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Building Burning Man
The Official Journal of the Burning Man Project - Spring 1997 Newsletter

What It Costs

Burning Man is not and has never been about money. It is about survival: the survival of each individual, the survival of our community, and the survival of the Burning Man Project itself.

The registration fee for Burning Man is going up! Here are the answers to a few questions:

Doesn't Burning Man make a lot of money?

Burning Man does not make as much money as you may think. Many people make an easy calculation. They're reasoning follows: If a reported 10,000 people attended our event in 1996 at an average of $35 per person, then Burning Man must have earned more than one third of a million dollars, a vast sum. This figure is erroneous for three reasons. First, the figure of 10,000 is merely a loose estimate of our total attendance on Sunday evening, the night of the Burn.

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This includes many hundreds of people who streamed onto the playa from surrounding counties to witness our final event. These individuals paid nothing. Second, more than a third of all participants evaded our gate. Entry to the Black Rock Desert can be gained at several points and each year a small army of the canny, cunning and unscrupulous have taken advantage of this fact. Lastly, many people paid less than the stated admission fee at our gate or paid nothing at all. We are not legally empowered to refuse anyone direct entry onto public lands.

Where are the profits?

There are no profits. The Burning Man Project finished 1996 more than $30,000 in debt. Our staff has gone unpaid. Burning Man has never been run as a normal profit making enterprise. Any similar festival, a county fair or rock concert, would reap its principal profit from concessions, but Burning Man purposely creates a commerce-free zone. Where else in North America is it possible to attend a mass gathering at which the principal activity is not the consumption of goods, services, or paid entertainment? Our goal is radical participation. Everyone is urged to bring whatever they require to survive. The one concession we have sponsored, apart from the very sporadic sale of souvenir shirts, has been our coffee house at Central Camp, and its primary purpose is social. The vending of ice directly supports the school district in the local communities. It is a goodwill gesture and Burning Man does not receive this money. "We have found, futhermore, that it is hard to sell things to folks who are active, engaged, self-sufficient, or naked."

Why is the price of a ticket increasing?

The price of a ticket to Burning Man has doubled from last year. The price for early registration has increased to $50. As of June 1997 the fee will be $65. Possible restrictions on attendance permitting, we will charge participants $75 at our site in the desert. However, we encourage everyone to register early. Attendance at our new site may be limited! The price of a ticket to our five-day event has always been remarkably low. Consider: $50 is what you might pay for one night's stay at a motel -- complete with midget soap bar, a picture of a petrified ocean, and a towel too small to dry your body. Participants in Burning Man inherit an entire world. We're still quite cheap and plan to stay that way. This year's increase of our ticket price will help us pay for increased costs, many of them incident to founding a new site. We must pay considerably more for insurance, land improvements, rental fees, and a larger medical and safety staff.

How can I contribute?

Send in your registration fee today! Make an optional extra contribution and we will thank you by listing your name -- with your permission -- in our summer (June 1997) newsletter. Buy a Burning Man tee-shirt or cap. Copy this information and pass it on to your friends. We also need volunteers. Have you clerical or organizational skills? Can you help with construction? Are you planning a theme camp? Do you have access to services or materials? There are hundreds of tasks which sustain our community. If you think you can help us, please call our Hotline: 415.TO.FLAME. The Burning Man Project is a society of activists. Join us!