You’ve probably seen a stirring recently about the issue of Theme Camps and Mutant Vehicles announcing their DJ lineups in advance of the event. After some internal discussions and reviewing our past communications on this subject, we sent the following email to the mailing lists for Theme Camp and Mutant Vehicle organizers:
Dear artists, organizers and leaders who make Black Rock City what it is,
We’re writing to you with a request. We want you to refrain from pre-announcing and promoting your on-playa DJ lineups, a practice that many sound camps already employ. If you absolutely must announce your lineups ahead of time, we ask that you wait until the week before the event. Here’s why:
As you may be aware, the beloved Mayan Warrior Mutant Vehicle crew recently announced their DJ lineup, much like it was the lineup for an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival all its own. (They have since taken the lineup down from their website, which we appreciate.) We want to share with you this comment a Burner posted in response to the announcement at Resident Advisor:
Hey, I really love Burning Man, and I really love music at Burning Man, and as a long-time Burner, I love the artistry behind your car, the sound system, and as always, the people you bring on your car to play.
But releasing a lineup like this, over a month in advance, flies right in the face of the rules and is pretty disrespectful in general. We want to avoid turning Burning Man into an EDM festival, with people hunting for lineups and timeslots. Burning Man is not an EDM festival, or even a music festival. It’s something else, undefineable.
Even to someone who loves EDM enough to comment on an EDM news site, the practice of posting on-playa DJ lineups causes an upsetting sensation that there’s un-Burning Man-like activity going on. We couldn’t agree more — in fact, for many years, we’ve discretely requested that camps keep their line-ups a surprise. So yes, we feel that sensation, and we bet some of you do, too.
These kinds of promotions create notoriety in a community that doesn’t necessarily share our principles, and specifically commodifies and commercializes artistic experiences. Promotion beyond Black Rock City gets especially uncomfortable when on-playa camps, Mutant Vehicles and events are connected to off-playa commercial enterprises.
Promoting lineups to a worldwide audience is not the same thing as listing an act or an event within the confines of Black Rock City, in resources like the online Playa Events Calendar or the printed WhatWhereWhen guide distributed to participants when they arrive. Those are for reaching people who are already going to be on the playa to let them know what’s going on. They are not intended to build a brand on the merits of an appearance at Burning Man. It’s simply unnecessary to promote beyond ticketed Burners for an experience you’re giving to Black Rock City.
Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community, not a traditional festival like the others. So when our participants post splashy DJ lineups, EDM sites and forums talk about us as though we are, spreading that message far and wide. It can also add to an already painful ticket scarcity issue — we don’t want to artificially drive up demand for tickets that aren’t available, and the attraction of big-name DJs can also drive up the price of after-market tickets.
Burning Man doesn’t have “headliners”. We pride ourselves on that. Burners don’t follow anyone else to Black Rock City, they go for themselves. Please understand, we don’t have anything against EDM, an art form whose vibrant community has made great contributions to Burning Man for many years. But we welcome members of the EDM community to come to Burning Man for a different experience than they’re used to: to fully participate in an experiment in a temporary community.
So, while we used to ask this on the downlow, we’ve seen enough instances in the last couple years that we feel the need to formally ask you not to announce your lineups. If you are dead-set on it, OK, but please wait until a week prior to the event before you do so. However, as surprise is great fun, and playa rumors help make things more exciting, we’d suggest that not announcing your lineup at all would be ideal. We’re asking you to listen to this request, think about it, and do what’s right for Burning Man culture. Thank you.