the three entities is footing the legal bills in this case?

As for the sole purpose of Decommodification LLC? Article 5, Clause 1 of the Bylaws about sharing of corporate profits prevents the Board of Directors of BMP from profiting from the event, except specifically through the Founders  ownership of the intellectual property which is via Decommodification, LLC:

bylaws article 5

If profiting from this arrangement was not part of their purpose, what is the need for this exemption?

MM:

Today Burning Man is an eight hundred thousand ton gorilla with many mouths to feed. It’s a network of departments and people, sometimes with competing interests. It’s still evolving. It has lost much of its agility, but there are some advantages to size. We are now having an impact on the world at large and we have the power to change that world for the better.

What are the competing interests here? Who’s competing for what? What impact is it that Burning Man is now having on the world at large? Marge tripping on acid and Maggie playing with a syringe on The Simpsons? An art car going into Zappo’s HQ? Grover Norquist and Denis Kucinich using it to appeal to new voting blocs?

Time will tell, and so far in 4 years the Burning Man Project seems to have not accomplished very much at all, let alone changed the world for the better.

BMOrg have admitted in their blog posts here and here that they were fully aware of the for-profit Commodification Camps, and gave them preferential placement, while refusing 58 Burner-operated Gifting-based theme camps.

Initially, in this post, they said that they had placed 25 Commodification Camps; by the time they had “listened to all the feedback”, this was whittled down to just 12.

On October 28 Answergirl said:

We define Turnkey camps as those that offer a public space and interactivity in addition to private spaces for larger groups and are typically built by a producer, rather than a traditional camp lead.

On December 3 BMOrg said:

The term “turnkey” has been used to describe camps with paid teams that set up infrastructure before other camp members arrive. This general definition could be applied to many camps, including many well-known, beloved and highly participatory theme camps…

On the other end of the spectrum are “plug and play” or “concierge camps” (A.K.A. hotel camps, resort camps, commodification camps), where vacation-type experiences are sold in package deals at exclusive prices, often with no expectation or commitment by campers to contribute to the larger community.

These camps have not been banned, or even censured.

petit ermitage

Petit Ermitage, a trendy boutique hotel from West Hollywood, are promoting the pop-up hotel they did at Burning Man with Cirque Gitane – who at least scored Green on the MOOP map, and by all accounts shared professional theatrical performances with the public.

 

BMOrg said:

These concierge or commodification camps undermine the social fabric of our community, which is unacceptable.

Commodification camps are not only in direct conflict with our culture, they are also not allowed by the terms of our permit…A commodification camp operating without a permit risks citations and fines from the BLM. The Burning Man organization is exploring ways of monitoring this more effectively in the future

Not “this won’t happen again”. Just “they need a permit and we’re investigating ways to monitor this more effectively”.

All camps that receive resources from the organization must demonstrate their contribution to the broader community. For 2015, all 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

Rather than “Commodification Camps won’t get early access passes and invite-only tickets”, this statement really says the exact opposite. In some sort of black box process without oversight, BMOrg will work out where to put them and how many tickets they can have.

What’s the bottom line? Tananbaum gets to stay, just with some public shaming from one of the founders. His employee is made the scapegoat, and accused of embezzlement. Commodification Camps have to go through the Placement team, just like they did in 2014, and the other years before that. All they need to do is say “we’ll have a bar”, and it’s business as usual. If the bar doesn’t materialize? Whoopsie-daisy. If they leave a bunch of MOOP? Naughty, naughty. All the owners have to say is “I didn’t make any money”, and they can continue as before. The VIP Donation tickets program will be discontinued, but the World’s Biggest Guest list  goes on, without any oversight. Transparency? 7 years isn’t enough, they need more time. “Coming soon”.

 

radical inclusion cult