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Burning Man is cracking down on all-inclusive consumer culture, bans pay-for-play camps

The disaster that never came to life, Fyre Music Festival, sparked a massive conversation throughout the festival community across the country. One thing remaining true, no one wants to go down in shambles the way the fabricated, social media-driven catastrophe Fyre did. Many well-known events are reassessing their brand and grounding down to the roots of their original intentions. The biggest event making a change in hopes of preventing a disconnect between culture and commodity is Burning Man.

Burning Man, which is looking to expand its attendance to 100,000 this year, takes place in the temporary utopian metropolis known as Black Rock City (BRC). Deep in the desert of Nevada, radical-minded individuals come together to build a self-sustaining, self-expressive, and inclusive community to thrive in for an entire month. The first year in the desert was in 1986 with a population of 35 stunning pioneers. Fast forward 32 years and the 2018 event capped its doors at just under 75,000 participants.

The community operates on ten strict core principles: radical inclusion, gifting, self-expression, self-reliance, decommodification, communal effort, participation, leaving no trace, civic responsibility, and immediacy. Burning Man encourages its participants to come and create the experience they wish to have while equally contributing to the experience around them.

Naturally, as events become larger and the crowds are filled with newcomers, it becomes much a lot harder to keep the sacred traditions and foundation strong. The growth of ignorance regarding general conduct at BRC is not all to blame on the newbies. Even the citizens who have been committed to venturing off to the playa every year have become more of consumers than co-creators of BRC. Part of this shift to consumerism stems from the rise of “convenience culture” when Burning Man is anything but convenient.

The CEO of Burning Man, Marian Goodell, expressed deep concern with the future of the culture at Burning Man and took to The Burning Man Journal to introduce immediate changes that will be happening for the benefit of the community.

Goodell opened up about the growing number of complaints the Communications Team have received throughout the last few years especially in the 2018 burn season. Theme camps such as Camp Humano are being scolded by the community of Burning Man because of its poor record of following the core principle of leaving no trace and rejecting commodification. The secret is out that Humano offered accommodations including tents, food, and booze for a whopping $25,000, according to a report by Mashable. This pay-for-play convenience culture is not what Burning Man is about.

Goodell reassures burners that she is listening:

If we are to succeed in fulfilling the mission of Burning Man Project, we must preserve and protect the community ethos that sets Burning Man apart from mass-produced events. Please know that we see the same cultural issues that many of you do, and we’re taking steps to address them. Burning Man strives to stand in technicolor contrast to the typical consumerist, status-driven, brand-saturated, optimized-for-your-convenience world. We create Black Rock City every year because we believe there is value in having an entirely different kind of experience — one grounded in what you have to contribute – to say, make, do, and share.

The Burning Man Team is making headway to improve the community starting with changing the 2019 ticket sales. In order to try and prevent the spread of individualized consumer culture, the Directed Group Sales will take place before the general pre-sale. The number of high-priced tickets will drop by 30% and the directed Group Sales will be allocated 10% more, encouraging the citizens of BRC to get more involved. During the general sale, citizens will only be allowed to purchase two high-priced tickets at a time instead of four. This change in ticket sales is to avert concierge-type camps from buying a large amount of tickets to include in their fancy package deals.

Another announcement is directed towards the Outside Services (OSS) Program that has gone haywire since the it was initially incorporated in 2012. This program allows camps, art projects, and other vendors the opportunity to outsource help so the setup and takedown can be completed in a timely manner. Over the last 5 years, the OSS has become an easy-way-out for citizens to pay others to do the dirty work instead of contributing the way BRC intends for its participants to.

Burning Man is an ever-evolving project that is resilient to the change that creeps through the city walls each year. As the default world becomes more saturated with technology, materialism, egotism, and consumerism, Black Rock City will stand firm in its ten principles. The evolution starts with the individual.

H/T: EDMTunes