What Is A Festival?

I’m sure we’ve all cringed when a friend or co-worker says, “Burning Man? …that’s like Coachella, right?”

But it is hardly their fault. There are now TONS of events that are called “Festivals” and it is hard to understand how they differ.

In this video I talk about the different kinds of Music Festivals, Conferences, Transformational Festivals, and Participatory Gatherings.

NOTE: While I make the case that the participatory nature of Burning Man and sanctioned regionals have a special kind of magic, I did not mean to imply that the others do not have participation.  There is just something incredibly mind-blowing about looking out at the Playa and trying to grok, “So, none of these artists were paid? They created all of this as a gift for US?!”   It shifts something inside us and shatters our models of “audience,” “performer” and “participant.”

Did I miss any categories or important events? Share your thoughts below.

(For a great discussion by some organizers of other Transformational Festivals and how Burning Man influenced them, click here.)

About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast HugNation.com. Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at www.PlayaPrinciples.com

4 Comments on “What Is A Festival?

  • Will Wild says:

    this type of gathering of openness is the basis for our potential shift into a type 1 civilization (Kardashev scale)❤️

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  • Ted Lewis says:

    Coachella has fewer douchebags and more celebrity waifu.

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  • Daniel says:

    You are reiterating what I have always read on this website. That is, that you are Burning Man through your participation. Your discussions on this matter, as well as things I read on this site helped to make that clear to me.

    It changed the way I intend to approach and interact in this event from what I originally was going to do. Of course, I had no idea what I was going to do, or how I was going to act. I just wanted to see for myself what Burning Man was really like in the flesh.

    Now I have what I think is a fun way to present myself as I go about the Playa in my exploration of its whimsicality.

    Thanks John. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

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  • I hope I see you, too, Daniel!

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