Radical Self-Reliance and Rich People at Burning Man

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man’s 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

In the two weeks since this year’s Burn I’ve noticed a fair amount of press claiming “the rich are ruining Burning Man” and I’ve seen a handful of stories on Facebook about confrontational run-ins with people at so-called “rich camps” in Black Rock City. I hear a growing conversation around radical self-reliance and the perceived threat to Burning Man culture posed by “turnkey” and “plug and play” camps on the playa. I’d like to offer the following perspectives to help inform your own conversations and dialogues on these topics.

Flame war, anyone? Dance Dance Immolation by Interpretive Arson, 2013 (Photo by Steven Fritz)
Flame war, anyone? Dance Dance Immolation by Interpretive Arson, 2013 (Photo by Steven Fritz)

First, let’s talk definitions:

Turnkey Camp: A Burning Man camp built by a production team where (generally) paid staff members create the infrastructure so that camp members don’t have to.

Plug and Play Camp: The older term for turnkey camp.

Radical Self-Reliance: One of Burning Man’s 10 Principles. Radical Self-Reliance states: “Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.”

The Ten Principles: The Burning Man 10 Principles were written by Larry Harvey, at the request of the other Burning Man founders, in 2004 to help support the demand of the growth of the Burning Man Regional Network. They were written to be *descriptive* not prescriptive. They are not intended to be dogmatic. They form a cultural guide map that is aspirational, not absolute.

* * * *

Next, let’s look at the problem at hand:

Since 2010, there has been an increase in the number of camps run by long-time Burners who are paid to work during the event week. They are hired by a “camp owner” or camp funder and they usually work collaboratively with the owner to determine the vision of the camp and the level of services provided, and then produce the camp as planned. Often times these camps are inhabited by people who are coming to Burning Man for the first time. Some of these camps go so far as to provide costumes and pre-decorated bikes.

This year I noticed a few new things.

Some of the turnkey camps are becoming their own theme camps. Some of the “clients” of the turnkey camps have become artists. Some of the attitudes of the camp funders have changed to where they are wanting all of their camp members to contribute to the camp in some way, other than just through camp dues. (For you long-time Burners, I can see your eyes rolling. Read on.)

On the other end of the spectrum, I surprisingly encountered a new turnkey-like camp that was being produced by a couple people who had never been to Burning Man before. This definitely caught my attention. How can someone produce a camp in the spirit of Burning Man if they’ve never been to Burning Man?

Welcome to Burning Man, 2000 (Photo by fin)
Welcome to Burning Man, 2000 (Photo by fin)

I often talk about this concept of “The Evolution of a Burner”. When you track the development of individuals and camps over time, you start to notice trends. Generally speaking, The Evolution of a Burner is as follows:

Many people come to Burning Man for the first or second time and party their faces off. In your first experiences of Burning Man, you are blown away by the spirit of generosity and the creativity found in Black Rock City. You likely find yourself saying, “Next year I want to  _______!”

In subsequent years, you might find yourself dressing in costumes, painting your face, giving food away, serving drinks in a bar, helping people find their soul mates, or maybe giving free bad advice.

Eventually you decide you want to try something more ambitious. Maybe you start a camp with your friends. Maybe your camp becomes a registered theme camp. Or maybe you decide to build an art car or an interactive art piece.

You spend all year thinking about your project. You work with friends. You fund it together somehow. You’re living Burning Man year-round.

Maybe you start to think about how the skills you’ve learned through all of these projects can be useful in the world beyond Black Rock City. Maybe you get involved in Burners Without Borders or some other civic involvement group. Maybe you start a free library on your street corner. You find yourself feeling that you have something to contribute to the world and you find yourself more willing to initiate engagement with others.

At this point, you’ve earned a lot of experience. You know how things work at Burning Man. You understand the culture. You know to pick up after yourself. You know the value of being helpful. You know the value of being generous. You know the value of expressing yourself and of doing more than just partying.

At this point, perhaps you’ve become a Jaded Burner. One of those who love Burning Man so much that we take offense to all the “newbies” who are partying their faces off. Who aren’t picking up after themselves. Who are “ruining” Burning Man because they don’t understand the culture.

The thing to remember is that we were all once first timers. We all at one point didn’t “get” the culture.

It takes a couple years for that understanding to set in.

* * * *

Getting back to the turnkey camps and “the rich people”.

Some folks on Facebook have shared their stories about unfriendly experiences with people who were apparently connected to “rich camps”. I also have my own story from this year.

That new camp that I mentioned being produced by two people who had never been to Burning Man before — yes, I had an unexpected and unpleasant experience with someone from their camp. It was an interaction that left me feeling unwelcome and shocked. What I ended up doing then and there was talking with the woman who had been icy cold toward me. I said to her that I wanted to clear any weirdness between us. I asked her if this was her first time to Burning Man. It was. I then said to her, warmly and kindly, “This is a place where people are friendly and playful with each other. This is not a place where you need to protect yourself from me or from anyone else in this city. We’re here together to have fun together. So, welcome. Welcome to Black Rock City. Welcome to Burning Man.” Her attitude changed. That wasn’t what she was expecting from me. She wasn’t expecting hospitality.

Greeters Station, 2004 (Photo by Heather
Greeters Station, 2004 (Photo by Heather “CameraGirl” Gallagher)

There are numerous examples of camps that have transitioned over the last four years — camps that started out as lavish, exclusive, bought party experiences for the camp members. This year those same camps were producing huge gifts for the playa: stages with live performances, dance camps, art pieces. Some of those same camp owners who a few years ago were just there to party are now asking, “How do we get our camp members more involved? We don’t want them just coming here to consume a bought experience.”

I’ve been talking a lot lately about this idea of getting your hands dirty. Burning Man is a place to get your hands dirty — where you can learn new things, grow, and have fun while doing it.

The problem in Black Rock City is not “rich people”. To think that way is to be prejudiced.

In my opinion, the problem is one of sharing the stories of what it means to be part of Black Rock City.  As I see it, there are two issues to address:

  1. There is an influx of people who have the means to outsource their entire creative process to a paid staff. The problem with outsourcing your creativity is that you miss the opportunity to get your hands dirty. And this is often one of the most rewarding parts of Burning Man. You miss the opportunity to learn new things, to grow, and to challenge and surprise yourself.
  2. The other problem is that these same people are often accustomed to living exclusive “VIP” lifestyles. They are accustomed to living behind walls, away from interacting with the general public. What these people don’t realize is that the greatest fun in Black Rock City is often had in chance encounters with random people — with the “general public” of Burning Man.

You can’t blame them for not knowing any better. How can you expect a person to change and live differently if he or she has never been shown a better way?

I believe that with time, with hospitality, and with excellent storytelling we will see more camp organizers/producers/funders starting to ask the question, “How do I help my camp members get their hands dirty?”

The solution to this problem is around us educating each other. It’s going to take those of us who are experienced, whether jaded or not, deploying our best human connection skills to talk about this culture that we love so much.

Have you considered that maybe the producers and owners of the turnkey camps are interested in sharing ideas on how to make better camps at Burning Man? Have you considered that maybe there might be something that you can learn from each other? Have you considered that no one has all the answers? That we’re each doing the best we can at any given moment?

* * * *

Let’s talk about Radical Self-Reliance.

As I mentioned, the 10 Principles are aspirational. They are not absolute. No one is ever fully self-reliant unless you’re surviving in the wilderness with tools and equipment that you personally made. We all rely on the efforts, services and products of other people, whether that be food, fuel, transportation, clothing, shelter, etc.

To claim that camp members paying for services is the center of the problem and that this is not self-reliant misses the mark. Some camps have teams of folks who are contributing value to the city in ways that might not be shown in their camps: big artworks on the Esplanade, for example.

If a camp is currently in its evolutionary stage of “partying its face off”, let’s remember that most of us were once there, too. Let’s remember that today’s newbie, today’s first time camp, could evolve in a few years’ time into something wonderfully generous and beautiful for the people of Black Rock City.

Working to reapir the axle of the Stagecoach of the Apocalypse, 2007 (Photo by Brian Herman)
Working to reapir the axle of the Stagecoach of the Apocalypse, 2007 (Photo by Brian Herman)

If you’re someone who loves Burning Man passionately, if you’re someone who likes to get involved in making solutions, recognize that solving this problem is going to take us reaching out to others to show these newer people that it’s fun to interact, that it’s fun to participate, and that it’s fun to get your hands dirty.

It’s easy to get angry. It’s easy to be hurt and to recoil and to hurl insults. The more courageous choice, the more powerful choice, requires you speaking up in kind and patient ways. Be hospitable. Be generous. Be creative in your interactions. Isn’t this why you love Burning Man?

I see these problems as an opportunity for all of us to up-level our skills for interacting in ways that de-escalate the tension that arises when something we love seems threatened. Perhaps this is the new way for you, my experienced friend, to get your hands dirty.

79 Comments on “Radical Self-Reliance and Rich People at Burning Man

  • DustyRusty says:

    The current year census estimates that 40% of the attendees were at Burning Man for the first time.

    The field full of, what appeared to be, pee bottles near “L” towards the 10 o’clock side of the city probably weren’t left by a rich, turnkey camp. Rich, turnkey camps have RVs and their own private facilities.

    Don’t get distracted by the money. Educating the newbies needs to be a greater focus…whether they’re in turnkey camps or just showing up with a bag of clothes.

    The two first-time guys from Amsterdam camping alone near us with the leaky RV water pump needed educated about how to protect the playa, deal with the bucket they filled and how to clean up before they left. We adopted them. We educated them. We gave them bacon. We gave them the bucket. Showed them how to dump it into their holding tank, how to rake the damaged playa and how to de-moop their neighborhood.

    Will they be better Burners next time? Who knows. But at least they learned some stuff and left their spot clean enough to get green on the Moop Map.

    We can’t make people do their homework before the attend Burning Man but we can all make an effort to adopt a nearby newbie when we’re there.

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  • Wrath says:

    Five star post.

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  • Rich says:

    The issue with Turnkey camps is not just about radical self reliance.

    Commodify: to treat (something that cannot be owned or that everyone has a right to) like a product that can be bought and sold

    Turnkey camps are the antithesis of decomodification and their existence as a commodifying entity stands in opposition to the 10 principles. It’s frustrating to see this ignored. Camps that commodify should be handled exactly like camps that leave red blotches on the moop map.

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  • Corvus says:

    Excellent post and one that may help reset the expectations and actions of newbies, jaded burners, and those in between.

    The “rich camper” syndrome per se has not bothered me. If that’s the kind of burn they want – hiding behind walls and only coming out to party – then that’s the burn they get. Thanks to your post, in the event I should bump into one of these poor souls (unlikely ’cause those aren’t the circles I travel in BRC) I’ll make the effort of educating them.

    What sticks in my craw is that the operators of those camps are taking the Burning Man “brand” – the year round sweat, time, and money thousands of volunteers and ten of thousands of ordinary participants contribute for the sheer love of making BRC what it is, and packaging it for a profit. They are leeching off of others’ work to put money in their pockets. Even if “a portion of the proceeds” goes to something cool, that is not what Burning Man is about and such camps should be highly discouraged.

    If, as burner.me asserts, one of the Burning Man Project board members is an operator of one of these camps, that is an outrage. Say what you will about the LLC six, while they may have received pay for the full time work they did in making sure Burning Man happened, there has never been any rumors of lining their pockets with the result.

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  • Janus says:

    I don’t mind the PnP concept. I’ve been busting my ass for 15 years to put my camp together. Each year it gets harder and harder to weed out friends of friends to laden the camp down. Over the last 5 years I’ve spent well over $15k each year to put things together. It’s not worth it. I should be getting paid for the work I do.

    So next year I’m putting my $15k into the best PnP camp I can find. I’m finally going to have my ass licked out there – my clean anus, licked by one of those sherpa chicks. No drama. No hassle. No sparkle ponies riding into camp and saying all week because you can’t kick them out because all the other horny guys in camp wont stop giving them everything.

    PnP is the future, and rightfully so.

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  • Rio says:

    My beef about PnP camps is that this is really ticket scalping. Someone gets a bunch of tickets, diminishing the availability of tickets (directed sale? swarming the regular sale? someone on the inside?) And either by selling those tickets at a premium or jacking up the price of their turnkey services does exactly what we have all been working hard to avoid and supposedly banned by the BMorg.

    Tickets in the regular sale sold out in minutes. Friends who have been going for years and following the rules were shut out. No problem for the PnP camps and their their Sherpas. How come? Something smells here and this is the problem. This stuff threatens the trust the BMorg asks we have of them. This is why these camps need to be eliminated.

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  • burnersxxx says:

    The name “Turnkey” is confusing. “Commodification Camp” is better, because isn’t that the issue? These camps are selling Burning Man as a packaged tour experience, rather than opening their doors to participation and Gifting to the rest of us.

    The problem is what Commodification Camps are selling is NOT the trash fence, the signs, the cops, and the porta-potties – the infrastructure paid for by the ticket sellers. It’s the art, the costumes, the music, the beautiful people – ie, OUR participation and contributions, which have been given freely and paid for personally, because everyone thought that this party/festival/city/experience WASN’T for sale to strangers who didn’t share our values. Burners don’t want our self-expression to be commodified so that a select few can package it up and profit from it.

    I think that BMOrg should disclose to Burners what the commercial deal is for these camps. Does Burning Man get a cut? How do they get so many tickets, when the event is sold out and people wait in STEP but get forced into OMG? How do they get priority placement? How come they don’t have to clean up their camp by Tuesday?

    It appears that there are different rules for these camps than for the rest of us. If that is untrue, then let’s see a formal statement of denial. If it’s true, then it is segregating the Playa, and that’s not the fault of the rich customers who can afford a luxury experience, it’s the fault of the Commodification promoters and the rule makers.

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  • burnersxxx says:

    The name “Turnkey” is confusing. “Commodification Camp” is better, because isn’t that the issue? These camps are selling Burning Man as a packaged tour experience, rather than opening their doors to participation and Gifting to the rest of us.

    The problem is what Commodification Camps are selling is NOT the trash fence, the signs, the cops, and the porta-potties – the infrastructure paid for by the ticket sellers. It’s the art, the costumes, the music, the beautiful people – ie, OUR participation and contributions, which have been given freely and paid for personally, because everyone thought that this party/festival/city/experience WASN’T for sale to strangers who didn’t share our values. Burners don’t want our self-expression to be commodified so that a select few can package it up and profit from it.

    I think that BMOrg should disclose to Burners what the commercial deal is for these camps. Does Burning Man get a cut? How do they get so many tickets, when the event is sold out and people wait in STEP but get forced into OMG? How do they get priority placement? How come they don’t have to clean up their camp by Tuesday?

    It appears that there are different rules for these camps than for the rest of us. If that is untrue, then let’s see a formal statement of denial. If it’s true, then it is segregating the Playa, and that’s not the fault of the rich customers who can afford a luxury experience, it’s the fault of the Commodification promoters and the rule makers.

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  • Tara says:

    It’s great to see that Burning Man are being pro-active about an issue that seems to be important to some of the community.

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  • King says:

    The name “Turnkey” is confusing. “Commodification Camp” is better, because isn’t that the issue? These camps are selling Burning Man as a packaged tour experience, rather than opening their doors to participation and Gifting to the rest of us.

    The problem is what Commodification Camps are selling is NOT the trash fence, the signs, the cops, and the porta-potties – the infrastructure paid for by the ticket sellers. It’s the art, the costumes, the music, the beautiful people – ie, OUR participation and contributions, which have been given freely and paid for personally, because everyone thought that this party/festival/city/experience WASN’T for sale to strangers who didn’t share our values. Burners don’t want our self-expression to be commodified so that a select few can package it up and profit from it.

    I think that BMOrg should disclose to Burners what the commercial deal is for these camps. Does Burning Man get a cut? How do they get so many tickets, when the event is sold out and people wait in STEP but get forced into OMG? How do they get priority placement? How come they don’t have to clean up their camp by Tuesday?

    It appears that there are different rules for these camps than for the rest of us. If that is untrue, then let’s see a formal statement of denial. If it’s true, then it is segregating the Playa, and that’s not the fault of the rich customers who can afford a luxury experience, it’s the fault of the Commodification promoters and the rule makers.

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  • Rio says:

    What King says.

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  • ville says:

    things went pretty smoothly this year, the playa was very green, no exodus problem. no reason BLM would not allow 85,000 in 2015?

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  • Toby says:

    >These camps are selling Burning Man as a packaged tour experience

    Burning Man itself is a packaged tour experience. The massive infrastructure provided to the ticket holders by BMorg makes self-reliance a minimal concern. Burning Man is a vacation destination and escape from reality for most ticket holders, who work dreary corporate jobs. Once a year they get to play “being radical” for a week. But when you have something like center camp as a fallback, portapotties, medical staff, helicopters on the stand-by, a cop at every corner – it’s hardly radical. It’s middle of the road thrill seeking. Burning Man itself is a turnkey PnP experience. DPW, Cafe Village, the BRC Rangers = Sherpas.

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  • King says:

    Toby, have you ever actually BEEN to Burning Man? Good luck surviving for a week in the desert by relying on Center Camp and DPW/Rangers to be your Sherpas.

    The unique thing about this event is most of it is provided by the Burners, not BMOrg.

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  • Kitty says:

    I’m fairly certain that you aren’t going to find someone at center camp or a Ranger willing to fix your dinner for you. Hell, it’s hard to get a useful answer at Playa Info (multiple people there tried to tell us this year that United Services sold water) but that’s a whole other problem.

    I really couldn’t care how much money these people throw at the event. The money isn’t the problem. The problem is that if these people aren’t doing their own work, someone else is. And that someone had to get a ticket. That someone is now not engaging in the event themselves. Instead we never see them. They stay hidden inside camp all week and don’t get to engage. This is where the problem is. And I haven’t heard a single peep about what’s being done to fix that.

    I’d also like to say that even my first year, I understood damn well that no one was going to cater everything for me. I didn’t understand a lot of things, but that one I understood. We make sure anyone who joins our camp understands that.

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  • Evin says:

    King said, “I think that BMOrg should disclose to Burners what the commercial deal is for these camps. Does Burning Man get a cut? How do they get so many tickets, when the event is sold out and people wait in STEP but get forced into OMG?”

    This is the heart of the issue. Every day that passes without a specific BMOrg response erodes veteran belief in the idea that our community actually has a say.

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  • Bryan says:

    Having just read this, all I can say is what a load of CRAP the BMorg is trying to make us swallow. No Rosie they ARE PnP camps! No terminology switching to soften the blow of their cancerous nature.

    Does anyone from the actual BMorg actually read these comments? Can someone from the actual ORG provide a video taped reply that outlines the concerns myself and others raise? We need ANSWERS FROM THE HORSES MOUTH! Get Larry on tape NOW!

    When we hear that almost 60% of attendees are new or 2nd year burners, that means you are losing a LOT of veterans who would have like to come. Is that fair to then reserve 1000 – 2500 tickets for PnP camps under the guise of theme camp allotments?

    A better question, is that how do you maintain cultures and traditions if < 10% of attendees have more than 7 burns under their belt? Do you care? If I made a spicy tortilla soup, and replaced 60% of the ingredients with bland water and milk, would the soup taste the same? How can you bring in so many new people without changing the very nature of the event? Related to that, is how can you keep growing at such an exponential rate? You'll need to design BurningMan for 200,000 within 5 years at present growth rates. There is NO reason to cater to these types of suits.

    At the core problem of many of these new burners is those from the festival mindset who simply throw down $$$ and expect to party, with no thought to trying to become burners. You don't get to just "be a burner" simply by purchasing a ticket and attending. It IS a lifestyle. Allowing the facilitation of PnP style services IS corroding the event, but enabling those who come with these type of attitudes. What is a PnP IMO you ask? Well, here is my criteria to be clear:

    1. If they flew in and didn't participate in line at Gayte
    2. If they lived in an RV they didn't personally drive thru Gayte on their own.
    3. If they had paid servants taking care of cooking, cleaning, waiting on them
    4. If they had a camp that had more than 5 RVs greater than 27' setup to wall off a large area
    5. If they participated in a camp with security designed to prevent access to a camp's public areas
    6. If a majority of their camp did not participate in setting up, MOOP, or taking down their OWN camp
    7. If you paid more than $500 towards a camp to gain admission to a theme camp in some form.

    If a camp had a majority of members that fall into more than 3 of the above, THEY ARE THE PROBLEM. TO BE CLEAR, there were MORE than a couple who qualify based on the above, and it has NOTHING to do with the 2 on K street who had a red MOOP map showing. Nothing.

    LOTS of LONG TIME burners were denied tickets for the first time this year! LOTS. LOTS of crusty veterans were forced to stay home, and taking their place is the BMorg's version of who we should all accept as worthy replacements. And we are supposed to be happy to accept this new blood?

    I have zero problem with new folks who want to become burners provided they:

    1. Adhere to the 10 principles. Whilst not in stone law of BM, they provide guidance. right now your paid attendees are not trying.
    2. They actually participate in ALL aspects of their camp, including setup, cooking, cleaning, participating with their campmates at a shared camp event at least ONCE during the week, MOOP, and takedown their camp. This is an absolute. No exceptions for anyone.
    3. Do NOT fly in via the airport. The airport is one of the WORST things to happen to BurningMan. (Unless you personally pilot your plane in, skydive or need Medivacing out of course). IMO, the BOrg needs to eliminate the airport general availability. Those who don't participate waiting in the Entry line are douches. Period. Your paid guests need to experience patience in line with the rest of us.
    4. No paid catering staff on playa for a theme camp. Period. Any theme camp breaking this rule is black balled permanently, and the organizer and 3 members of the camp (of their own choosing) also get permanently banned. Let the organizer choose who amongst their flock should also get their head chopped off, so they can live with the knowledge they wrecked someones experience permanently.

    I think the BOrg should also enact a new rule that states no more than 5 RVs/Buses longer than 27 feet for any theme camp. They create a walled effect that is imposing and unnecessary. There are options for hexayurts and other creative structures that I'm sure a well heeled provider such as yourself can come up with.

    This is a good start. If the BOrg truly had any gumption or balls they would take this advice and run with it. We all know the answer to that.

    Prove me wrong Larry and Marian. Create a video response to the greater community that addresses everything in my thread. Don't dodge any questions.

    I challenge you.

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  • Ryan says:

    It really feels like you’re interentionally changing the topic here from turnkey camps to “rich” camps.

    I’ve heard very, *very* few people talk about “rich” camps, and some of the times when they do, they’re usually bringing it up specifically to highlight the fact that they’re *not* talking about rich people specifically.

    Now…there is a huge overlap between “rich” people and people able to pay $7000+ in camp dues, so often times the plug and play people are wealthy, but that isn’t the problem.

    “All plug and players are wealthy, but not all wealthy people are plug and players”.

    This isn’t some class warfare thing, this is a “somebody is taking the gifts that I freely give to my neighbors in BRC, packaging them, and selling them”.

    When a plug and play camp sells a ticket, they’re selling it with the implicit gifts that people are going to get when they’re in BRC (art cars, sculptures, bars, costumes, hugs; these things are all gifts. They’re not part of a ticket purchase).

    The problem is that those gifts aren’t theirs to sell. That’s the problem, not wealthy people.

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  • Bressinger says:

    Ok. So this is the first of the BMORGs attempts to soften the blow. First, change the terminology (because us lowly plebes are so wrong), then tell us the rules are really just “guidelines”. Next, they will tell us that the $50,000 in revenue the BMORG got from scalping their own tickets for a CERTAIN CAMP was in our own best interest. After all, how can they keep our prices so low if the Entitled Elite dont pay manor bucks for a guaranteed seat.

    What a load of crap. The BMORG simply sold out. And now they send some articulate PR hampster to start crafting a defense. Really pathetic, Larry. Hope it buys you a new hat.

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  • forty-eight says:

    It’s not about rich people.

    It’s about people not interested in doing the heavy lifting to figure out how to thrive on the playa for a week.

    The author mentions BWB. If these folks aren’t interested in doing the work it takes to setup, operate and tear down a camp, what would they bring to something like BWB?

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  • Tuk says:

    To those of you that infer that people who have been to Burning Man deserve to go more than those who haven’t…

    …since only 13% of attendees identify themselves as a person of color, you do realize what you’re also saying, right?

    In addition, if we’re to educate the 1% on the values of the 99%, it’s a heckuva lot easier to do so at the Burn than it is in a gated community.

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  • jolly green giant says:

    Some of you guys are a mass of mis-information. Some of “Our OK Camps ” are masking their “For Profit ” enterprises . They cater meals, provide Art Cars, clean the trailers. Some camps are no doubt using this “extra income” to minimize expenses for “the regulars”. Get a clue ! I spent many an hour in a very hot tank( I was an Armored Cav Officer in the Guard) I can tell you sweating my buns off in that tank in the summer and it did not make me a better man. It was hot and dangerous ! There is nothing wrong with air conditioning in a trailer. Some of you think spending a few days in a tent eating meals you brought from Wal-Mart, drinking bottled water somehow makes you better? really ? Have any of you whiners tried to educate any of those “rich” people. You talk like it is some sort of disease ! Get off your collective buts and start making a community. One person at a time ! You expect everyone to be like you. Now that would be a very boring world . Put some of your skin in the game and reach out and touch someone ! You might find that they are not to different from you ! We have problems at Burning Man but it isn’t “those Camps” It is those people who leave garbage in piles on the Playa, it is those people who urinate on the Playa,it is those people who deficate in buckets and plastic bags and leave it for the rest of us, it is those people who pollute the playa with their artificial grass, it is those people who leave hundreds of bikes for BM to haul away ! I will stop here. I could go on but you get the idea ! “I have seen the enemy and he is us” Peace be with you, Jolly Green Giant

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  • Toby says:


    lol, the standard, “Have you ever been to burning man?” I expected better from you. But oh well. Carry on Mister Hardcore Desert Adventurer.

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  • Janus says:

    Most of you 99% don’t realize the 1% pay 40% of the tax. You’d all wither and die without their subsidies to keep you afloat. And yet you continue to bite the hands the feed you.

    But there are career opportunities at Peet’s Coffee House. In 5 years you could be a manager; coffee God, making $40k a year. Or you could just fuck off and join DPW so you don’t have to pay rent 2 months out of the year. But who will care for your mange covered dog? These are difficult choices.

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  • Dustin says:

    It’s weird how the Borg keeps trying to spin this. I don’t care how rich someone is, how much money they want to spend on their camp, or whether they are virgins or not. I want to know if these camps get their tickets the same way, and at the same prices everyone else does? Do they go through the same theme camp placement process, art car approval process, wait in the same gate lines, and scrounge for early entrance tickets like everyone else, or as rumor has it, do they pay more for preferred access to these services? Someone wants to blow $15k on their camp dues to have a flush toilet – goody for them. But if the org is selling preferential vendor access to the event for $$, it’s a betrayal of every gift the rest of us work so hard to bring to the playa.

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  • barbender says:

    Plug and play camps should be gone. End of discussion. They contribute nothing and take up valuable space and tickets. I’ve seen NO ONE speaking out in favor of them. Just ban them. Rich folks can continue to come. But lets not ruin their chance to discover something new by letting these leeches make a buck off them. The plug and play camps ruin the experience for these new burners. By making it so easy to come and just watch, folks are robbed of the oportunity to enjoy real involvement in the event. We are letting PnP operators run tourist sites. Just get rid of them. There is just no benefit to having them.

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  • Johhny says:

    What I don’t understand is why these camps get a free pass to screw up. If my placed theme camp created drama with my neighbors, had little interactivity, vendor delivery issues, and left a huge red spot on the moop map I wouldn’t be told “maybe you’ll be inspired to do a better job next year.” I would be unplaced next year, receive no directed tickets, no early entry passes, etc. I certainly wouldn’t get a series of apologetic blog articles about my plight and how I am being misunderstood. I don’t know what’s behind these double standards, but it’s pretty bizarre to watch.

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  • jolly green giant says:

    Bryan, you have just excluded any person not willing to make this a two or three week endeavor.For instance those persons coming from Abroad .They don’t have weeks to do all the stuff that needs to be done.Maybe all they can cram in is 4 days. Is that permissible in your world? Then Bryan you have just excluded any person coming from the East Coast,who has scrapped together enough money to come, but can”t take off enough time to meet your demands. Most of us have jobs that limit what we can and cannot do; Not all of us live on the West Coast. Then Bryan you have just eliminated all our Artists and the people who build and create, You see Bryan they are actually working so guys like you can have a “good Burn”. I don’t know what planet you live on but it definitely is not this one. And to top it all off Bryan you have just violated the “WHY” of Burning Man. I will explain that later in another blog. I am sure you will reply but before you do read what you have posted. You might want to change a few things. Peace Jolly Green Giant

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  • Rosie von Lila says:

    Hi, Everyone:

    I’d like to introduce myself. I am Rosie, and I wrote this article. This is the second article I’ve written that has been published on the Burning Man blog. Prior to this time, I have not responded to any comments on the Burning Blog. I am a 15 year Burner, and I have been working for the Burning Man organization for a few years now. I work for several departments across numerous areas: communications, the Regional Network, and fundraising. Burning Man is one of my greatest loves, and it is important to me that we work to protect the culture. I love working for Burning Man — it is a vocation for me.

    On the playa this year, I produced a program called Burning Man Docents. A blog post about it will be coming out soon. I work with several Black Rock City departments and am part of the team that is working on the issues arising out of “concierge camps” (aka turnkey camps/commodification camps/plug’n’play camps), and I have spent a lot of time researching the issues surrounding these camps.

    Regarding the delayed timing of my replies to this post: As I’ve mentioned, I’ve never replied to comments on a post here on the Burning Blog. Generally speaking, the community usually provides answers to questions that arise from the writings on this blog. Sometimes Burning Man staff will chime in, but generally you all provide pretty accurate answers for each other. I was holding back on replying to comments here — this is new territory for us, and for me, in terms of the topic and the breadth of the community dialogue. I have been involved in researching the many sides to the turnkey issues, which has taken a considerable amount of time. We, the Burning Man organization, care about this. A lot. And it has taken time to more fully understand the scope and causes of the issues. As Will Chase introduced, we are at the beginning of a longer conversation regarding “concierge camps”. I am going to do my best to answer your questions now, over the next few days, and as they continue to arise.

    As I wrote, we are listening. We care about your concerns and suggestions. Let’s work on this together.

    Rosie von Lila
    Cultural Relations Maven, Burning Man

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  • Rosie von Lila says:

    Dusty Rusty’s comment about educating each other is a great point. I was talking to a founder of a major sound camp tonight who was sharing an idea about first timers being connected to “mentors” who can help acculturate new people to the playa. Over the past few months, I have spent a lot of time talking about how part of the solution is going to come from peer-to-peer education.

    Rich’s comment brings up a concern over what constitutes a turnkey camp. There is a lot of gray area here. Lately, the term “concierge camp” has come into use. It’s the idea of having an intermediary prepare your playa experience for you. To have someone prepare your playa experience misses the mark, and it misses out on what I consider to be the transformative power of Burning Man. Bringing a VIP lifestyle experience, with velvet ropes and wrist bands, introduces an issue of class in a place where social class has previously not existed. In my opinion, to sell a tourist experience of Burning Man goes against what Burning Man stands for and what it has been built on.

    Corvus, in all of my research, and in particular talking to the leads of the major camps that have been in question regarding profiteering, I have yet to come across a camp led by a financially wealthy person who has made money off of their camp, nor who has had the interest in doing so. To the contrary, the camp funders I have spoken to have often ended up paying out of pocket to cover the costs of their lavish camps. I think it is up to individuals and camp collectives to question whether charging five figures per person for a Burning Man camp is the best choice moving forward. I think many people will likely consider if having the types of gauche camps we saw in 2014 will perhaps, moving forward, not serve them as well as they once thought.

    BurnersXXX aka King, can you clarify what you mean by, “Does Burning Man get a cut?” and “How do they get priority placement?” I’m not clear on what cut you are referring to; is this question based on an assumption that camps are making money? Please clarify, and I’ll do my best to answer or will look into it. Also, I’m not clear on what priority placement are you speaking of. I would be happy to look into this, with more specificity from you. From what I know, all registered camps are held to the same standards regarding placement and strike/load out. Camps that end up staying longer usually do so as a result of poor planning by the camp organizers. Burning Man has no interest in segregating the playa. We do create sectors and neighborhoods that are thoughtfully planned and curated by the mostly-volunteer Placement team. For instance, 10:00 and 2:00 are where you will find the sound camps; you’ll find kids activities around Kidsville and Hushville; you’ll find that each neighborhood has a good mix of different kinds of camps, unless there is a general theme to that particular area.

    Ville, to my current knowledge, our BLM agreement specifies a population cap of 68,000 people through 2016.

    # # # #

    I’ll do my best to reply to more of your questions over the coming days.

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  • Narcicero says:

    A lot of other people have asked this, but I would like to know as well: Are the “turnkey” camps getting their blocks of tickets the same way theme camps do–by notifying the Org that they need X number of personnel to make their camp function effectively?

    If so, then those tickets should be reserved for the paid employees. Those are tickets that have been set aside by the Org to make sure that there are enough committed workers to create interesting art projects and interactive theme camp experiences.

    A turnkey camp that wants 50 tickets needs to present a plan to the Org showing that it needs the labor of those 50 persons to run effectively. If they are simply buying blocks of tickets for their customers, that is an inappropriate use of the theme camp ticket reservation system. Note that this is true for any theme camp.

    If a turnkey camp wants to pay scalper rates so that it can buy a large block of tickets, that is its choice; the owners have the money and they can do so. It’s out of the Org’s hands at that point. They’re doing what any Burner who’s not integral to a theme camp and luckless in the ticket sales does–collecting money from their donors/investors/employers/clients/etc., and choosing to spend that money on getting a high-priced ticket to Burning Man.

    Yes, they’re taking that ticket away from another person who could have gone to the playa instead of the rich person. But there’s no guarantee that a poor Burner will work any harder than a rich Burner, as we saw with the Gypsy Flower Power MOOP debacle. On the other hand, if a theme camp asks for a ticket for one of its members, that theme camp is promising that this Burner will take action to make the experience of the rest of the city a thrilling one–whether that action is pounding rebar, running a bar, counseling the disoriented. The camp is promising to deliver a performer, not a spectator.

    So if a camp wants to get a large block of tickets–be they a hotel, a sound camp, or torture-porn-and-grilled-cheese theater, they need to provide detailed proposals of what they need that human labor to accomplish.

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  • Mortician says:

    Burning Man is an event built on the contributions and experiences the participants bring to the playa.

    Participants who contribute, are open and friendly, are curious and respectful, and take personal responsibility for themselves, the environment, their fellow BRC residents, and the event create a positive experience for themselves and for everyone around them.

    Participants (and I am using that term loosely) who live in walled off camps, who do not interact – or negatively interact- with their neighbors, who have roped off VIP areas and private art cars which exist only to exclude, who use the Playa as a networking opportunity, a private nightclub or rave, a chance to package and sell the efforts of others, or a questionable employment backdrop within their camp create a negative experience for everyone around them.

    I don’t personally think it matters one bit how much money someone has as to whether they can create positive or negative experiences for the community. I also don’t believe that everyone who comes has to participate in every single aspect of their camps to be a positive contributor. Its fine if a camp, say, has some people come early to set up and another group sticks around at the end to strike. The question in my mind is not related to someones net worth or how many rebar stakes they have pounded. It is completely about whether someone is coming to actively be a part of the city and open to interaction, or whether they are coming to violate the community by co-opting others contributions, treat those same contributors with active rejection, derision, and exclusion from behind velvet ropes and wristbands, and do everything possible to separate themselves from the general community via handlers, sherpas, and walls.

    If the more egregious PnP camps need that much hand holding and separation from the general community, why dont they just either go down to Vegas for their long clubbing weekend where the entire town exists to cater to that need level, or come out to the playa and set up their camp at some other time when there is no one else out they need to keep out?

    If these camps are going to continue to come (and I have no doubt in one form or another they will), there should be some expected level of standard of contribution, interactivity, participation, employment law application, and general “dont be such a douche” expectations to prevent them from creating negative experiences for others. I think it sends a confusing and contradictory message if camps are allowed to behave in ways which create negativity for the community yet they receive placement, directed ticket sales, access to vendors for private services, etc- intentional or not, it gives the impression their behavior has approval of the BMorg.

    I certainly hope this issue gets focus over the next year and we do not see repeats of some of the travesties on K street again next year. I would agree that some of these folks may be the ones who most need a playa experience to learn to open up and think outside their walled off worlds.

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  • burnersxxx says:

    Hi Rosie. Let me clarify:

    Does Burning Man get a cut? Simple question: some camps now are for-profit. Some camps have multi-million dollar budgets. Do they pay anything to BMOrg, or is it free of charge for anyone to come and set up a for-profit camp?

    Tickets: Caravancicle got 120 tickets for its guests, plus tickets for all the staff that worked there. How could they get so many tickets, when the event sold out in 42 minutes in February?

    Priority Placement: Caravancicle/Lost Hotel got an entire city block on the K-Hole, the area between 8:45-9:00 J to K. It was set aside for them, and after Tuesday – when everyone was supposed to have packed up and left – almost all of their infrastructure was still there (I would post a link but I’m hoping this comment gets past your censorship filter). I bet if I showed up and tried to park my RV at 9 & K I would have been told “this area is reserved”.

    Leave No Trace: When the final MOOP map was completed, Caravancicle/Lost Hotel got pretty much the worst score for yellow/red. How can a camp that just blatantly ignores the rules and values of Burning Man get an entire block set aside for them?

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  • burnersxxx says:

    Here is the link that shows what was still left on the Playa on the Wednesday after the burn: http://mapsengine.google.com/gallery/mapviewer?id=zK_ghNc0p65g.kaWuvvipHkks&hl=en

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  • Rio says:

    I don’t care if the attendees are rich. I don’t care is they eat caviar on silver spoons although I hope they moop out their beluga containers. I don’t care if they leave before the man burns to beat the traffic. I don’t care that they won’t let me play with them.

    I do care about how they get those enormous blocks of tickets when they are not a theme camp, a village, a sound camp, an art camp or anything but a monied endeavor. Please answer that question.

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  • jolly green giant says:

    I am a vendor I rent Trailers and Motor Homes to Clients. Thats it. My contract reads I can only maintain my equipment. That’s all I do. I do not sell or buy tickets.I do not cook meals nor tend bar nor provide maid service. I do not provide art cars or any other nonsense. But I do know that there are Theme Camps that are pnps. I am not a kiss and tell but it would not take to much to uncover those involved. I personally do not think pnps are any big problem. Not when we have 68,000 people attending. You maybe are talking 500/600 people. I am not going to work up a sweat on those numbers. But I do have HUGE problem with people who pollute at will !! I also have a problem with all the various camps abusing their position to falsely procure tickets, I also have a problem with those same Camps(PNP and Theme Camps} not paying BLM/Burning Man and The State of Nevada their proper fees and taxes. Thanks to all for openly discussing all our problems. I can now see why there is anger. I would caution you= the vast majority of us (Vendors) are not doing any of the things you have been discussing. If I can be of assistance to any of you just e-mail me. Peace Jolly Green Giant user645137@aol.com

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  • Topher says:

    I noticed a comment above that mentioned a problem that isn’t getting talked about, and I’d like to second that, and agree that, at a place where commodification is not just a principal, it is, as I understand it, a rule. Making a profit or running a business at Burning Man is, again, as I understand it, not permitted in most cases, so why is it permitted in the case of of these camps? Radical Self-Reliance is all well and good, but some part of me feels like that’s the focus the Org is taking to be able to say “it only really affects the individuals in the camps”, but in the case of commodification, that’s not true anymore. Is that why it’s never come up in these discussions from the org side as a concern we have, and addressed?

    That isn’t my big issue, though. My big issue is a question that also hasn’t been addressed in any way, and that’s tickets, and placement. How does a walled-off camp, with paid staff, that does not contribute to BRC’s experience and community, manage to get placement? And as for the paid services, how are they getting their tickets, particularly when the demand in the general sale always outstrips the supply? I would be surprised to hear that the agencies or companies or whomever that are providing the services of sherpas, chefs, PR people, etc. would be able to sell their services if there was a chance that the staff required for those services might not get tickets.

    Sooooo, what gives, BMOrg? How are these tickets acquired? Are they receiving the same special sale options as theme camps that actually do provide something to BRC at large? Or are they actually just crossing their fingers and hoping for success in the general sale, in the meantime knocking people out of the running to get ahold of tickets who are not there to make money, which, again, isn’t that against the rules? THIS is something I think a lot of us would like to see discussed and explained, as citizens contributing to the evolution and continuation of BRC.

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  • Brigit says:

    Commodification. THat’s what bothers me the most about these camps and this writer does not address this issue.

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  • nik says:

    Title needs to be changed to: Last word on PnP camps. Because it is. Well researched and great thoughts.

    I don’t understand those who constantly suspect the bmorg of betraying the spirit of burning man. Since this has never happened in the past there is no reason to believe it’s happening now. Trust has been built over decades. If you accuse them of something you better have hard facts to back up your claims. Otherwise it’s just paranoia and rightly does not warrant a response.

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  • TTATC says:

    “Since this has never happened in the past there is no reason to believe it’s happening now.”

    Naive statement much?

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  • Dandilion says:

    BRorg: Please read what Dustin and Johhny said. I’m so curious of that one particular answer. I don’t really need anything else answered but that. The rest of it will work itself out with the help of this amazing community.

    Please answer the question.

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  • Chris Phoenix says:

    I understand the BLM contract limits attendance through 2016.

    With enough money, that could be renegotiated.

    The solution to $20,000 dues camps is very simple. For everyone who gets a ticket without going through the lottery – whether staff or client – find a way to make one extra ticket available to the general public.

    If there are 1,000 people in these camps, paying $1,000 apiece for the Ticket Replacement Fund, then surely a cool $1,000,000 can convince the BLM to raise attendance by 1,000 people.

    All the other stuff – walls, rudeness, riches… who cares? They’re a drop in the bucket. The only thing that’s really scarce on the Playa is tickets. Fix that, and it’s all good. Don’t fix that, and you’re supporting scalping.

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  • ~lancho! says:

    So… the spirit and reasoning of this to me is right on. Then so much follows, and most of it is cogent and well thought out. I think the main possible offenses that remain unaddressed are: commodification…. seriously: people are financially profiting providing services on the Playa…. that is not in keeping. And, the question of how do these large camps get big blocks of tickets…. if they have some way of circumventing the process us “99%” (as Janus so lovingly refers to us above) go through to get our tickets, then that too is not in keeping.

    I love the evolutionary experimental nature of it all…. and feel so much of Rosie’s original post acknowledges the fluidity of this thing we call Burning Man…. still: there are questions that aren’t being confronted, and I suspect the answers aren’t pretty.

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  • Wiki says:

    I was working at Playa Info this year and had two linked experiences concerning one particular turnkey camp that utterly broke my heart and made me want to hunt a few people down.
    About three AM Tuesday morning, someone was moving around outside my tent. I got up and went to see what was up. I met a man who was unpacking a tent out of a knapsack. He told me he had ridden over six-hundred miles on his motorcycle and had been slogging it all over Black Rock City for over 18 hours looking for a turnkey camp called “Jaberwocky”. He had very little water or food left and was obviously exhausted. He wanted to just pitch a tent behind mine until morning so he could get a little sleep. He was British and had paid over two-thousand dollars to a company who had promised him his own lux trailer, water, a bicycle, food and all the trimmings. The company sent him a ticket and instructions which read: “Go to Playa Info Directory to find the camp location” He had not had any luck finding the location in the directory computers and was basically too tired to move.
    I walked him back over to the Playa Info Directory, tried a few searches and did find one comment from a woman that said this “Jaberwocky” camp was located at a place he had not tried looking. Even though he was hardly able to walk, he packed up and pushed on into the night.
    I felt pretty good about steering this guy in “the right direction”…
    that is until the next day at my Playa Info shift at the Oracles Desk.

    Two other Europeans walked up and asked if we knew about a camp called “Jaberwocky.” I chimed in that I did see a comment about that camp that located it at such and so. They both looked disgusted and told me that they had seen that comment, had gone to that location and found no such camp. They had gone back and forth, asking at each camp, street after street, covering that entire quadrant of the big BRC circle “and no f*cking Jaberwocky”. These two guys had been looking for two solid days. They had arrived on Burner Express with carry-on bags from their flights into Reno. The only food they had was given to them by sympathetic burners. Even their water bottles had been gifts. They stalked off – fueled mostly by anger at that point.

    There can be a lot of well-intended missed connections in BRC and unprepared burners and brain-dead camp organizers. My fear is that these three guys, and probably others had been sold tickets at sky-high prices and promised the moon by turn-key camp promoters that never drove a single vehicle to BRC.

    Even if this “Jaberwocky” camp was an *Ahem* “legitimate” enterprise that was hiding somewhere on the Playa that week, I feel like they should still be criminally prosecuted for exposing their clients to such a dangerous situation. If they were a “real” camp why didn’t they come to Playa Info and post their location information in the directory computers so that their oh-so-vague instructions to their clients might have at least a chance of working?

    So, on the whole, I do not like turn-key camps.

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  • sarah haynes says:

    I am solo disappointed that BMs response to the PnP debate is this PnP-washing JRS article. These 2 views do NOT reflect the issues people are having and you get full well know it. Very few people care if rich people come to BM and fund an expensive camp, even with someone profiting. The real issue is DISCLOSURE. BMorg – we are asking you to address the how you are supporting these camps. Are you selling them more than 2 tix and if so , at what rate, and why? Why do they get early entry and placement if they are not an approved theme camp (they are not on the theme camp map and they do not have theme camp activities in the what, where, when – so clearly they are not theme camps). What is with all the preferential treatment? BMorg, you appear to have a dis-ease known amongst people who work with celebrities as “Celebrititus”. You are so interested in the rich, powerful and famous that you are screwing your long term community so you can hob-nob with celebrity instead. NO ONE should be treated differently. If these camps can get early entry, vendor passes and large groups of tickets, without providing theme camp services, why can’t others apply for the same? ADDRESS THE QUESTIONS THAT ARE BEING ASKED OF YOU INSTEAD OF POSTING ARTICLES THAT MISLEAD THE PUBLIC AS TO WHAT THE ISSUE IS REALLY ABOUT. It’s not about rich people, it’s about YOU BMorg. Time for full disclosure.

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  • Rosie von Lila says:


    “Does Burning Man get a cut? Simple question: some camps now are for-profit. Some camps have multi-million dollar budgets. Do they pay anything to BMOrg, or is it free of charge for anyone to come and set up a for-profit camp?”

    Just so we are being factually clear, would you please kindly specify which camps are for-profit, who in those camps is profiting, and what evidence you have?

    The Burning Man organization receives payments for entry passes, and does not take any “cut” of any alleged profiteering.

    Re: Caravanscicle, I am not involved in ticket distribution and don’t have that information at this time.

    “Priority Placement: Caravancicle/Lost Hotel got an entire city block on the K-Hole, the area between 8:45-9:00 J to K. It was set aside for them, and after Tuesday – when everyone was supposed to have packed up and left – almost all of their infrastructure was still there…”

    Carvanscicle was a registered theme camp that went through the same process that all placed camps went through.

    The infrastructure remaining on Tuesday at the two camp sites at that location was due to unforeseen circumstances, as I understand it. Placement takes note of these kinds of issues.

    “Leave No Trace: When the final MOOP map was completed, Caravancicle/Lost Hotel got pretty much the worst score for yellow/red. How can a camp that just blatantly ignores the rules and values of Burning Man get an entire block set aside for them?”

    At this time, I don’t know the specifics of this situation well enough to speak about them.

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  • Rosie von Lila says:

    @Wiki – Thank you for sharing this story. This is important information, and I will be sure that Placement is aware of it. I think we will see an increase in communications about “scammers” who attempt to scam (or succeed at scamming) Burners. Stories like these drive home the importance of knowing who you’re camping with.

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  • Rosie von Lila says:

    @sarah haynes — I’m realizing that this article is missing context.

    I wrote this article two days after returning from the playa when stories about turnkeys were starting to appear on the Web. There was a lot of scorn and anger over what I perceived as a lot of assumptions and prejudice. I wrote this article to foster an attitude of willingness toward rational dialogue.

    PLEASE NOTE: This article is not intended to solve all, or cover all, of the points some of the questions being raised here. This is an initial conversation piece. It is in no way comprehensive, and was never intended to be. This topic is far too complex for one article to cover. Hence, this post is a conversation starter.

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  • Rosie von Lila says:

    @Dandilion, @Dustin —

    Dustin, please see my comment above. I wrote this post as an opinion piece, and originally published it on my personal blog.

    Re: tickets, please see my response to BurnersXXX

    Re: placement — All placed camps on the playa go through the same placement process. They fill out a camp questionnaire, which the Placement team then processes. No one is paying the Placement team for preferential placement.

    Re: DMV licenses — All mutant vehicles are subject to the same licensing process. Every vehicle on the playa is taken to the DMV for licensing, and are subject to the same licensing criteria.

    Re: Entry access — All ticket-holding participants enter either through Gate Road or the BRC airport. There are no special Gate Road lanes for camp members of any camps. There is no “concierge camp” fast lane.

    Re: Vendor access — from my understanding, all camps that pay for Outside Services credentials pay the exact same vendor rate levels for all Outside Services credentials. There are no special “VIP” credentials available for higher prices.

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  • Rosie von Lila says:

    @Dandilion, @Johnny —

    Johnny, I’m not sure which double standards you are talking about. Can you be more specific, please?

    All registered camps that have issues are held to the same standards. When camps make mistakes or Placement receives complaints about them, they become “a camp not in good standing”. They are typically given an opportunity to clear up the issues and return to “good standing”. All placed camps are held to the same standards and processes.

    The thing to keep in mind is that, generally speaking, people who build camps are pushing their edges. They’re usually trying something bigger than they’ve ever tried. And most often there are mistakes and challenges. The bigger the project (the more resources you pour into it), the bigger the chance of failure — which can be conspicuous.

    I am not condoning gauche camps and opulent displays of wealth. What I am saying is that everyone fails at Burning Man at some point (so long as they’re trying new things). For better or worse, failures at noticeable camps are, well, quite prominent when they occur.

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  • Dry Camp says:

    OK, we camped near (I & 5:15), early arrival, volunteering. As our neighborhood began filling in, 6 or 7 huge diesel pushers arrived. Of course, they circled the wagons. That didn’t feel very nice, they parked next to a camp of mostly tent campers. Apparently, the Pushers still didn’t have enough electricity so they had a generator delivered. It ran almost 24/7. They put the generator not inside their fortress, but outside, next to the tents. The Pushers, didn’t seem to know each other and didn’t seem interested in any of their neighbors. The Host appeared to have a proximity alarm around the wagons. As far as I can tell, it was a for profit PnP.

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  • gerard says:

    We were first time Burners from Europe this year, we were amongst the 40% new arrivals and we felt lucky to get two tickets within the 45 or so minutes in the regular sale. Now, about these Turnkey Camps I would just like to say that to my believe they are getting a bit out of hand. We met some fellow countrymen saying that they stayed in such a camp and that they had a great time and that the food was great. Hello, we ourselves learned a lot just during preparation time in the run up to BM and compiling a shopping list, it is part of the trip. We saw the map when we entered the city and pretty much all of the first “rings” were taken by these Camps. I could not figure out how these people were organized is such a way that they obtaimed so many tickets as a group. Now that I have read the comments it is getting clear to me how they do it and that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others…
    Burning Man was a beautiful experience for us, but these 10 principles everyone is talking about are not really a set of principles they seem to be more a form of general guidelines. I was astonished to see huge generators, shipcontainers loaded with all sorts of stuff, and see people leave their RV during the day while keeping the airco and generator on.
    In contrast our final experience: as we departed after the Burn at 04.00 hrs. In the dark, at the gate and all long the route there were these young volunteers to guide you. They asked us if we had anything to donate/leave behind for them (food, water etc) as they would be there for some time to round things up while we had already left. I felt bad that we were not prepared for that question. But it made me realise that without them, nothing runs in BRC. Time to put the pyramide upside down?

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  • patrick says:

    Rich people are not the issue to me (Be careful, you might be one someday!) And, if the turnkey camp providers do everything for free, that’s cool. But, they are Pimping the Man if they make any money in that commercial transaction.

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  • Dusty Bottoms says:

    The part where we, as long-time burners, need to educate and welcome newbies, no matter how wealthy or poor they are, is totally cool with me. The part where there are people out at Burning Man actively making a profit off of others’ first time experiences bothers me. And the part where the Org facilitates these for-profit activities via making private, group ticket purchases available to these companies, and reserving large amounts of space for non-interactive, exclusive, walled-off ‘theme camps’, really bothers me.

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  • TTATC says:

    Let’s have fun with this trend and just imagine what might be.
    There may be a camp called the BRC Country Club & Playa Cruise Ship. They will set up a swimming pool and spa, observation tower, private movie theater, bar and restaurant, all within its gated and guarded enclosure composed of solid sided accommodation units, all air conditioned and soundproofed of course, each with cable, internet, phone, and maid / personal concierge / escort service. There will be social events and entertainment within the compound. The clients pay $50-100K each, and never have to leave the compound for any reason, although sight seeing tours on the camp’s Cruise ship, an exclusive air conditioned and air filtered chauffeured art car with its own bar and gourmet restaurant and telecommunications links will be available. They won’t have to mix it up with the Hoi Polloi for any reason. They can have all the creature comforts of home, and do everything they do in their privileged defaultia lives, except they will be able to say they did it at Burning Man! How special!
    Yes, Radical Inclusion must include the Radically Exclusive.

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  • Kirkus says:

    This entire trend makes me physically ill. My/our Burning Man is a precious and apparently fragile thing. I love going to Burning Man to get away from this exact thing. The “no money” thing and the gifting thing and the freedom and the decommodification of everything that even slightly smelt of commercialization. There’s now more RV’s with logos everywhere. It was rare to see any advertisement let alone a logo. Please, if you Org people read this at all, please quit allowing this rape of our culture. There is NOTHING like Burning Man and is such a needed escape for many from what is exactly being allowed. We had to show that our Theme Camp was interactive in some way. We were graciously allowed to try a VERY ambitious project in center camp. Our camp area was pretty big and we had about maybe 20 of us. We bought our tix and we made sure the area we used was interactive and open to all. When our camp grew and grew we needed space that was semi private for dinner and what not but really anyone could and did come in. Exclusive is NOT radical INCLUSIVE. These are NOT guidelines that maybe some should adhere to they are PRINCIPLES that all should adhere to at Burning Man. Please quit fuking this up. Walled off secured camps are an antithesis of what Burning Man is and should be. Please.

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  • Human Jones says:

    These turnkey campers are using our city as just another Resort to give them some sort “cred” in their lives. There is no contribution, just vacation. Money, greed, self serving, over pampered pathetic souls.

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  • djsjjd says:

    @gerard: “as we departed after the Burn at 04.00 hrs. In the dark, at the gate and all long the route there were these young volunteers to guide you. They asked us if we had anything to donate/leave behind for them (food, water etc) as they would be there for some time to round things up while we had already left. I felt bad that we were not prepared for that question. But it made me realise that without them, nothing runs in BRC. Time to put the pyramide upside down?”

    Glad you made such a long trip to see the Playa- hope you come back!

    One clarification, though: The people escorting you out (the awesome GATE Staff) are volunteers! Well over 90% of the people “working” on the Playa during the event put time in year-around and are not paid a dime by the organization. http://fortune.com/2014/08/29/burning-mans-bacchanal-big-ticket-sales-big-costs/ A very small number of people who work for BMOrg actually get paid. Each year’s budget is over $28 million and only about $7 million go to salaries, which is almost as much as it costs in camping permits and taxes (people often forget that their tickets includes fees and taxes to camp in a Federal Park for a week, which is about $6.5 million for 65,000 people.)

    All of these services need volunteers and rely on them for the majority of their workforce: air playa info (reno airport)
    arctica (ice sales)
    art installations
    black rock gazette
    black rock city rangers
    box office
    empire-gerlach bus service
    center camp café
    dept. of public works
    dept. of mutant vehicles
    earth guardians
    emergency services
    gate, perimeter & exodus
    information radio
    media mecca
    playa info
    recycle camp
    san francisco office squad
    special events
    technology teams
    temple guardians
    theme camps
    volunteer resource team

    Help these people out if they need it. While many party 24/7 for the full week, there are a lot out there who dedicate 1-7 days of their time to keep the party going. It took me 8 years before I finally volunteered and my only regret was not doing it sooner. Very fun to see the event from a different perspective.

    This not the same as the “sherpas” who are paid employees/owners of the turnkey camps who serve their masters on playa. They don’t help the greater good. Instead, they are occupied with cooking and cleaning someone else’s RV and putting watch batteries in blinky trinkets/future moop so that their masters can check “give out trippy gifts” off of the “How-To BM with Radical Indifference” check-list. Then they have to pedal their bike-taxi fast in order for the masters to have a spiritual experience (mushrooms on deep playa (did you see the moon?)) but still make it back in time to get on Carl Cox’s tour bus for hist set.

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  • Dr. Baron von Realz Esq. says:

    I think it would be helpful to have a rating system like yelp for theme camps that way people could voice concerns or give props about specific camps, it may be a little complicated but also have a section rating adherence to the 10 principle, maybe on a one to ten scale. It would let the community be heard, people could make informed decision about joining a camp, the powers that be could get an idea of what the camp is all about and help them make informed decision about giving them “good standing” , “a camp not in good standing” or you guy suck. This also would give the camp an insight into what they did wrong and what they got right. I contacted yelp and ask if they might be interested in something like this but they said they only do commercial ventures, do’h I forgot I am back in the default world.

    Dr. Baron von Realz Esq.

    “What’s the point of going out? We’re just gonna wind up back here anyway.”
    -homer simpson

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  • Brent says:

    Burners, consider that, if someone has enough financial resources, they can acquire whatever number of tickets they desire. They could pay 1000 people to swarm the regular ticket sale. Or the more expensive pre-sale tickets. Whatever rules are in place, the wealthy can work around them.

    Maybe it’s to everyone’s advantage to reserve a number of tickets for people who can afford to pay much more than regular tickets. That might disempower scalpers, and free up tickets in the regular sale from those being paid to buy tickets for rich people and their entourages. The extra income for BMOrg could go to art grants. Or cleaner porta potties.

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  • Spark says:

    One can not appreciate a hot shower, a cold glass of milk, a huge salad, a steak dinner with a nice pinot and a soft king size bed with clean sheets if one has not lived for 10 days in Black Rock City WITHOUT these normal delights. You can’t feel divine bliss without feeling some angst and pain in your life. When I’m on my 9th day and I have no fresh produce (which was gone by Wednesday), and I am now eating my canned soup cooked on the black dash of my car or just on the playa in the sun, the last thing I want to see is a huge semi with the logo of “Bonanza Fresh Produce” colorfully decorated with Scott London quality photographs of delicious fresh fruit and veggies, delivering for the fourth time to the “hotels” on K Street. It most certainly created a class system of the haves and have nots. Could my camp, which does get two water deliveries on playa, afford such luxuries? Oh my, you have no idea the total worth of the fortunes of my campmates. Oh, and the reason we have water delivery is because we give away coffee, fruit punch and tea all day. We give away so much water our little cars could not bring it in. Like Rosie says, Burning Man is a place to get your hands dirty. We leave our lives of million dollar deals, funding orphanages in India, searching for cancer cures in our federally funded labs at universities, producing HBO docs, serving our country as a Colonel in the Marines and teaching kindergarten, etc…… to come together and survive 10 days in the desert. We have had many discussions about this particular topic. A few suggestions, require all segways to be decorated. Scramble the cell signals/satt for emergency use only. If turnkeys are necessary build a separate “Las Vegas” 5 miles away with their hotels and running water toilets/bidets. Require bicycle entry to BRC from said Las Vegas and prior to entry one must get their hands dirty by scrubbing one of the Distrikt port-a-potties. JK,,,,, kinda. All camps have their share of Sparkle Ponies but to have an entire block of them was just too much. These camps obviously did not get the memo about playing shitty dubstep and drum and base 24/7 at too high of decibels. We felt like we were in the middle of a spring break pool party at Mandalay Bay with a bull horn no less. I unfortunately don’t have a solution for this issue. The idea of mentoring or requesting infusion of veterans to take “hotel guests” on field trips to Point 3 of the trash fence then spinning them in a circle with a gentle spank on the ass and kiss good-bye and good luck. The veterans could then huddle at center camp waging bets on which one of their newbies would make it back first and what experiences they encountered. It will most certainly be an interesting discussion this year at the BMOrg offices.

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  • StellanO'BRC says:

    It seems to me elitism is creeping into the Burning Man Organization, and that’s what makes it so difficult for Rosie von Lila to respond to questions posed by ‘average’ Burners (“I’m not sure which double standards you are talking about. Can you be more specific, please?””…would you please kindly specify which camps are for-profit, who in those camps is profiting, and what evidence you have?”), or to conveniently shift the focus (“I think we will see an increase in communications about “scammers” who attempt to scam (or succeed at scamming) Burners”).

    Post-Burners at Summer Lake Hot Springs this year were hard-pressed to explain to European first-timers why there were bouncers at the fun-looking party at 9 & J, and they were not allowed in although the place was filled with people (no wristbands and none available without having paid $$$ for them or being part of the elite=private party. Radical Inclusion???).

    Another first-time Burner was expressing her desires to get a job at the airport next year to rub elbows with the elite and hopefully get invited to the private parties. (I literally wanted to throw up when I heard that!)

    Disillusionment is setting in. And in the meantime the BMO leaves Rosie von Lila hanging out on a limb with half-answers, clinging to the October 15 excuse for not coming forward. Time to ‘human-up’ and tell the truth, BMO. The second-class citizens are getting restless. Why should people be ushered in to make a profit while the rest of us have been scrambling to try to get tickets for the last 3 years with these crazy hoops we have to jump through and half our Burner friends have given up even trying?

    As ‘first time Burner from Europe Gerard’ said ‘it is getting clear to me how they do it and that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others…’

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  • Pilgrim says:

    I echo @StellanO’BRC

    BMorg I hope you are reading the most salient comments here. Quit burying the headline. We are waiting for your response.

    To quote commenter @Sarah Hynes, the real issue is DISCLOSURE. There are serious violations here. Veteran trust is rapidly eroding. The ball is in your court. No more PnP-washing.

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  • Dry Camp says:

    While money doesn’t talk, it swears.” Robert Allen Zimmerman 1965

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  • commodify your burn says:

    the pnp camps are commidification

    coffee at center camp and ice-sales at Arctica isn’t essential but many people want these commodities

    propane is also sold for the enjoyment of many . . . i doubt anyone’s RV needed any

    extra potable water and gray/black-water pump-out isn’t radically self-reliant but is necessary for some Burner’s lifestyle — there were these service trucks almost 24/7 at the pnp adjacent to my camp, each time i heard one of the diesels coming, i hoped it was a street watering truck (yes, i like to run under them and know the water may have some bacteria), some of the pumping trucks had noisy generators and “beeps” when backing up. (i used less than a gallon each day to wash hair and self.)

    there are rumors that some of the pnp camps hired prostitutes, this too is unnecessary commidification. (prostitution is illegal in Pershing County.)

    if pnp commodities are allowed (for the radically non-self-reliant few who need it), how will they be regulated?

    will they get preferential tickets for their staff or clients, will they just buy up scalped tix at any price ’cause they can afford it?

    how will we prevent rip-offs who advertise pnp and when guests show up, they find nothing? (A lot of that happened this year . . . i also noticed a lot more flies after seven days than ever before.)

    shall we condone pnp if they provide a service to all like a fantastic dj and light show or feed everyone other than popsicles, an open bar?

    i heard burner express riders had access to a shade structure at a camp. i also heard many of them struggled getting enough drinking water to the playa. they struggled getting to their camp, it also wasn’t easy for them to bring bicycles. how about setting up a fancy pnp next to them?

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  • Burned Out? says:

    Experienced and veteran Burners, Chill. When BM was first introduced, it was an example of how to enjoy life and art with no rules, just principles to live by. BM has grown over the years to a size that requires rules, laws and enforcement of same. Exclusivity has replaced inclusivity. Buying tickets to only enjoy BM as a spectator, or even just to say “I went to BM”, has replaced being a member of a community that works together to support each other and BRC as a whole. Why would we expect anything else? BM has become “Burning Man” in name only. So, stop complaining and asking for more enforcement of rules and “principles”. If you want the “Old Burning Man”, then gather together and create it, just like the original few did. You might not be able to get BRC on Labor day week, But maybe you could go to a beach in San Fran and burn a women this time. When your buddies asked you to join their fledgling Tech start-up company, you joined them because you liked their principals for a small community based business, and you jumped at the opportunity. Then, when the company grew to a multi-facility, billion dollar enterprise with a labor force numbering in the thousands, did you complain about the loss of the original principles? No. You took the knowledge you gained from this experience, and started a new enterprise, promising yourself that you would never violate your core principles again. Or, maybe you took your retirement and spent the rest of your life remembering what you once had, which was “taken from you buy greedy investors.” I’m not condoning PnP, or for-profit camps. I’m just not surprised that they came to BM. So, we can adapt, lament, or move on to new adventures. I thank BM for all the memories, and feel sad that the inevitable transition had to come so soon.

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  • Papa Mike says:

    Wonderful post, Rosie and thank you for walking the talk with your hospitality approach. People like you are the reason I stay involved with Burning Man year round.

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  • StellanO'BRC says:

    Hey, I’d like to say sorry if I seemed too hard on Rosie, because really she is the one who is walking the BM-principles-talk.
    My frustration is with the BMOrg not coming forth with clarification, and the sad reality of people coming from all over the globe based on the BM principles, only to find that those very principles are seemingly being abandoned. It’s false advertising. If it is turning into a ‘Plug-n-Play Party on the Playa’ with paid staff and relative luxuries, and these entities can buy up huge numbers of tickets and make a profit off of Burning Man, then ‘Let the Commodification Begin’!!!
    Just be upfront about it.

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  • Pilgrim says:

    Thank you burners for this thought-provoking comment thread (and others like it the past few weeks), thank you Rosie for getting the message out and for being willing to host this conversation starter. To me, it’s clear where the conversation led to and I hope we can keep the volley going for some genuine discussions in the future. I’m all for transparency. I go naked on the playa. I say hello to the neighbors. I educate people who are mooping. I adopt strangers in need. I tear down as many walls as I can when I come across them. (It’s not always easy.) This is a particularly big and gnarly wall, and I can hear all of us venting our frustration. Let’s do something about it, shall we?

    From Commenter G: “Piss Clear’s Adrian wrote recently that this is Burning Man 3.0, defined by when ticket demand exceeded ticket supply. This new reality is catalyzing some not so subtle changes.”

    While I do feel much sorrow for these (Orwellian) changes that some claim to be the new norm, I also look forward to burner culture expanding our capacity to creatively and compassionately educate, as burners do.

    My camp has been around for more than a decade, and over the past several years every newbie coming in gets to be “sponsored” by a veteran ambassador on (preferably) a 1-to-1 ratio. They discuss things pre-playa and on-playa (LNT, norms, camp expectations, etc.) From what I’ve seen, everyone benefits. It would be nice to see more of this.

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  • Heartspace says:

    Rosie Von Lila –
    From reading your essay and the comments I think you are missing the main point of people’s anger: the apparent preferential treatment the rich are getting from the Borg.

    Sure lots of the camps and art projects get blocks of tickets assigned to them – that’s how I got my ticket this year. We merely get the right to pay the normal price for our ticket, and it certainly wasn’t enough for the whole camp. But the reason for those allocations is the public benefit that is presented by the artists and theme camps, without which there would be nothing happening at the event! Plenty of camps they get placed without getting any tickets allocated-that’s not a problem.

    So the simple questions you need to answer, and for some reason seem to be avoiding, is this: why do these “Concierge” camps get any tickets allocated to them since they are not providing any public benefit? And what price are they paying?

    If you are right that they need to get educated, fine, let them come just like everybody else and when they prove themselves they will get a block allocated to them like the established art projects and theme camps.

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  • Angie says:

    live and let live. not everyone is capable of being self reliant. but we can all be kind, caring and loving.

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  • Lynn Vind says:

    Ive been questioned by a few friends regarding turnkey and the wealthy. My reply is, some can afford a tent, some can afford a trailer and some can afford turnkey. Hopefully at what ever level you fall under you share smiles, hugs, love and happiness and truly embrace the playa for what it offers your soul. We were all newbies once and after my sixth burn I’m still evolving and learning and changing and I hope this never stops. I can smell the playa as I type. )*( peace to all.

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  • Rio says:

    I checked out your reply to BurnersXXX. You only replied to the first part of his question but did not reply to this part:
    “Tickets: Caravancicle got 120 tickets for its guests, plus tickets for all the staff that worked there. How could they get so many tickets, when the event sold out in 42 minutes in February?”

    This question has been asked over and over without a reply. Please let us know the answer.

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  • Corvus says:

    Thank you for inquiring about the alleged for-profit camps, though if you’re charging 100 people $12,000 a pop, that’s a gross of $1,200,000 Granted there are considerable costs in putting a luxury camp together, but it would seem to me that if you can’t clear a profit with that kind of gross, you’re doing something wrong.

    If Placement is allowed to do its job, when a camp – luxury or otherwise – has a negative impact on our city, it won’t be placed the next year. What worries me is that Placement would have undue pressure imposed by members of the new board to continue their outreach to the rich– er, influential.

    I’ve never considered where Placement draws its workers before now. It is not listed as an option on the Volunteers page. If the bulk of Placement are volunteers, I have confidence they would have as much passion for our city as I and the other concerned people commenting have. If they are depending on their livlihood working for the Project, my confidence is less.

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  • flook says:


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  • Rio says:

    Let’s get back to tickets for PnP Kamps:

    The issue of how they get their ticket supply has been raised 44 times in the three posts from Will, Answergirl and Rosie.

    The issue has been addressed by these folk 0 times.

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  • Eager Beaver says:

    No denial from the BORG about receiving a profit from these PnP camps and no answer yet about how these camps are awarded their tickets. While I am disappointed that there hasn’t been any followup or follow through since Rosie started responding on behalf of the BORG (we this and we that kinda talk ensued), I will be careful to not commit the fallacy of argument from silence. What say you BMORG? We are still listening!

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  • Papa Naughty says:

    Let’s keep it simple?

    If you did not purchase a ticket at relatively face value and,
    If you not are part of a camp that requires minimal dues with a firm commitment to either set up, man, or tear down and,
    If you did not pack-in and pack out all of your, and some others, supplies, then,

    You are a tourist observer, not a camp participant burner……..yet.
    You are a problem, now.

    Radical inclusion without at least one basic community requirement is just a mob.
    We might learn from AA’s tested principles and steps. While they are radically inclusive, they also have singleness of purpose.

    What if the only requirement for group theme camping is a commitment to be in alignment with all of the 10 principles?

    Turnkey camps are not in alignment with that commitment and should not be given early group blocks of tickets, early entry, or any other special status. They should have to buy tickets like the rest of us.

    That will solve most of this spiraling problem.

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