Kicking Concierge Caboose in Black Rock City

Yes, they really made this. Yes, that's a computer-generated plane.
Yes, they really made this. Yes, that’s a computer-generated plane.

I’ve Got Your “Vacation Package” Right Here

Festivals Concierge Services, part of a larger European-focused concierge company called The Key, offers VIP-priced packages for events and festivals around the world, which is great for them. They also want to offer them for Burning Man, but that’s not going to happen.

We believe strongly that paying upfront for a prescribed, curated experience that doesn’t require individual effort misses the mark and erodes Burning Man culture, and it’s absolutely not okay to sell people “the Burning Man experience” as a vacation package. This is precisely the kind of service we hope to eliminate from Black Rock City: one that essentially offers participation and “self-expression” in a box.

[In case you forgot, we have a comprehensive website section about how we deal with turnkey camping.]

Read on to learn about our interactions with Festivals Concierge Services, the actions we’re taking to stop what they’d like to do in Black Rock City, and how you can help.

History

We first learned of Festivals Concierge Services (FCS) in the summer of 2014 when we received reports about their website — burningmanvip.net — which was selling concierge services involving Black Rock City. We reached out concerning their unapproved uses of Burning Man’s intellectual property (IP) and offer of unauthorized services. Festivals Concierge Services changed the website as we requested, and they claimed that they were not offering any services at or to the 2014 Burning Man event in Nevada.

We next heard about Festivals Concierge Services in March 2015 when we received reports about the “Art on Playa Foundation,” an organization that Festivals Concierge Services started, purportedly to help their wealthy clients provide financial support to Burning Man artists. We saw that the Art on Playa website was using our logo and other IP, and causing confusion among artists and other participants about our involvement with them (we had none). So we reached out to Festivals Concierge Services again, explained our principles and policies again, and asked them to stop using our IP on their websites. Once again, they agreed to comply with our requests.

Sadly, we can’t say we were totally surprised when we learned that Festivals Concierge Services recently added a new “Burning Man concierge” page to its website. They have since changed the leading graphic — bearing a garish, computer-generated private jet flying over Black Rock City — to read “Black Rock City” instead of “Burning Man,” but FCS still uses the Burning Man name liberally (for example, at press time, FCS lists Burning Man as one of its “Products” on its Facebook info page). The page makes unauthorized use of Burning Man’s IP and claims to offer concierge services at our 2015 event (everything from transportation and tickets to Mutant Vehicle rentals and on-site theme camp management). This is all completely unauthorized by the Burning Man organization. Our community also took notice, and offered their pointed opinions protesting these activities in a Facebook thread that was deleted by Festival Concierge Services on 5/20/15.

Taking Action

We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:

  • Notifying applicants to our Outside Services (OSS) and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if we learn they are doing business or subcontracting with concierges services (such as FCS) or their clients, we will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs.
  • Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system (this process began after the 2014 event).
  • Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
  • Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
  • Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
  • Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.

We welcome your questions and comments below. If you’re aware of any other companies using Burning Man’s intellectual property to sell “VIP Burning Man experiences” or the like, send a report to ip@burningman.org.

About the author: Burning Man

Burning Man

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man's Communications Team.

43 Comments on “Kicking Concierge Caboose in Black Rock City

  • Colin says:

    What nonsense. Burning Man is chocked full of rich people that have other people doing their work for them. This is nothing new and will continue for the foreseeable future.

    Report comment

    • Jaded says:

      Exactly. So it won’t be via an advertised business on Facebook. It’ll be in quieter, more exclusive circles. Same shit, different title.

      Report comment

    • Geoff says:

      BMORG does nothing about turnkey and concierge services. Burners complain.
      BMORG does something about turnkey and concierge services. Burners complain.

      Report comment

      • Leland says:

        Well said, Geoff, I was thinking the same thing. Maybe BMORG isn’t perfect, but I’d like to see all the complainers try to manage something of this magnitude.

        Report comment

    • Burning Girl says:

      Are you kidding… Burning Man charges a crazy amount of money for tickets, and then complains about others making money… what a joke!!! It does not take an army of authorities to monitor the going’s on at Burning Man, yet the excuse that individual ticket prices of $800 are to pay for the police at Burning Man are crazy. There are people complaining about everything, including RV’s being on the Playa, and that everyone should live in “lesser than” accommodations to comply with the Burning Man standards. If people want to spend more money than others because they can afford it, then too bad for what the lazy less fortunate’s have to say… who cares… Stop being haters!

      Report comment

      • Burning Joyce says:

        It’s not about the money involved, it’s about organisations selling the BM experience as a luxury product. It goes against several principles, whatever way you look at it. One manner of preventing these kinds of things, is by preventing people to spend their money on this.

        By the way, you got the ticket price wrong and the financial details concerning BM are public. Read before you rant.

        Report comment

      • Michael says:

        If you were to actually inform yourself. The price of tickets are largely dictated by the BLMs lease on the land. Also, BMORG stats that the $800 individual sale tickets are designed to subsidize the low income ticket program.

        Report comment

      • Michael says:

        Michael, the normal ticket price is $390, the low income ticket price is $190, the presale ticket price is $800. There are 4,000 low income tickets and 4,000 presale tickets.

        So the total discounts to the low income tickets is $800,000 ($200 x 4,000 = $800,000)
        While the premium for the presale tickets is $1,640,000 ($410 x 4,000 = $1,640,000)

        The premium on the presale tickets is more than twice the discount for the low income tickets. Also, since there are 64,000 tickets which are not low income the normal tickets could subsize the low income tickets for as little as $12.50 a piece ($800,000 ÷ 64,000 = $12.50).

        The $800 tickets exist because the Board wants to sell tickets for $800. The low income tickets are a red herring.

        Report comment

      • jonnnney says:

        The above comment should be under jonnnney.

        Report comment

    • Ludwig says:

      What about those rich folks who have their own personal assistant to do this kind of jobs for them?

      Report comment

    • Colin says:

      To be clear, I’m not necessarily complaining about rich people at Burning Man or concierge camps or any of it, just pointing out that Burning Man is, by definition, a playground for the rich (or at least fairly well off).

      They have an airport, duh.

      Report comment

    • Slumlord says:

      What exactly is “rich”….saving your discretionary income to fly to The Playa???

      Those of us who were in Haight-Ashbury before you were born have made some coin…big deal……we haven’t changed…… )'(

      Report comment

  • Claire colie says:

    Why not sue like you did to the guys in Canada?

    Report comment

    • toto says:

      BM won’t sue because unlike the guys in Canada, FCS has lawyers and money to defend itself.

      Report comment

    • jonnnney says:

      You are requirement by law to contact the person that is infringing on your intellectual property, usually via a cease and desist letter, and allow them time to fix the infringement before you can sue them.

      With Canada the people were claiming ownership of the burning man trademark for Canada. Reclaiming a trademark requires litigation.

      Report comment

  • Mr. Pepperdine says:

    What’s the difference between this and those Pay-to-Play camps that you have already supported in the past? What separates this from those villages that you already give pre-sale ticket blocks and grant massive land grabs so the wealthy can play without contributing? It’s sad that you seem interested only in “protecting your intellectual property” and not in any real way supporting the people who actually build the city. It seems to me that this is the same tone-deaf response we get every time it is exposed that yet another pay-to-play camp is in bed with the leadership.

    Report comment

    • Max says:

      Apparently they didn’t agree on price ;)

      Report comment

    • Jon Mitchell says:

      First of all, FCS is a “concierge service,” not a camp. They want you to pay them to find you a spot in someone else’s fancy camp. We can’t stop them from doing that on the sly, theoretically, but we sure are doing everything we can to stop them from sending staff and stuff to the playa. That’s where actual turnkey camps come in.

      We did give a handful of turnkey camps placement last year. We’re never doing that again. Under our new placement policy, all camps who will be given placement and early access have to meet the high standards of being an interactive theme camp. That means, if you don’t meet the theme camp standards, you can’t send in your crew early to set up your fancy camp.

      By denying concierge companies the right to get Outside Services and Air Carrier Services contracts, we’re preventing these obvious commercial ventures from building their fancy camps. Furthermore, without placement, turnkey camps themselves will have a much harder time getting their stuff into Black Rock City and finding parking once they get there.

      Report comment

      • jonnnney says:

        Now don’t try and claim you are doing more than you actually are. What meant to say was you will not place turnkey camps unless they meet the standards of being an interactive theme camp.

        Unless there has been a change in policy that hasn’t been blogged the current policy is:

        Regarding Placement – Other than event infrastructure camps, all camps will be held to the same standards of inclusion and participation regardless of how the camp is structured. All camps will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

        Camps should be visually stimulating, have an inviting design and a plan for bike parking and crowd management.

        Camps must be interactive. They should include activities, events or services within their camps and they must be available to the entire Burning Man community.

        Camps must be neighborly. This includes keeping sound within set limits, controlling where camp generators vent exhaust, and easily resolving any boundary disputes that arise.

        Camps must have a good previous MOOP record 
(for returning camps).

        Camps must follow safety protocols designed by the organization (this includes traffic management on the streets, proper handling of fuels, and any other areas defined by the organization’s production team).

        Post event, all placed and registered camps will be reviewed on the criteria above, as well as MOOP score and strain on resources (whether a camp requires extra BRC infrastructure support, which could include undue communication or interactions with Rangers, DPW or the playa restoration team). Camps that have received negative feedback will be contacted in the Fall after the event, and will have to make substantial changes to their camp plans if they are to qualify for placement or the Directed Group Sale the following year. Camps found advertising are violating principles and cultural norms and will not be placed.

        http://blog.burningman.com/tag/turnkey/

        Nothing in there says that turnkey camps don’t get placement.

        Report comment

  • Joel says:

    burning man is an all inclusive event. of course this kind of thing is going to get by. what the folks at the top are doing is to prevent in any way they can the selling of this as a packaged experience. are they going to stop it completely? of course not. but they are doing anything within their means to combat an ever evolving creature which is determined to be a part of the festival. by all means, anyone with a better suggestion should speak up.

    Report comment

  • Max says:

    Apparently they didn’t agree on price.

    Report comment

  • Nexus says:

    Thank you for sharing!!

    Report comment

  • Dr. Dilettante says:

    Here’s another Facebook page where they seem to claim that Burning Man 2015 is “hosted” by FCS: https://www.facebook.com/events/676922532421400/

    Report comment

  • Corvus says:

    I heard about that site a few weeks ago and on looking it over, figured it was a fake. Besides the CGI jet – which could be used on a genuine site – the only “festival” with any development were the Burning Man (oops – BRC) pages. The several others I sampled had only the date of the event, the expected ticket price range and no offering of concierge services like “our” section had.

    Report comment

  • Jimmy says:

    Where were these strongly worded condemnations when it was ‘JT the board member’ offering a pre-packaged $17k ‘experience’?

    Report comment

  • Jono says:

    Abuse of IP and imagery. Classic corporate probing. “Where’s the weak points? What *dont* they notice? What’s their reaction time/tactics?” Eventually they’ll find a way to make money off the )'(

    By then the public’s image of Burning Man will be cut up and divided by the community, ready to be packaged.

    Wait and watch, they will start going for the individual facets.

    There will be soundcamp packages, and interactive arts tours; yoga retreat workshop community passes, freedom of expression and infinite love permits. Burners will rise up to defend what these are supposed to be, and money will take notes.

    Every word we utter will be appropriated and used by advertising. Dont forget the image burners have of the event is and always will be different than the image the mildly curious newcomer gets through the main streams and channels. BM can’t control that image.

    What do?

    I say we take notes too. Record every attempt at commodification. Find patterns. Watch interests as they evolve their tactics. Leave it open for all to see. BM isn’t the only one in this battle. At best this sill help. At worst it still helps other events. Knowledge is power. Recorded knowledge is shareable.

    Report comment

  • TTATC says:

    I know that two consecutive events to accommodate demand is an unworkable pie-in-the-sky idea. But it just occurred to me that of there were two, rather than making them carbon copies of each other, have one that would be for the old timers, where the more years one has attended increases chances of their Burner Profile being algorithmically favored for ticket purchases. This event would be more the gathering of the tribe that Burning Man was pre demand-exceeding-supply, with far less virgins wedged into the mix.. Sad to say the tribe is being blown to smithereens by the excessive ticket demand.
    The second event could then be 85% virgins, welcomed to the Disney / Mardi Gras / Las Vegas parody of the old Burning Man proffered by the ultra rich and profiteers.

    Report comment

    • dr. yes says:

      It’s simply untrue that ‘old time’ Burning Man didn’t have huge proportions of birgins. It aleays has, going back to the early 90s. Heck, from ’91 to ’96 or so it was more than half birgins every year.

      Report comment

      • dr. no says:

        The assertion that “from ’91 to ’96 or so it was more than half birgins every year” is unadulterated BS.

        Obviously this was not the case, because math.

        Report comment

    • jonnnney says:

      Any new burn is going to require time to grow into the size of burning man.

      There are already regional events that exist across the country and around the world, many of them have a much lower density of virgins, partially because many people are unaware that they exist. They are limited in size due to organizational requirements, land requirements, lack of demand, and the desire to have smaller festivals more intimate.

      There are also a few “radical exclusion” events, but they tend to me much smaller and much harder to find.

      If you want to do this by all means find your regional contact and see if people are interested. Burns are a do-ocracy; ideas are fun but they are useless unless you plan on doing the work too.

      Report comment

  • Matt Matt says:

    Good work BMORG, keep fighting this!!!

    Report comment

  • Dr. Bungee says:

    It’s a fact that BM is not a cheap getaway. Just buying a ticket, getting there and surviving for a week will cost $1000 minimum. If you are “contributing” with an interactive theme camp or mutant vehicle, the costs go up. (Note: not all camps and MV’s are equally interactive). As a camp lead, it is my responsibility to make sure we can actually do what we are proposing. This takes both money, and labor. I ask all camp members to either donate money or time, their choice. Some campmates are starving artist types, with no extra cash but strong backs. Others are older professional types, who can’t do physical labor but have a few extra bucks. We all work together to bring our gift to BRC. It’s not always easy or fun, but in the end bringing something that others can enjoy makes it all worthwhile. This process is repeated by hundreds of other groups, and is the essence of Burning Man. When you are wandering around the playa gazing at amazing art, or eating a grilled cheese made by someone else, or having a cocktail at your neighborhood bar, or playing on some incredible structure somebody built, take a few moments to think about what it took for someone to bring that out to the middle of fucking nowhere. And be grateful for the experience. Chances are that whoever created that isn’t camping at a PnP camp.
    Thanks to all who contribute, big and small. Peace, love, and have a great burn!

    Report comment

    • Slumlord says:

      maybe if you’re flying in from NYC……but if you drive in from Mendocino, it’s only the cost of gas and food…………….which you would buy anyway anyway back home.

      people do stay in tents, ya know… )'(

      Report comment

  • TTATC says:

    In any case, go get ’em BMORG! I know it is challenging to ferret out these operations , but, entrepreneurs importing well-to-do non-contributing, non-laboring, non-participants into BRC for profit, is selling out the community, and commodifying the entire Burning Man event.

    Report comment

  • TTATC says:

    IMHO tickets might be a cornerstone tool here. To those individuals or organizations with butt loads of money, the price of a scalped ticked is pocket change. In the many discussions concerning tickets and discouraging scalping, the idea of printing names on tickets and verifying with ID at the gate has come up more than once. It might well put the screws on these exploitationist operations.

    Report comment

  • NeonBunny says:

    Their ad is still on facebook, and they are still claiming that this service is 100% legal and endorsed by Burning Man.

    You may want to contact Burning Man about Intellectual Property violations to get the ad removed from their site. https://www.facebook.com/help/www/399224883474207

    And here’s a link to the ad stealing your IP: https://www.facebook.com/festivalsconcierge/posts/860952073971576

    Report comment

  • Gatt says:

    It seems like an easy solution is to make the airstrip, 88NV, a private-use airstrip and simply deny them permission to land. Then, if they, do, FAA gets involved and it’s absolutely -not- worth it for them to get government people snooping through their logbooks or explaining why they landed a chartered jet on federal land without a permit.

    Report comment

  • The FCS Team says:

    Dear Burning Man Community,

    A few days ago, the Burning Man organization posted an article on blog.burningman.org addressing the services that our company provided for the Burning Man event in 2014 and announcing their decision to deny us access to their Outside Services (OSS) and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs. We would like to use this opportunity to apologize for any inconveniences we caused within the Burning Man community and want to explain our intentions.

    Festivals Concierge Services is a company dedicated to supporting private clientele in their logistical preparation and arrangement to attend festivals and other events. We started offering this service for Burning Man last year by using the official OSS and ACS programs. However, we received a lot of constructive feedback from the community and realized that we misused the Burning Man IPs. That being said, we also want to point out that our services were in agreement with the Burning Man culture as stated by Larry Harvey’s post from December 3rd 2014 on Voices of Burning Man: “Equality, Inequity, Iniquity: Concierge Culture”. We have never offered any kind of Sherpa or on-site personal assistance services at the event.

    Our clients are highly educated and hard working professionals who are looking for inspiration and self-expression at Burning Man and who actively participate in the community and the event… the same way as anyone else on the Playa. They are responsible for obtaining a ticket for Burning Man themselves; only then we provide help for their preparation for the event. We also encourage them to actively support art projects through donations by providing them relevant information. For each new client, we establish a profile in order to define their expectations and consequently to ensure they understand and respect the Burning Man spirit and its ten principles.

    We sincerely apologize to those who felt offended by our services.

    The FCS Team

    Report comment

  • Will Chase says:

    @Jonnnny: i realize this is a bit confusing — but if turnkey camps meet all the criteria of being an interactive theme camp, they’re considered and treated as an interactive theme camp like any other. if they don’t, then they don’t get pre-placed, which makes it difficult if not impossible for them to set up and function as a turnkey camp (e.g. where all the infrastructure is setup pre-event for their “customers” to roll in after the gates open).

    Report comment

  • Zoe says:

    He’s at it again! Just posted on fb advertising for cleaners for his clients RVs and told me he’s trying to bring a Rolls Royce to the playa. Apparently his clients need cleaners. His email is Antoine@the-key.ch or luxembourg@the-key.ch please help me educate this individual. He used all our personal images last year to advertise this service without getting permission and doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the resulting outrage. So sad

    Report comment

  • Comments are closed.