Adapting to Growth and Limits in Black Rock City

Placement’s 2024 Statement of Intent (SOI) closed in January with nearly 1,300 submissions from theme camps that wish to be placed in Black Rock City (BRC) this year. That’s 100 more than in 2023, including 152 new theme camps. This shows that our community is alive and strong and we’re going to have another great year full of the interactivity BRC is celebrated for. We’re excited to see what the community is cooking up! 

As we begin planning for the year, we are also looking to the future to understand how Placement should manage continued growth in the number and size of theme camps in BRC. In 2022 and 2023, we placed approximately 90% of BRC. At this percentage, we are truly hitting the maximum number of camps that can receive placement, while still preserving access to tickets and space for unregistered groups and individuals, who are also critical to keeping Burning Man’s culture strong.

Here is a snapshot of the placed camp areas (highlighted in gray) from 2013 compared to 2023:

In “A Turning Point for Placement,” published in 2019, we said, ”For the first time, there’s not enough room for everyone wishing to be placed.” Back then, we placed about 78% of BRC, leaving only 22% for open camping. We chose to continue to place all camps that met placement criteria that year — with the understanding that the system will need an overhaul to maintain open camping as a viable option in the future. We recognized the importance of stability and predictability for the community immediately following the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that we’re fully back in the saddle, we must address this head on.

Curious to learn more? On Saturday, March 16, join Burning Man Project and BRC camp leadership online at the 2024 Camp Symposium for a full day of learnings and conversations about being a camp in BRC. And hear Level’s interview, Urban Planning for a Desert Dreamscape on Burning Man Live for a peep behind the curtain at BRC’s annual planning process.

Ticket Supply and Demand 

Stewards Sale allocations for 2024 were announced to theme camps last week. While we did our best to meet the requests, we were only able to meet 76% of the total requests and do not have additional Stewards tickets to cover them all. Among returning theme camps in 2024, 35% requested an increase to their previous allocation, while only 5% have requested decreases. This poses a growing challenge to meeting demand with a limited supply, and we’re near a breaking point.

While we support the limitless passion and creativity produced by theme camps, we face real limits for tickets and space. Welcoming more groups into the Stewards Sale each year means a correspondingly smaller slice for the general public (Main Sale) and other groups such as artists and mutant vehicles. Burning Man Project is committed to keeping the event accessible to new groups of Burners to keep the culture thriving. After all, we all were once new, no matter how long we’ve dedicated ourselves to the Burn.

The Stewards Sale began in 2013 (formerly called Directed Group Sale). Over the last decade, the allotment for theme camps that receive directed tickets has grown every year. In 2013, ~16% of all tickets to BRC were directed to theme camps; in 2023, that grew to ~40% (a 250% increase over the decade). The following graphs show how much things have grown over the last decade, and demonstrate why continued growth in the size of and number of placed theme camps is not sustainable. 

Total # of placed camps by type: 

Estimated Self-Reported Population within All Placed Camps:

Total # of camps over 100 people:

Total # of new theme camps vs. theme camps taking the year off:

As interest in the Burning Man event in BRC continues to grow, more camps continue to seek placement as a way to offer their gifts of interactivity, and also to secure tickets. At the same time, camps are not taking years off at the same rate to offset the growth in new camps. 

Black Rock City, 2014 (Photo by Chayna Girling)

Meeting Our Cultural Vision

In addition to increasing demand for space for theme camps, we’ve also been working since 2020 to roll out changes to BRC’s Placement process to help our community move towards the Cultural Vision of Resident Black Rock City. Check out the changes so far outlined on this webpage.

Burning Man Project is now considering tough questions: 

  • Should we become more selective about the theme camps that are placed? 
  • How do we do so without demanding more resources, time, and financial commitment from theme camps? 
  • What is a reasonable amount of growth for any group or camp that contributes to BRC?
  • Can theme camps operate with fewer Stewards Sale tickets offered each year? 
  • Is there a limit we should apply to the physical size of camps, or to the number of tickets offered to them? 
  • Where do we apply limits so that they impact everyone fairly? 
  • How do we maintain space for new Burners, new theme camps, and participants in open camping?
  • How can we get the community involved in finding answers to the hard questions?

Scarcity is real. In our daily lives, we’re increasingly confronted with limits to the natural ecosystem we all inhabit. We also confront it in our temporary home in BRC. As we rethink how we can overhaul the system to address our limits, we want changes to be productive and beneficial to the culture of BRC for years to come. 

Here is a summary of changes you can expect this year to further our cultural vision as well as address how we manage supply and demand.

  • Theme camps are encouraged to take 2024 off. All theme camps in good standing that elect to take 2024 off will be guaranteed ticket allocations in 2025 or 2026.

Taking the year off comes with benefits, including time to rejuvenate and lighten the stress that comes with planning for the Burn. It also allows you to focus on other ways to bring Burning Man and your theme camp to the world, including visiting one of the many Official Regional Events around the world. This offer is for returning theme camps in good standing that have received at least three years of placement in BRC and who plan to return as the same camp (name, format, people). We want to support the rest and return of our most seasoned theme camps.

This offer comes with some qualifiers about your allotment for good standing and availability for placement. Contact us for more information.

If you’ve already submitted an SOI for 2024 with the intent of coming to BRC, and want to take 2024 off knowing this, please email placement@burningman.org with the name of your camp and “2024 Off” in the subject line so we can update our records.

  • Villages will be considered stand-alone theme camps.

We are removing the “village” category as a camp type. This shift will help us build direct relationships with smaller camps within villages, and enable us to hold them to the same expectations as other placed theme camps. Resources such as Stewards Sale tickets and Work Access Passes will flow directly to camps rather than through a village mayor. This change also allows for departments such as Rangers, Emergency Services, PETROL, and Outside Services vendors to locate camps.

As we announced previously, Humans Uniting for Better Sustainability or HUBS are designed for camps to create communities of shared resources. Some individual camps in former villages may want to apply to be part of a HUB. HUBS are not automatically accepted. If you’d like to learn more about how this change will be implemented over the next year, please review a list of frequently asked questions here.

  • We’re establishing a new camp category: Civic Support Camp.

While most camps in BRC are theme camps that offer fun interactivity, some also offer critical services that we want to promote. We are creating the “Civic Support Camp” category to recognize a growing need for groups to receive placement to support our community and city services beyond simply fun activities typically associated with theme camps. If you’d like to be considered a Civic Support Camp, you will need to be sponsored by a BRC department, which will support coordination of your civic contributions. This is a trial concept we will review in two years. 

  • Ending convenience camping continues to be a priority.

Our website currently holds important information about what we’re doing to curb the various threats we see caused by the commodification of BRC including “Decommodification, Gifting, Participation and PAYticipation.”

Following the 2023 event, Placement has notified 12 camps that they are not in Good Standing due to convenience camping related issues. In the coming year, we will continue to provide guidelines around what’s okay and not okay in support of Burning Man’s Decommodification principle, and ensure that we are fairly assessing the issue.

Camps that are found at any point during the year to be acting as convenience camps will go through progressive steps and consequences including:

  • Warnings (if remediation seems possible)
  • Recommending or requiring coaching/training/acculturation with the Camp Support team’s Camp Advisory and Mentorship Program
  • Limiting/denying eligibility to Stewards Sale, reserved placement, PETROL Fuel Program, Outside Services program and their authorized vendors (such as trucking and power), or other support services
  • Disinviting from future Placement, Art Honoraria, DMV License Invitation for 1-3 years or permanently
  • Publicizing names of bad actors to the community

As always, camps will be able to appeal decisions made. The Placement team genuinely welcomes dialogue to align the community and the culture. 

Open camping in BRC, 2023 (Photo by Susan Becker)

Moving Forward and Making Space within Limits

We are asking every theme camp to evaluate their desires for growth now, and to consider taking time off in the next few years, or even alternating years of being larger or smaller. Taking time off helps create more space and tickets for others. While we could come up with new policies to address this, we’d prefer each theme camp determine how to do their part.

There is no penalty for taking a year or two off, and we hope this year’s promise to hold a specific amount of tickets and space is a helpful incentive. Many theme camps believe that they must return each year to qualify for placement the following year, which is not true. Theme camps in good standing still have access to tickets and space upon their return. Theme camps have also shrunk one year and grown back in others without penalty. 

We also hope BRC’s largest camps work on downsizing to help ease demand. Larger camps are often laden with logistical complexity, struggle with accountability across campers, require larger budgets that can bump up against our Decommodification principle, and are more prone to not being self-reliant. Smaller camps bring some of the most wonderful bespoke experiences, and operate with more accountability and ease — something we wish to steer more camps towards in the community. 

Throughout the event’s history, we have always adapted to changing dynamics, forces and interests. We are at another point of iteration and we need to do it carefully. With our future presenting more questions than answers, one thing is certain: the BRC community solves problems head-on! Co-creating and adapting is what we do. We do it in dust storms and in rain storms, and we know we’ll be able to come out of this even better equipped to help our culture flourish and evolve.

We know you have a lot to say on this topic and we are listening! We will be reading and responding to the comments on this Journal post. We want your participation in this process! Be sure to register for the 2024 Camp Symposium, which will take place Saturday, March 16 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 7pm CET. We’ll also be hosting in-person opportunities to discuss these topics in BRC 2024. For details as they arise, stay plugged in by subscribing to the Placement Newsletter.

Cover image of Black Rock City (Photo by Scott London)

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.

98 Comments on “Adapting to Growth and Limits in Black Rock City

  • Joe Pyon says:

    Some camps out there been going for 20 years now. Energy is stale, DJ line-ups don’t reflect the zeitgeist, things the put on are lame and vide can’t be bothered…and with the old-heads, lots of glad-handing and buying into their own BS. Seriously feels like they invite a bunch of newbies to look relevant but they’re doing the same old thing every year. Well overdue that these people who have been blessed with fixed tickets for so long make way for new blood.

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  • Joe Pyon says:

    Some camps out there been going for 20 years now. Energy is stale, DJ line-ups don’t reflect the zeitgeist, things they put on are lame and vibe ‘can’t be bothered’…and with the old-heads, lots of glad-handing and buying into their own BS. Seriously feels like they invite a bunch of newbies to look relevant but they’re doing the same old thing every year. Well overdue that these people who have been blessed with fixed tickets for so long make way for new blood. Report comment

    Report comment

  • Tyler says:

    Have we considered enlarging the event? Maybe it’s time to boost our population.

    Report comment

    • wassup says:

      And further increase exodus times?! That would be wild to me

      Report comment

    • Eugenia says:

      I was under the impression that we are maxed out in event size for that location. I believe if we wanted to increase, we’d have to find a whole new place to hold the event.

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    • Captain says:

      The event is at the max population it can ever be. According to BLM, highway 447 cannot handle any more traffic and is at capacity.

      Report comment

      • Spanky D says:

        In the past, using the railroad through Gerlach has been talked about for transporting cargo and passengers. But no one can seem to get the right people in comunication with each other to make it happen. If anyone knows some of the “Higher Ups” at Amtrak, maybe you can get them in touch with “Burner Express”?

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    • Popeye says:

      We did. The limit to BRC size is the road access and the wear and tear on the roads due to increased traffic. Nevada DOT has a lot to say about this.

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  • P. J.J. says:

    You say everyone should be treated equally, but those that do not pay to be part of a camp have very few places to camp and certainly not close-in. I believe that inbetween each placement camp there should be space for a non-camp camper, just room for 1-2 cars. You have raised prices so much over the years that many people cannot afford to also pay a camp fee. Think about it.

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    • Infored says:

      Some camps do not require fees at all.

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    • MansoonB says:

      I’ve camped with many different kinds of camps over the years. Big camps that became bigger, small camps, independent camps, camped alone. What tends to happen with small independent camps close in is that a lot of them are very sloppy with the mooping and don’t REALLY care because they won’t be held responsible, or, there’s no one left to check after them if they have to leave early just did a sloppy job. We’ve definitely had red on our camp map from independent campers we let just drop in on the edge, almost about half the time, and they never know about it, because they’re not part of the camp, so they don’t even get b**ched at by the camp leaders later. Saying “but I would never do that!” is to ignore the fact that many people, statistically, just do, and YOU aren’t everyone in the world, or you may have actually done that but never actually knew it, or just saying that even, if it isn’t true, to bolster you your case. Independent campers are kept a little bit further out because there’s really no proof that they are good citizens and really no good way to hold them accountable, so at least they can strike agreements between each other to help each other out, clean up after each other, share resources with other smaller actors, being neighborhoods that are often less noisy. There’s hundreds of unplaced camps and camps that only require small or 0 dues. It’s not so great to be out on the periphery, but I’m not sure, the times I’ve camped independently, being a lot closer to noise and chaos, would have been better.

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    • Circle maker says:

      Thank you for bringing up the suggestion of interspersing open camping throughout the city mixed in with the placed theme camps. As a member of a small placed camp I would welcome an open space camp next to our camp. This could also provide a lovely opportunity for experienced campers to develop relationships with first timers who are coming for open camping..

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  • Sputnik says:

    Thanks Level, for the transparency and excellent overview. Celestial Bodies truly appreciates the work of Placement.

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  • Zach Wasserman says:

    Why can’t the total population grow?

    If not that, why can’t the land size of the city grow?

    I can see reducing the number of tickets allocated to camps (our camp got less this year), but if people want to camp in placed camps, let them.

    Why should the org decide against the will of the burners?

    Here’s hoping the mudfest scares some folks off.

    ❤️‍

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  • David Goin says:

    I think it might be useful to allot tickets to all the categories and quit one (“camps”) from continually expanding to the exclusion of everyone else. I don’t belong to a camp and would not want to. The ever growing idea is the modern world writ large. I live in a small beautiful town in colorado. We’re all watching it fill up w more and more people and watching land just disappear. BM should limit the number of people at the event. More is not better. I’m willing to risk not getting a ticket if an intelligent limitation is made.

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    • Bradley F Bartels says:

      Thanks David,
      I too live in a small Mountain Town in Colorado that is now overcrowded with people who have “discovered” it, and am now being priced and placed out of my own town, after putting my heart and blood into it for 20 years.
      Same for Burning Man.
      Our First Burn was 2012, and even then we struggled to find a place to park our Van. We did, at 5:30 and J, and we made our own “Camp” , “Tribe”, “Village”, whatever you want to call it — we fed the starving Italians next to us medium rare steaks that we ate with our fingers and became a self sufficient and spontaneous, happy camp of our own, and still had more to give to others that were just passing by! It seemed so natural and, isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about?
      My last Burn 2016, we could not find a place to camp as it was a full on land grab for the big camps.
      Now I can’t even get a ticket because they are all allotted to camps. We just want to be a part of the one Big Camp that is the Burning Man Community, not a “Theme Camp”.

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    • Gessie Rosimond says:

      Hear hear! I live between two amazing canyons in Salt Lake City, and have watched county and transportation leaders wrestle with tremendous growth in the popularity of world class ski resorts. It’s now believed that building a gigantic gondola is the best solution to the ever increasing parking problem. Not an iota of serious thought is ever given to simply limiting the number of tickets sold or number of people on the mountain. Why? Of course we know why! More more more more MONEY, in billionaire pockets. The comparison I’m making to BRC involves the physical space. If expanding the city perimeters isn’t an option, then it seems reasonable that limits must be placed. Why should any placed camp get bigger and bigger? Why should any placed camp be allowed to return year after year after year? Why is solo camping so discouraged? Why not divvy up tickets 50/50 between placed camps and those who wish to *really try radical self reliance?

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  • Paul Thayer says:

    I’m an independent Burner. I always share with my neighbors and always bring something to contribute to the art. Sometimes just imaginative stick figures made of irrigation pipe; sometimes something else. I always go out after the burn to help clean up.

    But after several years of being unable to score a ticket even though I try to click in at the appointed hour, I’ve given up. The smaller and smaller allocation of tickets for independent burners has aced me out.

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    • MansoonB says:

      Well, the total population limit is 87K, and it’s only 30k? allocated to the camps in the DGS. Even if you count in ticket for volunteers, and extras in the LSD sale, mathematically, it seems more people get a ticket without HAVING to be attached to a camp than with, or at least your odds are 50%. I’ve been with a very large camp, close to 300, and had trouble getting tickets, so, being with the camp is no guarantee, but, of course, as a burner, I would never give up on the first try and I would know that plenty of people bail out later on and I also continue to try. I don’t know what burner thinks that you just try one way to get things done and you bail out if that fails, but I guess that leaves more tickets for the rest of us

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  • BunnyTron says:

    Thanks for this very informative explanation of the challenges in accommodating everyone.
    In the interest of fostering camps with a high ratio of interactivity to people, why hasn’t Placement supported small “Popup Interactivity” camps? Such camps could be placed on the less desirable edges of BRC, yet have certainty that they could contribute their highly-desirable mobile shenanigans throughout the Playa. With fewer Main Sale tickets and less Open Camping, it’s become nearly impossible for those types of camps to bring their gifts. That skews the interactivity in favor of large camps with ever more grandiose offerings. Is that really the soul of Burning Man?

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  • Xena ( Art Car Camp) says:

    Thanks for laying it all out there for review. I am inspired by the negotiations and debates. What about good old fashioned lottery for camps and even other tickets? A real true draw out of the hat lottery. Not an internet speed test. This would be equitable. The Grand Canyon gives float permits this way I think its by registration on a waitlist and eventually you get to be in the lottery and there are OMG lottery float permits each year as well. Firefly the New England regional has a true lottery as well. We could draw names and if someone wants to wait a year then they would get a top spot the year after. Your promise of the guaranteed future makes sense… help people take a pause. Another idea could be Team A(odd year) and Team B( even year) camps in same location. Lost momentum is the challenge and too many newbies at once like 2022… But hey. Thanks for your work. We’ll figure it out. I like the willingness to take a risk. You are appreciated

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    • Jerry says:

      I like the idea of the lottery as well. It could even be a volunteer lottery for the theme camps, other words theme Camps would agree to be in the lottery.

      Report comment

    • MansoonB says:

      So, what you guys are saying is that y’all weren’t actually around for the time they tried a lottery, and what an overflowing Porta-Potty turd moundwich of a mistake it turned out to be. Tell you what. Think of all the worst case scenarios of a lottery — all the effects it has both on the individual, like, say in the camps when some individuals end up getting tickets but others can’t including people who stay for strike and clean up the giant camps or people who drive and load and unload the trucks and set up the equipment or art, you can’t reward or punish any or good or bad behavior — and then realize all off them and more actually did happen before and then ask yourself why they would want to do that again. This isn’t like a waiting list for your pick up pizza. This is like a lottery to determine all the things you might need for a giant holiday dinner that needs a dozen cooks and thousands of guests will come to. “Yeah, the person bringing all the silverware didn’t win the lottery, so I guess we’re eating on our laps this year!”

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    • Jed says:

      The lottery was tried in 2012. It was a disaster and the reason for the DGS. Nearly none of the Art installations and Mutant Vehicle camps got enough tickets to bring anything to BRC.

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  • Paul E. Quade says:

    Who knew we needed “urban planning” in the Black Rock Desert and cool graphs to define BRC? If the event has reached this stage – so removed from its origins – maybe it is time to try something completely different. . .

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    • tophat says:

      I am against a blanket posting of camps deemed “convenience camps.”

      I know one of the 12. I was shocked when I learned as it’s a respected camp that didn’t seem all that “pop-up”-ish to me.

      I would hope their “delisting” would be an invitation to dialogue on how they can re-align with the new cultural direciton setting.

      I believe “Naming and Shaming” would work against that laudable goal

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    • Mog says:

      I am also curious. Is it only done after all else has failed?

      >>convenience camps will go through progressive steps and consequences including:

      1. Warnings .
      2. Recommending or requiring coaching
      3. Limiting/denying eligibility to Stewards Sale or other support services
      4. Disinviting from future Placement, Art Honoraria, DMV License Invitation for 1-3 years or permanently
      5. Publicizing names of bad actors to the community

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  • Robert Atkins says:

    As I understand, 447 is the limit to growth of BRC. You just can’t get more than ~80k people on and out on one road in a weekend. Plus logistics, emergency services, sanitation (etc) during event week.

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  • Incredibly tricky situation… I don’t envy y’all.

    Our camp is taking off 2024… core team doesn’t have the vacation days needed to drive our stuff from/to Texas, so we’re saving up for next year! Some of us (myself included) still want to participate if we find the right camp, but most are sitting out. Knowing we won’t lose good standing and placement / Steward Sale was appreciated.

    IMHO, we should optimize for the right camp *sizes*, not just “more” camps. We don’t need 139 more camps if they are all permutations of “10 buddies bringing a dive bar with a cute name.”

    Instead, we should find ways to support small camps that need to reach their “sweet spot” population. I.e., the size where their core team won’t be burnt out and they can bring/build/execute real interactivity.

    Some ideas:

    1. Change the SS timing. Allow SS **allocations and purchases** through July 1. These days, it’s nearly *impossible* to get a whole team to commit in March, and it’s a huge financial burden (and risk) to ask a few solid people to buy all of the tickets we *know* we need but that we don’t have hard commitments to fill yet. Anything not bought by July 1 goes into a *special* Steward Sale STEP queue that is only open for leads of small camps to nominate some additional people who still need a ticket.

    2. Yes, cap the max Steward Sale allocation and max placement lot. Camps that are too large have little individual accountability for participation and LNT. They also tend to shift focus from a common vision for interactive participation over to logistics to provide comfortable amenities. (Obviously there are exceptions, but you can tell them by the sheer scale of what they bring to the city.) Maybe base it on the square footage of their interactivity? I.e., no theme camp can be more than X times the size of their public space.

    3. Make it *easier* for people to find and contact camps. I’m usually on the “recruitment” side of the coin, this year I’m on the “seeking” side, and both are suboptimal. A few Facebook groups (where only a dozen or so camps out of 1300 are active) and HIVE (still a ghost town, unfortunately) isn’t working. One solution would be having a true **searchable and filterable** database of camps here, so leads can update some standardized information and folks can use filters to find camps that are looking for new members. Another might be to allow camps to contribute a recruitment blurb and link for the JRS.

    4. Incentivize camps to consistently do even or odd years. Retained standing is a good start. Maybe offer them some shared container space at a reduced price? I don’t have any great ideas for incentives, but I do think this is the right direction, and as a TCO, I can sense already it’s going to be more sustainable for us going forward.

    5. Reduce main sale even more and increase SS. I know that’s controversial, but if done with (1) and (3), it would significantly help with camps finding the people they need, and would provide more accountability. Right now, MOOP seems to be far more of an issue in open camping and large camps. Large-scale theft, I imagine, is also mostly perpetrated by folks who are not part of a camp.

    6. Allocate a no-camping, park-only zone for camps to park personal vehicles after unloading. While we can all do more to carpool, being able to move vehicles elsewhere would allow placements to be more compact, allowing more camps of the same population per block. This would help with the problem that with placed camps moving further and further back, it’s becoming more difficult for camps to attract people to do your thing, because the ‘burbs are almost entirely just your neighbors heading for a radial street or portos.

    7. Create some way to have SS w/Ticket Aid. Sometimes, a camp wants to “lock in” someone’s ability to participate, but that person needs a low-income ticket. So they have to cross their fingers and wait. Huge stress for leads, especially in small camps. So maybe, at least for small camps where leads know their people’s situations, create a way for leads to allocate a low income ticket from their SS allotment. Obviously there should be limits. This also helps improve equity and diversity in camp populations.

    8. Discourage week-enders. We can’t go up in the number of tickets sustainably, so every ticket should ideally go to someone who is there for the full run. This means more tickets can go to people who are helping a camp in a meaningful way, and there will be more people *around* during the week to create the “critical mass” every camp wants to see during their interactivity. Maybe charge extra for tickets that allow entry after Tuesday?

    Sorry for the novel. These are just ideas I’ve been mulling over. Most are probably bad. But maybe there’s a kernel of usefulness to some of them.

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    • Alli says:

      Really thoughtful feedback and great ideas! Thank you. I’m a co-TCO of a small camp and know what it takes to bring a theme camp to BRC. Our camp is about 25 people each year, about a third of which are virgin burners. I support exposing new folks to Burning Man, but also support those who’ve contributed to the community in a meaningful way being able to come back. This is complicated reality with no easy solutions.

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    • Mog says:

      I like your creative ideas here!

      Given we have a high-res photo every year, I think spending some time spotting camps that aren’t dense could be helpful to improve the ratio of placed-camp-footprint to open-camping-footprint.

      I remember last year there was going to be 1 parking pass for every three tickets. Was this actually done? I think fewer vehicles helps a lot with space conservation!

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    • Wittilea says:

      Good stuff!

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    • B says:

      Decreasing the main sale even further basically requires anyone who wants to attend to join a theme camp. The main sale is already only 15k tickets as compared to the SS, which is 30k.

      As others commented- intimate interactivity brought by small, unplaced groups (or even individuals) has been squeezed out by SS taking over the ticket allotment.

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    • GB says:

      Fixed storage costs is one of the biggest issues for our camp. We are 25-30 ish, and we have folks with diverse financial capabilities. To be radically inclusive, we keep camp dues very low, have reduced dues/payment plans, and ask those who can to donate extra if they are willing. If BM would allow those who are storing containers and mutant vehicles with them to have substantially reduced or free storage for the year that a camp took off, it would serve as an excellent incentive.

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      • Randy Hencken says:

        I agree about reducing the main sale tickets and increasing steward tickets. With a caveat as stated below in my longer response. Steward should be redefined, and veterans who want to camp in smaller tribes that aren’t theme camps or art support camps should get access to tickets and placement. See my longer note below.

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    • Alicia St. Rose says:

      Agreed! Excellent ideas here!! BMorg, check this out!!!

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  • Richard Tallent says:

    Holy moly, I promise there were paragraphs in that comment when I posted it! lol

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  • Seth says:

    This is some of the most open and honest communication about the challenges in our community to come out of burning man org in a long time. Thank you. Maybe there are ideas bmorg can take from regionals where oversold size restricted events have long been the standard.

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  • Pringlez says:

    Asking camps to downsize is going to fall on deaf ears. I say the org should just cut all requested Stewards allotted in half for camps over a certain size. See what happens. Let the cards fall where they may. Force innovation without denying a camp-in-good-standing’s placement but by limiting Steward access across the board. It would put more community engagement on the larger camps’ shoulders to find new blood from the pool of folks ticketed in the main sale should they need it. Or consider actually downsizing. Not a bad thing in my opinion.

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  • Erik says:

    We’re committed to doing more with less, which ia to say filtering to higher quality people. Honestly, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to acculturate newbies and even returning burners are increasingly shifting into “get mine” mode and shirk or half ass things hoping or knowing that leadership is too overwhelmed to hold them totally accountable. We go over the principles in our meetings, discuss them, talk about our past experiences, emphasize the culture writ large and also our own workhard/Playland ethos and then I watch as these folks slink off and are nowhere to be found, do the bare minimum, have no stamina or effort and adopt and attitude of entitlement like “this camp thing is really getting in the way of my schedule, I’ve got things to do.” Folks think the camp is somehow separate from them and they’re just this fringe participant -they’re special and are getting it good by not having to do too much. Or they think, wow, I worked 10 whole hours before, during, and after – I did my part. Pffff. When you aggregate the small acts of selfishness across an organization, you get a subset doing everything and holding the bag when anything doesn’t go to plan and the errors stack up and those who actually feel responsibility push themselves to the limit. So smaller is better and we’ve been trending that way for years from a peak around 130 down to 75 last year and it was still too many hangers-on, despite how each person talked a big game or was very nice or was a sweet person.

    We also had the most lookieloos and nose-up people come by than ever before. Whole groups of entitled A-holes on their bikes sending an emissary to “peak in” to see if it was cool enough for them to bother. Walking back to their friends loudly proclaiming “let’s keep going” like we were just “the help” at a theme park – it was shocking tbh. This year, the answer is “no, you can’t just look in real quick, that is so low vibe, have you heard of radical participation?”

    And I’m aware of veterans who won’t do themecamp because they’ve realized they can just come and take, provide no offering of their own, live in their rvs until DJ time and there’s no accountability, so why would they bother. Cynicism.

    Burningman is going through all the pains of a tourist hotspot that started as a backwater backpacker secret. The place is still amazing, but where did all these fuckwads come from?

    I like the civic service camp classification, that’s a direction to enhance things, breaking up villages and encouraging smaller camps.

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    • Joe Pyon says:

      Right on. Best comment I’ve read yet. I’m sick of the entitled rich fuckers that keep increasing in their numbers each year. Really killing the vibe.

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    • Low Voltage says:

      “And I’m aware of veterans who won’t do theme camp because they’ve realized they can just come and take, provide no offering of their own, live in their rvs until DJ time and there’s no accountability, so why would they bother. Cynicism.”

      YOU NAILED IT!

      Thank you!

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  • The Dude says:

    I think about LNT. With the use of the GPS and the implementation of the placement survey crews (I forgot what these teams are called :) I can see a path to be more open to filling in the city. My first year we land grabbed up close. The placed camps were begrudgingly accommodating fortunately. (thank you so much voodoo shooting gallery and that chai/yoga camp that I think started with a D) But after becoming a placed art support camp I realized how much faith they had that we would do the right thing and the risk that their camp would be held to account for our LNT. If there was a way to report to placement and mark boundaries of intrepid open campers who have politely negotiated for a piece of “playa happend” empty land, it would really make it easier to be more open to the idea of filling the city in, with a trust but verify attitude. Either by a camp lead reporting in to placement by say Monday EOD, or some other method. (maybe this has always been a thing. I have not known)
    As for tickets: man what a pickle.

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  • Alex Black says:

    Am I the only person confused by the numbers? The whole notion of the article doubles down on the exponential growth, but almost every number shows a downward trend.
    Self-reported population: 69,000 -> 66,000
    Camps over 100 people: 148 -> 139
    New camps: 221 -> 211 -> 156
    # camp taking a break: 38 -> 83
    and the only marginal increase (?) is with projected placed camps: 1270 -> 1242 -> 1290

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    • Adam says:

      I thought the same thing. The conclusions don’t seem to match the data trends being shown. That said, I think we’ve been at a breaking point for a long time regardless – when it comes to event capacity and ticket availability. So a slight drop in the numbers isn’t helping much since things were already so past the “limit”. But it was odd to see the graphs used as evidence of an accelerating problem…when in fact it showed the opposite.

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  • Low Voltage says:

    I camp alone and finding room to camp is a challenge. In 2023 I camped right next to K at 5:45 just to have some breathing space.

    Have you thought about moving all the Burning Man Project’s logistics operations out of the city and locate it at the depot south of the city? There is plenty of room at the depot area for the commissary, logistical functions and housing. You could move employees and volunteers back and forth to the city area using all electric shuttle vehicles. Doing so would open a lot of acreage.

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    • Jed says:

      Excellent idea.

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    • MansoonB says:

      Sooooo, your ideas to move logistics and other operations further away from the things they are to oversee, make them part of some distant, disconnected collective, away from the many functions of the city that their people interact with and are a part of (you are aware that some people who work or volunteer with org departments don’t even camp in the places set aside for housing, right? They often have ties, friends, family who are camped nearby in the city proper and are there because they want to be part of the community. And there’s plenty people in the community who just go by different “departments,” either to see people, or to interact with them)? While some may view them as part of some administrative bureaucracy of workers who don’t count themselves as Burners, they are a part of the city just like anyone else, and they aren’t there just to work, but also to do things and be part of the city. Also, maybe your idea is that the org buys a ton of very expensive electric shuttles for the exclusive use of volunteers and workers but keeps out all others, somehow power them with, say, a giant (and ridiculously expensive, in terms of cost, set up, transport, storage. Something that big would probably have to be carted many hundreds of miles round trip on dozens of expensive giant diesel vehicles from the Bay area just to get there) portable solar array, even though they’ll be no doubt having to run the shuttles 24 hours a day. Besides the incredible expense and inconvenience and loss of connection to the community, what if, I don’t know, there’s a storm or something like that? Should a lot be sacrificed and many more problems be created for such a small benefit?

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    • tophat says:

      Moving support functions further from the city means these crews will have a longer “commute,” so they’ll need to more transport resources and spend less time working in the city.

      More sprawl is not the answer.

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      • Low Voltage says:

        The “depot” is already sprawl, an eyesore and a case of poor urban planning. I doubt that a commute of five to ten minutes would be a burden. Thoughtful planning could make it work. Move logistics out of the city. More land for camps!

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    • R and R says:

      YES! Please move all the logistical camps out farther. The “dead zones” are so sad to move through.

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  • Elysia says:

    I know that a lot of people think that you can’t go to Black Rock City unless you’re part of a theme camp. This is sad. How are we ever going to bring in new Burners if people think they can’t get a ticket without being in a theme camp? Or they can’t find a place to camp because such a large percentage of the city is placed? Maybe it’s time to reduce the number of placed camps, and make some room (and tickets) available for new folks.

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    • MansoonB says:

      Look at the numbers. There are 87K people total allowed by the permit the last 2 years, and only 30,000 of them went directly into the pool directly for the camps. Even with some possibly in a LSD (late-season directed) sale, and the tickets for org workers and volunteers, chances of getting a ticket, mathematically, are actually at least even if you aren’t in a camp, and maybe even better

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    • Low Voltage says:

      Right on Elysia!

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  • Lisa says:

    As a 9 year participant starting in 2006 and last burn was 2019, I try every year to buy tickets in the main sale because I am an open camping camper…. When I started in 2006 most camps were small independent groups offering the community and their neighborhoods fun, creative, inclusive experiences and providing food and drink…. My 2 person camp provided coffee in the mornings and afternoons for 5 years, a dress up boutique for a couple of years, ( I worked in a thrift shop in default world collecting great outfits), and volunteered at Greeters one year…. my last year, 2019, we roamed around as Super Moopers and Helping Handers, participating by doing favors, like getting ice for bar camps…I am dismayed at the direction the city is taking with shrinking the independent camps which provide small scale, more intimate connective experiences within their neighborhoods, which are being shoved out to the perimeter roads further away from center camp and the playa art…. I am in my 70’s now and getting around is a lot more challenging, but I still love the Burning Man community, and will still try every year to get a ticket, hopefully this will be another lucky year for me!

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  • mournlight says:

    I’d like to hear more about the Civic Service Camp idea. I love that it has the word “service” in the title.
    I support the idea of reducing the sizes of larger camps, and increasing singles.
    Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask everyone what they are offering.
    I agree Stewards Sale tickets need to go a bit later.

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  • James Feild says:

    As the TCO of Suburbia, we always have a clear goal to keep things fresh and fun. While taking a year off may work for some, the angels of Suburbia still have costs for 2 Storage containers and storage costs in Portland. While the offer of keeping your standing and Steward Ticket allotments intact, it doesn’t help with ongoing costs. Our dues are minimal relative to what Suburbia offers to BRC. As TCO, I’m not going to ask for dues to take a year off. The financial burden is real.

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    • Dasha says:

      Thanks for bringing it up. I am surprised that no one ever mentions the storage costs the theme camps carry no matter if they go this year or they don’t. These costs usually are especially high if the camp has many participants from outside the US.

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  • Cosmo says:

    It always seemed like open campers were considered second class citiziens what with being placed ever more out on the fringes and tickets being so hard to get. I had assumed it was due to a lack of pre-planned interactivity a la theme camps, but now as I read Level’s writings encouraging theme camps to take some time off to make room for more open camping AND newbies, I guess I should change my thinking on that. This inspires me to ask if some open camping can now be placed in the inner regions as well? I’ve done open camping for the last 2 burns out at 5:00 and H but closer in would be a nice option. And as far as tickets go…there’s nothing I can say about that process that hasn’t already been complained about a thousand…. million….zillion times! You want more newbies? Make it easier! (OK, I had to say it anyway).

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    • Dasha says:

      I camped in the open camping area last year for the first time. Accountability without the camp placement is really low. Most don’t care about LNT at all. I don’t say no one cares. But I say most don’t. So, I very much relate to separating open placement and placed camp areas. Picking up every single hair from the playa just for the neighbouring single camper to leave their bag of trash on your spot… it doesn’t feel fair.

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  • Mitzi says:

    I know that it seems like open campers are an afterthought to the BMORG and the city planners, but i will point out that Danger Ranger, one of the founders, has *always* been an open camper. I’m sure open campers have always been considered just as important to the culture of the city as anyone else.

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  • timekeeper says:

    I would hypothesize that larger camps contribute less on a per capita basis. There is likely an optimal camp size that allows for large contributions without becoming over populated. Like most power law situations, the problem is unlikely to be the number of camps, but the size of the largest camps which dominate the equation.

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  • Pras Stillman says:

    I like the idea of doing away with villages in favor of individual theme camps. We’ve camped next to villages that in all practicality offer very little to justify the size they take up. It seems like a few people put on all the activities and the rest are just camping.

    Our camp plans on going this year because it is possibly the last year that we put up a theme camp. The key with an old time camp is to do new and fresh activities each time, otherwise it gets stale.

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  • Jaded not says:

    It seems to me that there are any number of camps that don’t really provide a lot of interactivity. They may be only open for a few hours on a few days during the week. it seems there should be higher expectations of interactivity and also some way of seeing if the camps are actually doing what they say they will. It seems likely that some people just want a theme camp so they can get guaranteed tickets and placement, but they’re not offering too much to the community. Not really fair to the camps that are providing all kinds of activities. Or to the campers who are independent, and can rarely get tickets because people are doing theme camps that are not really very interactive.

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  • Dustin says:

    You want to encourage smaller theme camps? Have you actually read the theme camp application form lately? It’s very difficult for small camps to meet all the requirements due to required manpower and costs – as your charts make clear, the main way of getting tickets is to be a placed theme camp. The Org has incentivized larger camps and made OSS venders so expensive the only way to afford water/grey water/power is more camp members, high dues, somebody’s trust fund, or an unofficial corporate sponsor (you know who they are). Want more diversity? Maybe stop running placement so that every neighborhood has a bike shop, hipster bar, yoga studio, diner, bakery, and coffee lounge – like it’s downtown San Francisco. Reward the small weird camps and put the boring service ones in the back.

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  • Wizard says:

    I find it very interesting that nowhere in the article is there mention about the FOMO tickets which are priced so ridiculously high that only the wealthy can afford them. How self-serving is it that that category isn’t even mentioned let alone eliminated while hard-working theme camps are asked to stop coming for a year due to a “shortage” of tickets?

    do you truly expect anyone to take you seriously with all your bloviating about culture, virgins, and self sacrifice while ignoring the free pass given to the wealthy?

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  • Salman says:

    If gentle encouragement isn’t working maybe just force camps to take every third year off. This will undoubtedly piss some people off but at the end of the day we would all benefit from taking time off. And no camp absolutely has to be there every year, there are enough camps that do the same thing for it to not really matter.

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  • Toopee Toopee says:

    Interestingly enough, with our camp we decided to downsize after 2022 and realizing that growth doesn’t make things better. We decided to cap our number of participants to 20 so we can have some family vibes and we are actually able to deliver more with this amount of people as with 30-35 which was our maximum.

    Less is more!

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  • Rand says:

    Thanks Level. This is one of the best communications I’ve seen come out from BMAN. This explanation is insightful and very helpful. Thanks for all the great work you guys at Placement do. — Bubble Lounge

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  • Maybe says:

    More theme camps should mean more interactivity and a more engaged appearing community but it has actually meant more inner circle streets lined with RVs. Do these camps really need that many people to run? No. They don’t. (Mostly) and they’re taking away from the experience by taking real estate that could be given to folks who would make that space actually interactive.

    Currently the incentive is to use established theme camp offerings to justify more and more campers (as the open sales get increasingly difficult) without proportional increases in interactivity or engagement. This is a natural consequence of the game setup by having dgs and increasingly limited open sales. Though there will always be a cat and mouse setup by any system of rules, in this moment, the mice are winning. Consider greater expectations and oversight on the ratio of campers to interactivity and frontage use for larger camps in particular. Though this has already been a guideline, it cannot be ignored that as theme camps have grown, so has the frequency of inner streets being lined with RVs by larger camps, so that system of oversight is not in balance with the number of folks hip to the dgs loophole. The problem IS NOT dgs tickets, it is the faux growth of established camps to obtain more dgs tickets than they need to game the system and avoid the increasingly impossible open sales.

    I beg you not to limit dgs tickets across the board “evenly.” Taking 4 dgs tickets from a camp of 25 people is way more negatively impactful than taking 12 tickets away from a camp of 100. Focus on large camps first, perhaps look at their growth over time and have them explain why they have grown but their frontage hasn’t. Increase the consequence for camps where half of their frontage is RVs or cars. Understand that any set of rules or incentives will create unavoidable loopholes and actively, at least annually engage in being a more effective cat. Acknowlwdge that your current system coupled with limited tickets will be taken advantage of, figure out how folks are doing that (often best seen in restrospect), and be willing to punish loophole camps in retrospect.

    Look at doping in sports as a good example. They acknowlwdge that the current cat is going to miss a creative mouse who has gamed the system. So they keep a blood sample forever and retain the right to test that blood in the future when their cats are better. Learn from them and don’t hold yourself to having to spell out every rule or give people warnings. Consider this the one and only warning: don’t game the system. If the org finds that your theme camp has engaged in efforts to utilize guidelines, rules, and incentives in a manner counter to the ethos and intention of those rules, immediate sanctions will be put in place including but not limited to not being placed the following year, losing access to dgs tickets, member profiles attached to dgs tickets being permanently flagged as a loopholer, etc. The loopholers will tell you via their actions whether your consequences are a sufficient deterrent. They are telling you right now, loudly, that current consequences are not.

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  • Love Machine says:

    Ah, the Rube Goldberg contraption that is the Burn!

    Thanks so much, Level, for the in-depth look at issues facing Placement; we love you guys!!!

    So I’m trying to get my jaw back in place after learning of the prevalence of so many giant “camps” – if you don’t know the names of and love every person in your camp, guess what? You’re doing it wrong! If someone isn’t doing their part, our camp lead shows no hesitation in letting them know the expectations placed upon them – slightly uncomfortable but good for keeping a group together that cares for each other and the Burn.

    The mudfest of 2023 was a closing of a cycle: our camp formed from all the independent campers that couldn’t find a place after the rain closure on the first Sunday, 2014. My friend and I had arrived early and staked out a fairly nice space. After the gates re-opened, bedraggled camper after camper asked if they could share the space, which we were happy to provide. The majority of these folks have become my family and we camp together (and visit each other in the default world) year after year. The preciousness of the Burn is directly proportional to how bad you want it – spending the entire summer scrounging for a ticket makes getting one all the better. We know that any more than 30 people in the camp would ruin the magic – thankfully, we have been able to keep this number over the years, all the while growing our alumni campers… And, oh, the hot goss when the MOOP map is out!

    That said, always room for improvement. This discussion is rich and educational. After three years of placement (I think – COVID has screwed the pooch of memory) we are pausing our ask for the year. The majority of us will likely sneak in as lone campers and meet up, just like the old days.

    Things I’m thankful for (in no particular order):
    Burning Man
    coming down hard on pay for play camps (finally!)
    Ten principles and the renewed emphasis over the past few years
    Seeing newbies’ faces when they go on the playa the first night!
    Meeting the friends of my friends (and the family of my “family”) as they become one of us on the playa

    I want to emphasize this last point. What we feel during the Burn is Love: love for oneself, love for campmates, love for neighbors, love for fellow Burners, and love (at least for a little while) for everyone we meet after leaving the Burn. My playa name reflects my ongoing quest to crank out the love for every and all; not easy, but very satisfying. When complaints arise about the super-wealthy or the Instagrammers or whomever your BM bugbear is, I always think the Burn is a perfect place to reset, or at least positively influence them and make the world a slightly better world.

    Decisions will be made and conclusions will be drawn. I can’t thank BMORG enough for making Burning Man happen and thereby making the world a little bit better. When folks learn I’m a Burner and they ask what it’s like, I used to be at a loss (as have we all). Now I say – “It’s the world you want to live in”

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  • Dennis Krimer says:

    I understand the event is at capacity due to highway 447, but what if the event size was increased to those only taking the burner bus. Essentially you can only go to the playa if you take the bus and not another car. I know its a shot in the dark, but just something that came up on my mind.

    Maybe even increasing infrastructure through BMORG for the buses where there are large trailers that hold items for camps that would otherwise take up 5-10 cars and loading could be done in Reno.

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  • Alexandra says:

    Independent camping is important to have. However it’s also important for people to acknowledge that almost everything that they are experiencing at the burn was brought by a camp. And that camp likely put in work before and after the burn to make it happen, in blood sweat and tears. Performers spend the year learning choreography. People sacrifice weekends to load/unload. They invest in infrastructure to keep people safe and supplied. This isn’t often a contribution that solo campers make, and if they do it’s not often on the same level. Which is okay, but keep that in mind.

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  • Cleulady says:

    In that neighborhood around 4:20 on the Edge, there used to be multiple camps, all interactive but scrambling for tix every year since Placement refused to work with us because we were in the open camping area. So despite a 20-year run, the whole neighborhood was gone by 2018, no more interactive camps, just rows of vehicles. Shout out to Break it Down, Bloody MaryLand, and my own sweet Cleu Camp with the colorful Starman dome. Those were the good ol’ days. Too bad BM policies destroyed the neighborhood. If you’re going to make policy, at least do something that would be dramatically effective. Limit the size of camps to less than 100. Pick a number that makes the convenience camps no longer profitable. In a smaller camp, more people would be participating in camp interactivity rather than just riding coattails & using sherpas. I mean, seriously, these huge concierge camps are killing the vibe! Black Rock City needs to get back to its roots. Support small camps. Honor BM veterans. No spectators! Radical self-reliance & decommodification for all.

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  • Salami says:

    At some point it seemed that the cultural direction setting group suggested that getting new burners into theme camps would help acculturate new burners and maintain the burner culture and thus,
    more tickets were given to the stewards sale than the main sale, and eventually the word spread that if you wanted a burn ticket, you go join or start a theme camp which in turn would guarantee for a ticket. It seems that sentiment has become the norm now and has been a chief reason why there are so many theme camps today, and there is the ask to take a break if possible.

    What can happen ? Maybe more tickets need to go to main sale again, maybe there needs to be limits of RVs coming as to open space. Maybe the city needs to grow bigger once again, where blocks are expanded in footage, or maybe M and N streets are created. I don’t have all the answers, just adding food for thought. I think at the heart of it is the access to a ticket to get to playa in the first place, but after having two heavy seasons, I wonder how demanding it will be to come.

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  • Commish says:

    If over 40% of Burners are “one and out” or “bucket listers”, couldn’t there be a way to be inclusive and still protect our event from folks who are actually tourists, visitors who have the time and resources to simply check us out? This percentage of “Burners” who have zero long range participation in mind sets us up for a Burning Man 90% curated by Placement, through the “scarcity” of tickets and access to Playa real estate. Burners work hard to start a theme camp in order to have access to Steward Tickets/VPs and placement. If tickets were sold only to actual Burners who were required to sell their ticket back to the Man if they couldn’t not participate and then with the whatever unused tickets/VPs left going to first time Burners, Burners who had tickets would be asking for placement like we did pre-2012. Placement would no longer have the power of deciding who does and doesn’t get Steward Tickets as these would no longer need to exist. Ticket “scarcity” would then be born by first timers, many who may end up wanting to Burn next year and no longer have to deal with ticket “scarcity”.

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  • Low Voltage says:

    Ban RV’s and travel trailers! Make them CAMP!

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  • Sesame says:

    Regarding the # of camps and placement:
    Create a simple application database to capture camp activities by time of day (morning activities, afternoon to early evening activities, nighttime activities), type of activity (yoga, dance, bar, interactive structure, etc.), longevity of camp (many years vs. new), etc. and then split all of the camps into two (or even three) years. Invite camps to whichever year they have been slotted into, and give them enough Steward Sale tickets to accommodate their activity. Then they have to take the next year off. Period. Make sure you don’t have too many of any one type of camp/ensure diversity of camp activity, newness, etc.

    Regarding Convenience Camping: how about no more chances. If they are already there, 86 them and make them either disperse immediately (take away their placement – there are plenty of unaffiliated campers that could fill in the real estate), and/or 86 them from the event on the spot. No more warnings, no coaching, etc.

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  • Randolph Heathen says:

    As a passionate participant of Burning Man for 20 years and a leader of a Mutant Vehicle camp, I have some observations and suggestions that I believe could resolve issues presented in the letter above and enhance the overall experience of the event.

    1. **Theme Camps and Community Dynamics:** Over the years, the proliferation of theme camps, has led to a diffusion of the event’s energy. It seems that many groups feel compelled to establish a theme camp to secure tickets and a designated camping spot. Consequently, they go through the motions of creating a theme camp and meeting its requirements. Often, these camps resort to advertising for members to fulfill their goals rather than naturally evolving as a cohesive tribe with a shared vision. This trend has created a misconception among newcomers that joining a theme camp is necessary. However, during Burn week, these theme camps receive scant visitors due to the sheer number of camps available. In the past, when there were fewer theme camps, there was a higher concentration of people at each camp’s offerings, fostering deeper community connections.

    2. **Alternative Camp Categories:** To address this issue and potentially improve the Burning Man experience, I propose introducing an alternative camp category called “Tribe Camps.” Unlike theme camps, tribe camps would only require participants to embody the principles of Burning Man without the burdensome requirements of establishing a theme camp. This would provide an avenue for individuals to secure tickets and placement based solely on their commitment to the Burning Man ethos. By offering steward tickets and placement to tribe camps, we could encourage a more organic and inclusive community development process.

    3. **Ticket Distribution and Accessibility:** Additionally, I’d like to raise concerns about the ticket distribution process, particularly regarding the steward ticket allocation. Last year, there was some kind of mishap with the number of tickets sold during the first steward sale, those released in the main sale, and then those dumped on theme camp operators in midsummer. Consequently, theme camps were inundated with steward tickets later in the summer, leaving camp operators with excess tickets and financial losses. I am shocked that a statement about this mishap hasn’t been made by the organization.

    In order to mitigate a similar problem, more tickets should be distributed to Burning Man stewards earlier in the year, allowing for better planning and utilization of tickets. Furthermore, steward tickets should not be contingent on affiliation with a theme camp, mutant vehicle, or art project. The definition of a steward should be updated. Many seasoned burners should be stewards – these are the veterans who embody our culture and principles and would likely participate in open camping or “Tribe Camps”. They should have equitable access to stewards tickets and to distributing stewards tickets to facilitate the event’s inclusivity.

    I believe implementing these suggestions could foster a more vibrant and cohesive Burning Man community while addressing logistical challenges associated with ticket distribution and camp dynamics. I hope the organization will consider these proposals, and I look forward to witnessing the continued evolution of Burning Man.

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    • Randolph Heathen says:

      I feel like I wrote too much above and missed the crux of the suggestion. INCENTIVES MATTER. The current policy incentivizes people to start and join theme camps in order to secure tickets and get placement. Instead, how about redefining what a “Steward” is and get more tickets out through stewards earlier in the year so people can plan their burns without having to jump through hoops to be a theme camp. Give placement to tribes of friends without them having to promise anything but LNT. Take a look at the Secret Party app and how it works to distribute tickets to known entities. I.e. you have 5K “Stewards” on your list. Give each steward 12 tickets to distribute – and that will be 60K tickets into the hands of people who really want to participate (as opposed to scalpers). People who really want to do theme camps will produce theme camps. Others will camp as tribes or in open camping and actually go to the activities the theme camps are offering.

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  • Salman Hasan says:

    I think the incentive for camps to take a year or two off needs to be stronger, along with a disincentive for not taking time off. A simple way of doing this would be to use ticket allocations. Camps that take a year off get their ticket allocation increased the following year by say 10 percent, and 20 percent for two years off. Similarly, every consecutive year that a camp applies for placement, their ticket allocation is reduced by 10 percent.

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  • GPS says:

    Is there an accountability LNT “check” for open camper sites? Im not trying to create more work, but Im just wondering if open sites get a visit from rangers to find out who they are and “register” their open site to the ticket holders so that LNT accountability can actually be tracked later.

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  • Ash says:

    I think there’s some really good changes proposed and spot-on comments here. It seems to me the solution starts very simply – cap the total number of participants to somewhere around 30-40K, add a commitment to attending the whole week, and rework the parking situation. This will help a lot of issues raised and also have real knock on effects (like better entry/exodus times). You won’t get a ticket every year, but when you (and/or your camp) do, it will be more special and interesting. This will allow a rotation of camps so you’re not having the same experience every year. Also, I think scarcity is a good thing in this context – if you want a ticket, you’ve got to be serious about the commitment. Size of the community is inversely proportional to the feeling of community.

    Also, one suggestion I’ll add for open camping – when you show up and pick your spot at the beginning of the week (because now you’ve agreed to stay the whole week), someone from placement will come by and get your info to identify you as holding that spot. If you’re moopy (or any other issues), then placement will know it was you and can decide on consequences.

    I know I’m leaving out ticket allocation, that’s intentional because it seems like there are conflicting opinions on the purpose/intention of the event, and subsequently how tickets should be allocated and to who. While the tough questions raised in this posting are the right ones, answers are required to make this decision.

    Lastly I’ll add that storage costs are enormous and logistics are difficult. There’s a lot of ways to make this problem better, but the current iteration seems to be one of the least efficient. Solving this issue will also make it more palatable to taking a year or two off.

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  • KD, "Hawk" says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party. There’s significant challenges raised here. I suggest the org consults with burners who consult in organizational behavior now that the community has weighed in. I majored in org behavior 14 years ago, but I don’t practice it today. I’ve burned 5x, but don’t have the experience as a camp lead. I’ll offer my suggestions. Please take them with a grain of salt.

    I consider the 10 principles, and the development of burning man to maximize a community that embraces these values. One of them, is radical inclusiveness, which is a challenge in light of our inability to increase event size. However, by encouraging some of our best camps to take a year off we risk diminishing such as participation and communal effort, among many others. These camps were often exemplary in these values, and we know from human psychology that we value a sense of community more than anything. Do we need to diminish community and our other BM values in favor of inclusion? I don’t think so.

    My recommendations are around the development of increased infrastructure developed by the org to monitor camps across all 10 values, and not just LNT, to enable a merit-based system according to the values.

    1) Use a merit-based system that promotes camps for their adherence to all the values, that provides them with more DGS tickets for doing so.

    2) Track where their tickets are going, and ensure they value radical inclusion by ensuring a portion of their tickets are going to virgins.

    3) Relegate camps that don’t adhere to the values, so that more camps are getting suspended or banned. Do this more rigorously.

    4) By suspending and banning more camps that don’t fit our values, or decreasing DGS tickets for poor performers, make room for new camp entrants that have the opportunity to demonstrate their fit to the BM values.

    These recommendations require more infrastructure to track the performance of each camp against each value. The org wants to rely on the leaders of each camp to instill the values within their camp and new virgins too. This places greater responsibility in a trickle-down fashion. In my opinion, it’s how we maintain strong culture.

    Lastly, and most importantly, we promote culture and community as all costs. The heart of BM lives in some of our legacy camps. They are the examples we look to, and they are the familiar places we love going back to, and partially the reason why “welcome home” feels so real. We promote those exemplary camps with more DGS tickets, and we do everything we can to ensure they come back every year, by any means possible.

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