A New Sound Policy for Black Rock City 2023

At one point in time in Black Rock City, there was a loud and quiet side of the city. Today, sound is everywhere and speaker technology has evolved since we developed our original sound policy. We have therefore updated it in 2023. We know it’s late in the season, so we’re announcing this to pilot in BRC this year, learn from it, and adjust as needed at future events.

We can’t stress enough that sound management in a camping city is mostly about negotiating sound levels with neighbors. Let’s be nice to one another and be reasonable with the unique conditions of BRC. Our blank canvas of the open playa doesn’t have the natural or buildable features that dampen sound in other landscapes and cities, so a certain level of sound must be tolerated no matter where you are in BRC. The updated guidelines are here to help negotiations and to minimize the need for enforcement so that we can all enjoy the soundscape.

A Brief History

In 2000, after we fielded a crescendo of noise complaints, we created a new sound policy that turned the 10:00 and 2:00 avenues into the Large Scale Sound Art sections of the city and dictated that within the city, a maximum power amplification of 300 watts is permitted, producing sound amplification not to exceed 90 decibels, when measured at 20 feet from the source. In 2015, after an increase in large sound systems on mutant vehicles, the Department of Mutant Vehicles instigated a sound policy and created the Deep Playa Music Zone (DMZ). Thirteen years after an initial sound policy and after a dramatic increase in noise complaints in 2022, we’ve seen loud sound systems become more accessible to purchase, and an increase in mobile, battery-powered systems that can reach deafening levels of sound. It’s time for an update to the Black Rock City Sound Policy and Mutant Vehicle Sound Policy.

The New Policy

Not wanting to stifle the cacophonous sounds of the city, we landed on a BRC policy that: eliminates limits to watts (since speaker technology has changed over time), introduces a conversation decibel level, and adjusts the location of assessment of sound. 

For mutant vehicles, the sound policy completely removes decibels as a form of measurement to ease enforcement and adds a window of time when mutant vehicles should not be using their sound systems while traveling the city streets. It also updates some of the restrictions for sound in open playa.

We know that decibel level is a hard thing to measure accurately (despite the existence of hand-held noise meters), which is why we also use analog ideas such as “conversational level.”

The primary changes to the Black Rock City Sound Policy are:

  • Within the city, sound systems should point internally within the camp producing the sound. Sound amplification should only be loud enough so that people can speak at a conversational level at the border of a neighboring camp or at the center point of a street, whichever is nearest to the source of the sound. 
  • Conversational levels are defined as 60 decibels (dbA mid-range frequencies) at the border of a neighboring camp or at the center point of a street, whichever is nearest to the source of the sound. Bass level (dbC — low-range frequencies) shall be negotiated with neighbors.
  • Large-scale sound installations (colloquially known as sound camps) MUST be located in the Large Scale Sound Zone (facing 2:00 and 10:00 avenues). They may express themselves unless community complaints persist. Camps on Esplanade may amplify sound 100 feet into the open playa before conversational levels are expected.

We hope that the introduction of conversational levels at specific, recognizable points will help neighbors to work together to create a boisterous and exciting city that also allows for spaces that require a more quiet atmosphere. 

Black Rock City is a community and we build and live in the city together, so the first and best solution to all these issues is to talk to your neighbors and work it out together!

The primary changes to the Mutant Vehicle Sound Policy are:

  • You MAY play music while parked in your camp in compliance with Black Rock City’s Sound Policy.
  • You MAY play music as loud as you want while in motion on the open playa.
  • You MAY play as loud and as long as you want within the DMZ. 
  • You may NOT play amplified music while driving in the city streets between 2:00 am and 10:00 am. 
  • Always be considerate of camps and their activities, especially near the Esplanade. Turn down your sound if other activities are already in progress.
  • Limit your stationary time (with music on) at art installations to 3 hours.
  • Respect the Temple burn by not playing amplified sound during the burn.

Cover image of “Listen” by Aaron Fowler & Erin Desmond, 2018 (Photo by George P. Post)

About the author: Bryant Tan

Bryant Tan

Level, Burning Man Project's Placement Manager, started burning in 2009 and joined the Placement Team in 2014 after several years as a theme camp lead for Dilated Peoples Eye Spa. The Placement Team is a vibrant volunteer crew responsible for reviewing, mapping, flagging, and placing theme camps and other groups in Black Rock City. Prior to joining Burning Man Project's year-round staff, he worked for the City and County of San Francisco. He also worked for several community-based organizations in youth and community development, transportation planning, affordable housing development, program design and evaluation, public finance, and Asian Pacific Islander and LGBTQ communities. In his free time, Level enjoys playing Sim City and Tetris, doing anti-oppression work, hiking around the Bay Area, and serves as an Urban Planning Representative on the SF Entertainment Commission. He holds a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his B.A. in Ethnic Studies from UCLA.

100 Comments on “A New Sound Policy for Black Rock City 2023

  • Anton Cauthorn says:

    Some of us want more sound and we miss the days of loud mutant vehicles wandering through the city at all times. It is a balance, but this is going a little too far to the side of quiet.

    Asking music to play into camps is very silly. Music should play out of camps toward the street. The whole point is to create an environment filled with music. My favorite part of biking down a street is hearing the music from the camps.

    Also, asking camps to place their expensive DJ set up on the edge of camps is problematic:
    1. it increase risk of theft.
    2. It makes it harder to shelter the DJ from dust and sun.
    3. Puts the DJs back to the road so its harder for people passing by to see the DJ.
    4. Interrupts the natural flow of a party, where DJs are typically at the back of the camp pointed toward the street.
    5. If you just move the speakers (and not the DJ) then the DJ has speakers pointed at them, making it harder to hear when they are trying to DJ.

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    • Uncle Bullhorn says:

      I have to disagree with one of your points.

      Last year, my camp had to deal with a camp across the street with speakers pointed outwards and at such a volume we couldn’t hear ourselves speak. Our camp lead, a professional stagehand, helped them adjust their sound system so that while you could hear their music in the street, it allowed us to run our bar in relative peace.

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      • Anton says:

        You aren’t disagreeing with me at all. I’m in full agreement that camps shouldn’t be blasting their neighbor out to the point that people across the street can’t even hear each other talk. And I fully agree with the first policy, talk to your neighbors about sound and come to an agreement. All camps playing music should talk to their neighbors to make friends and come to an understanding on this.

        However, this policy says the sound limit is 60db mid street from a camp. That is ridiculously quiet:
        40db = refrigerator hum
        60db = conversation volume.
        70db = Washing machine
        80db = sound of traffic from within your car.

        So the sound policy is that mid street music should be between the sound of a refrigerator humming and a washing machine. That’s pretty quiet.

        This creates a problem that a large number of camps will likely violate these rules. Thus, few people will take the rules seriously. It would be better to set a realistic limit like 90 db mid street. Then enforce it more.

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    • Dilly says:

      Whar does it matter if people passing by can see the DJ? That’s a strange complaint, to me.

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    • Rocn Barr says:

      I am sick of djs! They can all stay home so we can here the real musicians that play instruments for our listening pleasure!

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    • Low Voltage says:

      Is the 2023 Black Rock City sound policy woke?

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      • Jason Bellenger says:

        Noise abatement in BRC has been an open topic for at least a decade. Loudness is, from the perspective of some citizens, pollution…

        I’d like to be able to hear the flaming tuba guy from a hundred yards away, night or day. We can’t begin to navigate the city by the sounds of voices, activities, and live music, so long as the city is drenched in attention-seeking amplification.

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      • Bad idea says:

        No, this is an anti-waking policy.

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    • Corsolo says:

      Why waste your time at BM since you are so much more important than other. Stay home , forget about the principles of BM. Go to a “festival” and have fun without having to think about others, much less the the founding principles and “responsibilities” of the BM vision. BM principles are so hard …….

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    • Paul Carey says:

      Commenting to make a historical correction here. In 2002 my camp, Playa Video, was placed at 8:30 on the Esplanade. We had our 300 watt sound system. Across from the 8:30 road was Disturbia, a sea of large RVs and about 20,000 w of sound power. Sound camps were moved to ten and two in 2003.

      There is no policy that will resolve these issues.

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  • Ali says:

    This is so restricted kind of jacked up. I enjoy music loud and was looking forward to hearing music amplified that wasn’t main stream and avant guard played by anyone who feels compelled. Being a night owl this is an extra damper on my fun. Also puts more separation between the rich people that have art cars and the have nots. Having ability to play a set in your own camp should be allowed. Can’t there be a sleepy camp side? Seems like most want the freedom to go out into the desert and play music loud enough to shake some bones.

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    • espa ch says:

      Agreed re: rich art car owners are more enabled to enjoy themselves as a result of this change. We don’t all have the cash to build and maintain an art car. We also don’t all have the time and money and energy to build esplanade or arm camps – or to maintain that level of interactivity (something that placement has continued to push for a higher level of year after year to get those types of placements). That doesn’t mean that great small bars, raucous parties, small to medium sound systems, karaoke events (yes, karaoke lovers, you’re _always_ louder than 60db) – all don’t deserve a place IN the city. Not on the edge. Not out in the DMZ.

      The “conversational level” rules are pretty nebulous (as has been every other guideline surrounding sound in the city. You can have a 60db conversation while a louder sound is playing in the background. The ability to have one depends on a lot of things – including widely varied factors like how good of hearing the individuals having the conversation have. This continues to show the org’s complete inability to understand the physics of sound (it’s not measured in “what db conversation you can have at a certain distance”, nor is it measured in watts.

      I appreciate the desire to focus on making the city more livable – but this continues to be a failed effort. It is Burning Man; it is not a typical vacation. It is not a spa. It is not a retreat. This is a raucous event designed for revelry. Amplified sound is as core to Burning Man and attempted to regulate via poorly designed, HOA-reminescent regulations is simply poor city planning.

      Finally, where was the attempt to enroll the community in this decision? Why are these new rules being communicated far after placement, far after camps have recruited, planned, paid, sweat, bled, and built? Why is it that the org shoots from the hip on guidelines like this, while the event struggles from what are pretty obvious bigger challenges around climate, expense, attendance, ticket sales, and more? Couldn’t we try instead having placement craft a city that factors in a variety of tolerences instead of just having yet-another-poorly-done one-sized-fits-all rule that no one will ever follow until they get annoyed at their neighbors and try to fuck them over by calling in rangers and placement?

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      • Jazz says:

        He did say it’s not set in stone more like a soft opening this time (as an almost completely unrelated aside, does anyone ever get wood when they are invited to a soft opening? Or is it just my friend who wanted to ask that question honest)

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    • Popo says:

      >Having ability to play a set in your own camp should be allowed

      And it absolutely is.

      If your music is so loud that your neighbors across the street have to shout to hold a conversation, your fun implies being a dick to everyone else.

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      • Nacho says:

        There’s a cavernous gap between what your mentioning and what this obnoxious policy is prescribing. Somewhere in the middle is reasonable, and I think most folks know that and do so anyway, which is why we’re looking at this article and rolling our eyes.

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    • Leroy says:

      There is a sleepy camp side. It is the 3 oc side. Be loud on the 9 oc side all you want.

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  • eric says:

    an elitest way to get people to come to their big million dollar sound stages and avoid smaller more intimate and interesting parties. if nobody else can play loud music then we only have a few options which r normally dreadfull. why have i attended burning man for the last 12 years? the art cars, the art, the music, the freedom of expression. especially all of those combined. with this sound policy this takes away a lot of that. bass is multi directional. therefore, placing ur speakers on the street edge would only make the problem worse. the other option is to create an unapealing rv blockade and have private parties hidden away. of course this could also b avoided of there was plenty of esplanade space for all camps that want to be heard that also dont have millions of dollars to create massive theme camps. i say bring the bass back. let art cars roam freely through the streets with music bumpin and keep small camps alive and thriving. this is burning man, not the big sound stages.

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  • Funky says:

    Booooo, these rules are lame and won’t be followed.

    Just be self aware, listen to your neighbors, have fun.

    Loud art cars driving through town is THE ENTIRE POINT

    Report comment

  • Geomom says:

    Favorite annoying sound moments that would now be banned:
    Blasting mariachi music at the portapotties in the morning. Working it out with the yoga camp across the street over tequila. Agreeing to turn it off before the 9 am yoga class.
    The horn box. If you know, you know.
    Last year’s flash mob at 1 am between 8 and 8:30 on B when peeps thought Rufus Du Sol was playing.
    An art car announcing the sunrise street to street blasting Sun….Sun….Sun
    Horse Cock Camp’s (RIP – banned after 2014) metal punk offerings – so refreshingly annoying.
    Good memories.

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  • Kangaruuu says:

    I won’t be able to sleep, srrrsly, if it is quiet between 2-10am! Let the mutants and their sound continue to roam at will. Just keep rolling and don’t park in one spot too long in the city and all’s good. Neighbors can work things out.

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  • CaptainC says:

    Not a huge step forward but a bit better than before. When people can’t hear each other speak, can’t sleep, or can’t find a bit of peace anywhere, stress levels increase and many people get hostile or depressed. The science is compelling. After a week of this, BRC looks like Zombieland. If you like loud music, you know where to find it anytime. If you want to listen to loud music in your camp, hang out near the speaker. As with anywhere 80,000 people are living, we need to adhere to some basic rules of conduct.

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  • jem says:

    this is the best thing the org ever done. maybe next year we can mandate high pass filters at 160Hz, just in case

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  • Noname says:

    I think it’s irresponsible and unrealistic to make this policy change a month before burn, after you’ve asked people to submit their interactivity and approved it. Additionally, Black Rock is a city and city’s have sounds. I can’t imagine exploring the city and not having the sounds of random music (or whatever else) peek my interest and lure me in.

    And I agree that this is disadvantageous to smaller, less wealthy camps and people who cannot afford the luxury of art cars.

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  • Supervision says:

    The community is aging, you cranky old birds!

    Report comment

  • Papa Bear (not the placer) says:

    While I realize some here don’t like it, I think this is an excellent policy.

    The problem with amplified sound is its ability to interfere with everyone else’s experience. I’ve been in camps when nearby sound camps played so loud that the camp I was visiting simply couldn’t offer their interactivity. Classes where nobody could hear the instructor, bars where nobody could have a conversation, and a host of other things.

    There are more than a thousand theme camps in Black Rock City, and every one of them has worked hard to bring something they love to share with the rest of the city. When sound camps are allowed to drown them out, it sends the message that the sound camps are more important than other camps, and that’s just not the case.

    Asking camps to point their speakers inward is quite reasonable because it means you experience your own sound first. if your own camp can’t cope with the volume your speakers are putting out, why should your neighbors have to do so? Nor is it unreasonable for your neighbors to want to be able to hold conversations in their own camp, or want to not have to listen to your sound at a level that will damage their hearing.

    All this does is put sound camps on an even footing with their neighbors. You can absolutely still play a set in your own camp – the requirement is that your neighbors can still hold a conversation, not that they can’t hear you at all. You can even go louder if you first negotiate it with any neighbors who would be impacted by sound above a conversational level – the goal is for camps to work together.

    If you want to play louder, there is still lots of room for you. You can design your camp to better contain your sound. You can apply for placement on Esplanade or on 10 & 2, or you can take it mobile out to open playa. You just can’t freely impose your love of loud music on everyone else around you in the rest of the city without their consent.

    Most camps already work with their neighbors on these issues, so probably won’t even notice the change. It’s the small fraction who have felt entitled to non-consensually overwhelm their neighbors that will have to change their ways. IMO, that’s a very good thing.

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    • Andrew Calo says:

      Couldn’t have put it better myself.

      Reminds me of a post I read on Quora about ‘negative politeness’

      “Why are Nordic people so cold and unwilling to have social relations especially with foreigners or with people they do not know?

      Originally Answered: Why Nordic people are so cold and unwilling in having social relation especially with foreigners or the people they do not know?
      When I came back to Finland after spending one year in the Caribbean, I had a hard time adapting to the cold.
      Not so much to the climate (even if there was a remarkable difference for sure).
      It was more the mental climate I had trouble adjusting to.
      It has taken me lots of processing to understand something about the differences, but finally I feel that I can understand the beauty of both cultures (the Latin American and the Nordic).
      It all comes down to different ways of being polite.
      According to the Politeness Theory
      , in cultures characterized by positive politeness people tend to show politeness by connecting with each other, while in cultures characterized by negative politeness people rather show respect to other people by not disturbing them.
      In practice, positive politeness can in my experience manifest itself in the following ways:
      • not leaving people alone
      • making sure people feel welcome
      • offering company without stopping to ask if it’s needed, so that other people don’t feel lonely
      • not paying much attention to personal space
      • not necessarily paying much attention to puctuality (if you have to choose between stopping to talk to someone and being punctual, the former is considered more important)
      • prioritizing connecting and communication to other people’s privacy or sleep
      • not necessarily protecting other people from loud sounds (prioritizing sharing a nice moment with your friends)
      As a whole, people consider it much more important to communicate to other people that they are cared for and that they are not alone than respecting their individuality, freedom and privacy.
      Negative politeness—and this is important to understand—is not being impolite, it just manifests itself in different ways. For example:
      • not disturbing other people by interrupting what they were doing, unless necessary
      • not intruding into someone’s company if not asked
      • respecting the personal space of other people by not drawing too near them
      • not taking too much space in the street or in public transportation
      • appreciating other people’s precious time by being punctual and going straight to the point
      • appreciating other people’s need for privacy by not asking personal questions, not visiting anyone without invitation, and not making suggestions if rejecting them would be awkward
      • respecting other people’s need for peace and quiet by not making too much noise
      For someone who comes from a positive politeness culture, negative politeness may seem rude and cold.
      It’s important to know that the aim is to be respectful, just the ways of showing it are different.
      There might naturally be some real issues, too. The politeness theory doesn’t excuse being aggressive or hostile. There are rude people in every culture.
      However, I hope it helps to look at the seemingly cold and indifferent behaviour of the Nordic people through the lens of different kinds of politeness.
      Not everything that looks unfriendly or unpleasant is aimed at making you feel unwelcome. It may be question of showing respect in a way you are not used to.”

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  • Nahodi says:

    The sounds policy seems incomplete.
    How loud can Mutant Vehicles play music while driving the city streets before 2:00 am and after 10:00 am?

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  • Jack Straw says:

    Guidelines are always great, however “speakers pointed inward toward the camp” is *not* a merely guideline to be negotiated between neighbors.

    This is now a technical rule that gives anyone a veto on their neighbor’s sound system across the street, and thus requires the staffing of a noise enforcement team to respond to incidents and enforce this policy.

    Besides, it necessarily means that the sound system is pointed directly at the camp behind your camp, which is not much of an improvement over pointing the speakers at the camp across the street.

    If this must be a technical rule, it should apply only toward the outskirts of the city like F-G-H-I street.

    The other guidelines at least qualify as guidelines, whether I like them or not.

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  • Pineapple says:

    Asking art car systems to be fully off in the city is totalitarian.
    I accept the desire or “need” to restrict levels, but completely off is absurd!
    Picking a time frame to enforce these rules is a really diurnal boring perspective. As a nocturnal burner, I’m vexed. Almost all of my friends and mentors also switch to a nocturnal schedule on playa. It’s too damn hot during the day, and global warming is evidently going to keep making that worse and worse.

    This policy swings way too far. I will be breaking these rules, as any self respecting cacophonist would.
    The komplaining Karens will not get to tell me how to burn, my civil disobedience will prove that.

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  • Andrew Calo says:

    Will be interesting to see how this works.

    Seems kind of silly to suggest that having the speakers turned inwards in camp will stop people hearing your party or getting your vibes.

    If anything this sounds designed to make things a bit less obnoxious and a bit less noise bleed-y.

    Duelling sound camps are a zero sum game.

    There are plenty of burners who aren’t dying to be subjected to your latest mix or the mad DJing skills that you spent ten months in your bedroom perfecting.

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  • Hank Raymond says:

    The average office noise level is 70 dB. Burning man’s new regulations want everywhere to be quieter than an office??? You gotta be kidding. Rules that are impossible to follow will not be followed.

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  • John says:

    You would think with these comments BRC banned all music lol. They said if you want loud here is where you can go. Be kind to your neighbor. Respect each other. The Playa community comes off as extremely selfish at times. Want a bike? Just take someone else’s. Want to self express? Who cares if I am disturbing someone else’s experience or expression. Grow up and be kind. There’s enough selfish assholes in the default world.

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    • tony says:

      Well point,and to the factual point … I think everyone should – would benefit by simply just going back to the start of this discussion and read it or have your phone,tablet or computer read it to you…wake up and see the issue.

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  • Master Randolph says:

    Thanks for updating and publishing this policy. While clearly this will upset many people, it will make a great deal of people more comfortable during the already uncomfortable life we choose to participate in at BRC. Having had a terrible year where a camp placed a stadium sized sound system in the city and pointed it outward toward our camp, I applaud this policy change. It was certainly the rudest camp planning I ever witnessed. We asked them to point their sound system at themselves, but they refused and instead subjected us to their incredibly loud parties every night, while their campers could sleep on the back side of the system.

    I’m going to miss mutant vehicles making music in the city at night, but I also know how much it can suck to be trying to get some rest and to be jolted awake by a momentary passing bass thump.

    I suspect this is policy will be good for the overall mental health over our community during the week.

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    • Shawn Cramer says:

      The complete pozzification of burning Man is nearly complete. Radical self expression my ass! Burning Man used to be about pushing the limits and busting out of the societal norms. Its turning ever closer to Marxist collectivist dystopia run by snowflakes, then the anarchist dirt rave free for all it started as..Bring back the people’s cafe! My people need coffee! Center camp deserves a pulse. museums are boring.

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  • Nobody cares! says:

    For anyone who has ever tried to be a well rounded camp, with interactive music but not a “Large Sound Camp”, you’ll recognize that “getting placed on Esplanade” is incredibly hard and requires luck or long standing relationships and recognition by placement or other teams within th org. This new sound policy absolutely is discriminatory towards the smaller, interesting, scrappy camps without “Esplanade” money. I think it will significantly decrease the liveliness of the city. And will if anything encourage more people to complain about sound. Why are we trying to turn burning man into the suburbs?!

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    • trulia tower says:

      1000% – this policy coupled with Placement’s continued feedback about increasing interactivity makes it nearly impossible for any small-scale camps with sound to exist. Make NEIGHBORHOODS that allow sound camps, not just high-traffic edges of the city.

      Seems pretty straightforward, but no, a one-size-fits-all policy that isn’t based on actual physics announced less than 30 days before the event starts and over 7 months after placement applications were due comes down from on high instead. What the fuck, BorG?

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      • Papa Bear (not the Placer) says:

        Nonsense. You can absolutely still have sound, you just can’t overwhelm your neighbors with it.

        The requirement is that they be able to hold a conversation inside their own camp’s borders, not that they cannot hear your music at all.

        IMO, turning a volume knob up is not artistic expression.

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  • Captain Vic says:

    In some past years we have been placed near LOUD camps who feel a need to shove their choice of music into our heads. On multiple occasions, some of our camp members have left BRC early because they couldn’t take the overwhelming sound. If we cannot carry on a normal conversation in our camp, our neighbor camps are too loud. Do what you want in your camp, but if we can’t talk to each other in our camp, we are forced to experience what you want. our camp.

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  • Captain RON says:

    YAY…… this update to the sound policy is long overdue and welcome!!! This is a COMMON sense issue and one that addresses the needs of the MAJORITY not some entitled Dj’s and their camps

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  • Anna says:

    This sucks , I want to be woken up by mutant vehicles and neighbors and I want it all; the full loud experience !

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  • Low Voltage says:

    It’s called Black Rock CITY: “a thing, event, or situation that is strongly characterized by a specified quintessential feature or quality” (Merriam-Webster at 4).

    I do not believe that noise pollution is a “quintessential feature or quality.”

    If you don’t like the rules please feel free to stay home.

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  • Vee says:

    This is fantastic! For those of us who like to sleep at some point during the Event (usually from 2:00-10:00am), this is grrrreat news. THANK YOU!!

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    • es pach says:

      What about those of us who like to enjoy ourselves during the only time of day (2AM – 10AM) when it’s a reasonable temperature in the desert?

      There was – and continues to be – no explanation of how the community was enrolled in this decision making process. It’s shooting from the hip to serve some of the city who complain loudly. They could do way, way better than this on this process.

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    • Bigshot says:

      It’s a mistake and will change BM to a nice festival in the desert. I love to party and go to sleep during the hot hours from 12pm – 4pm.

      At night it’s the best time to explore the desert, it’s not hot and the city looks like crazy with the music and leds, it’s something I’ve never seen in another place.

      It’s Burning Man, each person should choose what to do in the same moment, they tried to put sound policy in the Israeli burn (Midburn) and it was the worst year ever.

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  • Deaf Star says:

    After the ebikes.
    65 dB.

    Nice troll guys !
    It’s a good one.

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  • Sparky says:

    Rules Rules Rules…

    What are you doing? Burning man is becoming what we are coming out here to get away from. This is the wrong direction for our city. Speaking of that, if we are called a city, don’t we get to vote on things like this?

    This is going to be impossible to enforce. Neighbors for the most part resolve these things amongst themselves anyway. If there is a problem, one goes and contacts the Black Rock Rangers.

    I’ve been a camp lead since 2010. I’ve only seen one incident where there was a problem…and that problem started from a camp being placed in the wrong location. They were doing what their placement questionnaire said they were going to do… Which made the feel like they had an expectation to do that…

    I wonder why so many Theme Camps are taking a year off this year?

    If you want to sleep in quiet, stay in hushville, or the default world.

    Part of the amazingness of Burning Man is the amalgamation of all the noise. You can’t hear anything like it anywhere else…I’ve looked!

    By your own diagram, an average radio is 75dB, and you want 60dB… That’s 32X lower volume (dB is a Logarithmic scale)

    This is a mistake. If you want to enforce things, keep it to the 10 principles.

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    • Bigshot says:

      I couldn’t agree more

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    • Snorkelqueen says:

      Have you ever been to a Mexican beach town? The dueling speakers of every beach club and restaurant are horrible. Walk down 5th AVE in Playa del Carmen — 4 blocks away your ears start hurting. And then the Raves start at night which are even louder. I live in such a town. I applaud the ruling. I love music, but part of BRC and Burning man culture is respecting the rights of everyone. Those who love it loud and those who don’t. There is space for everyone. I don’t believe this rule will make a whole lot of difference, so I’m bringing my ear plugs anyway.

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  • Ramon says:

    Thank you! These rules seem reasonable. Yeah, I’m an old guy, and I don’t like all the loud music lol.

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  • Jackster says:

    Some of these ideas sound good, but I wonder how enforceable they’ll be. Personally, I can live with all the pumping EDM, it’s the deafening sound of generators that I wouldn’t mind toning down a bit. I think what we really need is a generator zone where all the generator people can just run their head-blasting machines all day and all night, and let the rest of us listen to music, silence, and each other.

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  • Britney Bitch says:

    In order to have an art car, it must be approved by the DMV. In order to have a sound art car, you must have enough money for sound and have it approved by the DMV. In order to have mobile sound and an art car and be located in deep playa, you must be one of 10 approved large scale sound art cars. Your new rule completely eliminates free expression and creates $$ based expression. Whomever has the most $$ has the most expression, which is exactly what happens in the default world. I guess Burningman is now just a corporate shill for wealthy people with hoards of extra cash to build art cars for themselves.

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  • Mikey Microphone says:

    You have a clock in the city already, maybe use that!

    Quiet hours 2-8 from 2-4, 4-10 from 4-6, 6-12 from 6-8, 8-2 from 8-10.

    Or thereabouts.

    This seems like an aggressive policy. Perhaps, also make a defensive one, with good use of ear protection and other sound damping (like putting electric fans a few yards behind the stage).

    Best of luck to every Burner and I hope
    The music is delightful.

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  • AMP says:

    Conceptually I’m not against the framework of this policy, but it has some serious flaws. The first being conversational volume as I just measured the sound of my voice at my normal talking volume, which maxed at 76dB at 1ft distance, which is substantially above 60db.

    And really, no amplified noise on mutant vehicles in the streets from 2-10AM? How about just apply the same rules as apply to camps, otherwise you’ll end up with Gigsville touring the streets late at night around First Camp with our non-amplified acoustic Vuvuzela orchestra.

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  • Ali Arya says:

    I absolutely love Burning Man because of the art cars and their loud music. When I think about Burning Man, the first thing that comes to my mind is loud music, art, and fire. My favorite moment in Playa is when I’m in bed, feeling the music’s beats in my chest, and I wake up to the sound of art cars passing by, or the deep bass that I can feel in my chest. It’s like a reminder that the party is still going on. I don’t remember ever getting out of bed that quickly unless I’m at the Playa. The energy of the music recharges me instantly and propels me into another adventurous day. So what’s with this new sound limit? Is it turning into a nursing home or retirement party now?

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  • Driver says:

    Everyone wants to be a DJ with pictures of them at BM for their resume. Even if this means playing at 4:00 am to absolutely nobody. I’ve seen this many times, music blasting, nobody listening, nobody dancing!! This is all about self promotion…”look at me, I’m a DJ at Burning Man”.
    Safety is a major factor that must be considered. Loud sound camps prevent people from sleeping! This can have a negative effect on people, their decision making (safety third) and prevent them from having the best experience possible. Also, the long drive home after the event without much sleep can be dangerous. We’ve tried “working it out with our neighbors”, sometimes it works, sometimes they turn the sound up just to be dicks.
    I believe BM is an amazing event and the sound on the open playa is mesmerizing, if not hypnotic. It’s like nowhere else in the world. Respect your neighbors. It’s not about YOU, your awesome sound system or your desire to promote yourself or your camp. I’ve been to numerous regional burns where sound policies are enforced and it’s an amazing experience for everyone.

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  • yoyo says:

    Fully support this. Last year was the roughest of my 8. Our camp leader notified us, after arriving, that we were a “sound camp”, even though placed in a neighborhood (not on 10 or 2). Although a small camp, we had a generator and several large subwoofers. Several nights there was music of questionable quality blasted at concert levels until 8 am. tent campers were basically screwed, you could try to sleep elsewhere but that was it. As far as negotiating in good faith with neighbors, our camp lead was not interested in this. I recall him walking around with a decibel meter and laughing that we were still compliant. Many camp members were understandably extremely spun out from lack of sleep by the end of the week. This culminated in a visit to the camp by law enforcement after a camp member started a fight with one of our neighbors. oh, and I love music and sound camps, but …

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  • Old & in the way says:

    No music between 2am and 10am. Are these times or streets??
    This is lame. Change the name to Burning Karen. F$ck your silence!

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  • Christi says:

    When did we move into a HOA?

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  • Amanda Whittemore says:

    Honestly I have never been to Burning Man, and honestly reading these comments,,, nor do I wish to…. I have observed the evolution of the Burning Man from a distance and via all my friends and loved ones!!!
    It is sad to see and hear and read all these comments… where is the unity and the love and the original life course and purpose of the WHOLE BIG PICTURE!!!! Dude GO HAVE FUN AND RESPECTFULLY!!!

    Communication is key, and we communicate with music, many times me need zero words for our best communication… remember!!!! I believe we all can remember how to be COSMIC STAR DUST!!!

    Actually honestly, I would love to one day experience the TRUE BURNING MAN EXPERIENCE!!!

    all love and more love!

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  • Jonty Pretzer says:

    Touchy subject…..
    First of all, I side with everyone being a reasonable neighbor (and getting to know them out of respect). However, I also don’t mind the occasional bass art car or the jammin’ track a mile away some of which hasn’t been house music early in the morning as I sleep. This is the first year I am not going home in over 10 years of attending and I am not sure I want to experience the new Burning Man. Ah…..I remember the days when two loud art cars would face each other and play; what a sight!

    Maybe next year really is better?

    Personally, it’s Burning Man and a few pairs of earplugs can drastically give each participant the ability to dampen the sound without dampening the ruggedness of Burning Man. But also, loud music while most people are sleeping or quiet kind of rude. Maybe placement should focus on blending the camps together based on the Joe taste for noise.

    Kick some dust up in 2023 4 me…. ✌️

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  • Puck says:

    2am seems a little early for the sound curfew in Black Rock City.

    Also, my favorite moment I had on the playa last year was when I was having kind of a hard night, was too wiped out to go out, my husband and I crashed early in our tent, maybe about 3am. Somewhere after that, this art car parked near us and played the most extraordinary, beautiful, enchanting, magical music. We spent at least an hour there falling asleep with this beautiful gift from this art car serenading us and it was one of the most magical things. The night turned from feeling like we were missing out to feeling like we were exactly where we were meant to be.

    You never know what is going to be one of your favorite moments at Burning Man. I certainly didn’t expect it to be that. But art cars playing music for the camps is also sometimes appreciated by people resting in the camps. You rarely experience something like that in the default world.

    I’m glad this is just a pilot policy – seems like it could use some fine tuning.

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  • Tony B says:

    One thing that pre-2000 BM had was clarity of distant sound. Today there is that awful cacophony.

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  • Ed says:

    As a sound engineer,producer and musician, THANK YOU!
    If I encounter a piece of art and it offends my eye, I can simply turn my back.
    Sound is not stationary, bass is powerful and omnidirectional, especially on a perfectly flat, hard surface. It is wonderful that you want to share your art, but is it a gift it it is inescapable? Respect of the right of the recipient to decline is a key to gifting.
    I do enjoy a live loud performance, be it DJ or band, but given a choice of clarity over volume? Clarity wins. And yes, I wear quality ear protection.

    Meet your neighbors, agree on basic boundaries, and have a blast!

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  • Andrew says:

    Personally, I don’t believe anyone on Playa should be paid. This would include DJ’s or sound machines.
    I hope everyone loves my music, I’m going to stop by you and blast my Mother’s church cantata from 1970 on you. Then every other kind of noise that I like. Not you. Then if you complain I’ll say suck it, just like you said to me when I asked you to quiet down so I could talk.
    All loud sound things should carry enough ear plugs for everyone on Playa that asks for them. And ear muffs to put on top of those. We will be using our own but sometimes we forget to arm ourselves with the ear plugs when we leave camp. It’s a shame that we have to use ear plugs for an art event. I come to see the art.
    Don’t put on your loud annoying noise then leave your camp for the rest of the night, all week. We’ve had that next door in years past. Eventually we will come over and unplug it some how.

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  • Bigshot says:

    Sound policy killed Midburn last year (the Israeli burning man), 2 weeks before the event they released a sound policy and it was the worst Midburn ever because it killed the spontaneous which is the key factor to have a good burn.

    It will be my 3rd burn this year in Black Rock, the first thing a neighbor told us in our first time when we got to the playa is – “It’s Nevada, like all other cities we run 24-7”.

    It’s a dangerous step which can change this event for good, who knows, next year they might require to stop playing music all night long.

    The magic in Burning Man is there are no rules, you can do whatever you want although it doesn’t harm someone else, don’t touch it and let the community fix itself.

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  • Bigshot says:

    I have a better idea – the sound policy will be applied to the suberbs not the downtown.

    A – E will be the downtown
    F – J will be the suberbs

    If you want to have it quiet, go to the suberbs.

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  • Foxtrot says:

    The problem with implementing far-reaching policy changes in response to “dramatically increased noise complaints” is that this likely doesn’t reflect the wishes of the majority of burners. The only voices heard when looking at complains are from those who disapprove. What about all those who enjoy the soundscape at burning man?
    I’m not saying there should be no rules but restricting sound to conversation-mid-street level of loudness is baffling.

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  • Patrick Torrey says:

    This is the absolute DUMBEST thing the other has ever done. People who want quiet should go to a beach somewhere. It’s burning man. What are you doing here? Get some ear plugs!

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  • poni says:

    This new policy makes my nipples tingle with excitement.

    Don’t always love being radically included without consent to someone’s rave of 3 of 4am.

    Don’t forget, “sleep” is included in “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat.” Party safe, friends.

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  • Dan says:

    The stated policy amounts to Don’t be a jerk. If the is a problem for you or feel that it infringes on your freedom somehow, Burning Man may not be for you.

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  • Trilo says:

    The reason the number of noise complaints has spiked in recent years is because there was no enforcement of the existing rules that were in place. So much so that in neighborhoods that were nowhere near 2:00 or 10:00 it started to become common to see thousands, or even tens of thousands of watts of sound in some camps. That is also why you are seeing so many people upset with the policy… after more than a decade of anything goes, a more restrictive policy has been rolled out. IMO the way to approach it would have been to raise awareness of the existing rules and enforce them and see if that affected the number of noise complaints, and then make adjustments as necessary.

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  • jade says:

    SO LAMEEE. speaking is overrated. why do people need to talk so much? boring. go speak a lot in default world if speaking is your vibe lol

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  • Rio says:

    Two weeks to go and they make new stuff up? I think they need to ban Ebikes too! Plenty of time to change your plans and get a new one from Wallymart.
    Nanny Burn!

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  • Papa Penguin says:

    Oh, I know, I know! Why don’t we hand out BT headphones at gate and require all sound to be broadcast via BT instead of pushed out of speakers? That way each person can control exactly what they listen to, and how loud it is?

    Come on people, I don’t think anyone is trying to stifle self-expression, but remember it is 10 principals and they are all intertwined. Civic Responsibility is still a “thing” even when you are blasting tunes.

    Just like the potential e-bike clamp-downs – all anyone is asking is for people to be responsible and work together and rules won’t have to be imposed – but if people can’t work as a community someone will need to step up and be the “adult” – and I don’t think the org wants to have to do that, and I don’t think the participants want it done to them. Enough said.

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  • Pooh says:

    I feel Burning Man loses a little bit more of its Burning Manness with every rule that comes down from the top. Sound is a problem that typically gets solved between participants. Granted this doesn’t always work. Sometimes there are hard feelings. That’s going to happen in a community. That’s part of radicle self reliance and community. The more the org tries to solve these problems for the community, the less Burning Man is Burning Man. Have we jumped the shark.

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  • CampMaster says:

    This isn’t an issue of “your music is too loud and I want to sleep”.
    The issue is “your music is so loud that I can’t even hear my own music inside my own camp.” Earplugs won’t handle that problem.

    Last year one camp on 9 o’clock plaza blasted their distorted bass so loudly that none of the other Plaza camps could even hear our own music. They refused to lower their bass or point their speakers inward because “it would disturb their campers”.

    I welcome the new policy and hope it works – the most inconsiderate dick shouldn’t always win.

    But I’m also considering parking my mutant vehicle in front of their camp and blasting polka music at max volume for a few hours each day…

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    • Brooke Wallace says:

      Because it’s too loud and a majority of the cities participants have spoken up. As a ESD volunteer, and my guess for the thousands of volunteers who help keep the city running and safe they/we need just a bit of rest. It’s a very reasonable policy for both those that want loud music and those that give their time to keep it happening.
      It does seem the majority of the comments above are about individual experiences at the event not looking at the big picture of a gracious community built to embrace all forms of artistic expression.

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  • Rio says:

    Now if they banned Dubstep along with this silliness I’d be all for it.

    Burning Nanny!

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  • Rich C says:

    I’ve taken a break for a few years, but this seems… Cantankerous. I’m in my early 40s, but this reads like the guidelines for an accordion festival on a senior home lawn. I have always gone to bed for at least a few hours at the burn. I’ve also camped almost exclusively adjacent to or in 9:00 plaza. What happened to communicating with each other, reasonably respecting where neighbors are coming from, and exercising radical self-reliance in the form of, oh, I don’t know, noise canceling headphones, ear plugs etc? And if you truly can’t tolerate noise, camp out in the boonies away from the action. Foolproof? No. But it will organically reduce noise most of the time.

    TL;DR: this just reads like “we’re all getting old and cranky, get off my lawn, I don’t want to put on my big kid pants and actually have to communicate with people, work things out, and take responsibility for my own comfort”.

    Can’t say it makes me feel overly enthused to return next year if this is the direction things are going… Hope this is open for discussion and change, because it seems half-baked and one-sided.

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  • Fiver says:

    So what does this mean for DISTRIKT?

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  • VG says:

    No wonder people don’t want to go anymore and it’s impossible to GET RID of tickets, that’s a shame. Many great camps are not allowed this year and now ridiculous sound policies. BM orgs are aging or burning out and becoming redundant to fun culture. Cacophony Society is dead. It really went downhill this year. 90% of my friends, long time burners are not even attending. That’s just sad.

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  • Pat Hogan says:

    Earplugs while sleeping? Could help.

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  • Bassquake says:

    This sound policy sucks. This is Burning Man? You should change the name to HOA Man. I don’t much care for the trick where an event makes a last minute announcement of a bunch of rules. People have already bought tickets, made plans. Then an event makes a last minute change that is detrimental to some people’s experience, with no room for discussion.

    DJ culture has not brought the best vibe out to BRC. I love EDM, I have contributed to large sound camps, and seen what that attracts, but are we also going to blame artists who make beautiful pieces for attracting influencer models?

    Big sound has always been divisive at the burn. This policy goes too far. Shutting down music on Esplanade?

    I hope that this outrageous demand out of the blue is widely ignored. I don’t fully expect anyone to risk placement or mv regs.

    That’s why, this year, everyone must be responsible for their own audio disaster. Bring a bigger airhorn this year, bring three. Bring tubas, bring drums. Gift loud items to irresponsible friends. Put a car horn in your art piece. It doesn’t have to be EDM. But why not put a 300 watt sound system on your bike anyway. The cacophonus heartbeat of BRC will never be silenced.

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  • Someone Else says:

    I’m hoping this means we’re not constantly assaulted by cross-bleed of dueling blown-out speaker systems.

    Last year was impossible — you could feel blasts from sound camps *from both sides* while in the middle of the city. I could feel my chest vibrate. It was nauseating. You couldn’t get away from it even in deep playa.

    At some point it stops being “I’d like to enjoy my music and I’m hoping others will enjoy it too” to a volume and calibration that’s not for anyone’s enjoyment and just says “I actually don’t give a fuck about people around me.”

    You are free to swing your arms, but that right ends when you come in contact with other people.

    And the comments here speak for themselves as to why this policy is needed in the first place.

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  • Chelsea says:

    I appreciate that there’s a conversation happening about this and experimentation to find the balance for all preferred experiences. As BM grows in size and diversity, I trying out policies like this show a prioritization of community.

    That said, the bass is what travels across the Playa, so creating rules about the higher frequencies is fine, but leaving bass out of it seems pointless. If the hope is that people turn their highs and mids down and don’t leave their subs whomping well into other neighborhoods, seems like a typical political compromise — everyone still loses. No one’s any happier.

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  • Oliver D. says:

    As a long time burner this change makes me a little uncomfortable. There is something magical about the 24 hour majesty of the city’s volume. I fully recognize the severity of sound camps and do think some reasonable regulations are warranted, but this feels off.

    Here are my personal suggestions / adjustments:

    I think restricting volume from art cars when deeper than row B, C or D is reasonable (to roughly 80db 2-9am). I think esplanade, A (and maybe B) should be a little more free reign, otherwise this change just empowers the wealthier more influential esplanade camps to be more territorial / powerful.

    The “point your speakers in” policy is really not a particularly good strategy. No matter which direction you point it.. it hits someone. You need to have a reasonable discourse with your neighbors and find a balance. By not pointing at the street you actually make it worse for the directly adjacent placed camps. This will result chaos, more complaints, much worse sound envelopes, less inviting camps and jankiness all around. Instead, I’d lean harder into zoning sound camps to esplanade, A, B or the ends of the clock. Making sure speakers face out toward playa more. The closer to esplanade you’re placed.. the louder it will be, which seems perfectly rational to me.

    Further, 60db is very low – I mean super low. Your raunchy neighbors will be audible going at it wildly guaranteed. I’d prefer the music. I think 75db (you can talk loudly up to this volume) is a lot more reasonable.

    In regards to how this year will go:

    Great I’ll maybe get a little more sleep and the worst offenders will be a bit chilled, but a lot of atmosphere will be threatened. I am concerned that more rules that dampen things down will follow. Let’s try to make sure the b-org tries to tune this to be more reasonable, give feedback and try to be reasonable.

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  • luvnut says:

    NIMBYism in BRC?!?!?!?!….bwahahahaahahahahaha. Wear your ear plugs and remember to wash your dicks.

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  • Strider says:

    We tried to negotiate a reasonable level of music with out neighbors with a parked art car in a camp across the street from us way out on J. They had their speaker pointed away from their own camp. It was played all day until midnight. It was so loud we were unable to have a conversation in our own camp. After six attempts to reach a common sound level with them we where told that this is burning man and to get over it. Our camp has been going for 18 years and we have never had this experience. We certainly love the music at burning man but being considerate is also part of being good neighbors. I’m glad for the new policies.

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