Burning Man has gone from an event celebrating counter culture to something firmly in the mainstream. Tech bros, influences and celebrities make it a stop on their trips around the world to take pictures for Instagram and pretend to care about the Burning Man ethos. Now Burning Man is trying to fight back against many of the camps to promote brands or themselves. It is also banning the sale of package deals that include a ticket and accommodation.
In a lengthy post on the Burning Man Journal, Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell speaks of the event needing some “culture course correcting” to try and fix some of the glaring issues that have popped up in recent years.
"Whether it’s commercial photo shoots, product placements, or Instagram posts thanking 'friends' for a useful item, attendees including fashion models and social media 'influencers' are wearing and tagging brands in their playa photos. This means they are using Black Rock City to increase their popularity; to appeal to customers and sell more “stuff,’” she writes. “What about our principle of Decommodification? It’s fair to say this behavior has been around for a while…Seriously, people. This really isn’t Burning Man.”
One of the most distressing things they are seeing are the people coming who have no interest in co-creating Black Rock City, but rather expect things to be set up when they get there. “Burning Man is not a festival,” notes Goodell. “It’s about CREATING that experience for yourself and those around you." They note that the festival has given some citations to certain camps over not cleaning up after themselves and for non-inclusive behavior.
They have restructured tickets in how and when they are sold to try and stop this process. There will be more sold for low-income attendees.
If there is something we do know in the United States is that the rich are great at skirting rules and avoiding accountability. So we will see just how much changes in the coming year and beyond.