Note: Marian Goodell, the Org's CEO, confirmed for me that my conclusions are essentially correct, and called out this article as worth reading during her address to open the Virtual Theme Camp Symposium the morning of 3/28). She's also replied to a bunch of people in the comments below.
I see a lot of Burners online asking why the Org doesn't simply cancel BM 2020 and roll DGS tickets over to 2021? Cancel the event, and come back in 2021 in full force while making everybody whole who bought tickets this year. Sounds simple and good right?
The general feeling seems to be that they must be greedy a-holes to not promise refunds or rolled-forward tickets if they cancel it, but it really isn't that simple, which is what this post is about. The Org faces a very tough financial situation, which I'm going to lay out for you as best as I can. I think it's helpful to understand where they're coming from as you form an opinion about how they should handle it Burning Man 2020.
What Is the Problem With Just Rolling Tickets Over To 2021 or Refunding?
The first thing to understand is that whether they refund DGS (and FOMO) tickets already purchased or whether they roll them over to next year doesn't matter much in the sense that those two scenarios are more or less the same financially. Rolling tickets over is possibly a little better for them than refunding, since money now is better than money a year from now, and refunding would require re-selling the same number of tickets already refunded, which incurs additional costs from whichever company they select to run the ticket sale.
In both cases, the Org only gets revenue from one full ticket sale, while having to operate for two years on that one year's revenue. More on that below....
The Burning Man Org's Finances
To start with, I'm using info here that anyone has access to. None of this is private or privileged. It's all published online in their Form 990 that they file with the IRS every year. It's the equivalent of a tax return for their non-profit. The last Form 990 we have available to us is 2018's, as the form for 2019's fiscal year wouldn't have been filed or published yet.
Let's look at their revenue first, as this is very straight-forward.
Total revenue: $46.6 million.
Now let's look at the costs they incur each year, and try to estimate what portion they could save this year if they cancelled Burning Man. If you'd rather look at the spreadsheet I used for this, you can find it here.
So, by the above very rough estimates, it would cost them about $20.8 million ($44m-$23.2m) to run for a year w/o laying off permanent staff and with cancelling Burning Man. However, since I have no insight into how far ahead they have to lock in some of the BM expenses, and since some surely are locked in, I'm adding 20% to that figure to account for those expenses they can't get back in case of a cancellation.
That gives us a figure of $24.96 million to run the Org for a year if they cancelled Burning Man.
That is a revenue shortfall of $21,260,000 based on:
Cash on Hand
Of course, the Org also maintains an operating reserve of cash, like any responsible organization would. At the end of the 2018 year, the Org had about $14m in cash or short-term investments.
(This may sound like a lot, but for an organization that spends $44m/year, it's not. A typical guideline for a nonprofit might be to maintain a cash cushion equal to 3-6 months of operating expenses. $14m for the Org is just under 4 months of average operating expenses.)
However, they also had $3.5m in accounts payable, which effectively reduces their functional cash on hand to $11.5m.
Some of these numbers are likely different at the end of 2019 vs the end of 2018, but we these are the numbers we have.
The Org's Cash Shortfall If It Cancels 2020 is likely to be in the range of $10 million.
Since I'm estimating a $21.2m revenue shortfall based on the above numbers, and since the Org had approx $11.5m in (cash-payables) on hand in their last 990, that means that even if they used up their entire operating reserve, they would still be in the hole $9.76 million dollars.
Even if their entire staff could work for free for the year, that would barely cover it and still leave them with no cash cushion.
I think it goes without saying that if they have to cancel, the Org will have to make staff cuts, but those cuts would have to be deep and hard to make much of a difference, and then what? You can't just decimate an organization and expect it to come back swinging at full strength a year later. Institutional knowledge and expertise is lost when that happens. At best, layoffs blunt the cash shortfall some, but there's no way they can lay off enough people to fix the problem.
Conclusion and Possible Solutions
I hope this has helped shed some light on the tough financial position the Org is in. Nobody saw the corona virus coming, and no, they don't have insurance that's going to save them if the BLM forces them to cancel because of corona.
I'm not advocating for any particular outcome here. It doesn't affect me personally - I'd decided last fall I was taking this year off after 10 years in a row, and pushed our camp's DGS allocation off to next year as a result, so I'm not sitting on a ticket or planning to buy one this year.
I'm just trying to show that it's not so easy to say, "Just roll the tickets over to 2021" as if that doesn't cause enormous financial difficulties for the Org.
Even if they depleted their entire cash cushion (which is a terrible idea unless there is literally no other choice), they'd still need to come up with about $10 million from...somewhere.
So where could that money come from? Here's what I can come up with:
Anyway, that's what I've got on the subject. I hope it's helpful as you decide how to feel about however the Org ends up handling what I think is near-certain cancellation of the event.
I'll tell you one thing: I don't envy their position right now. I think they have very tough decisions ahead.
3/27/2020 05:45:28 pm
very informative about the organization. shocked at the ticket seller percentage. 50,000 tickets with even a $10/ticket handling/mailing /electronic ticket which seems high given the exclusivity make the cost around $500,000. A nice chunk of change for mailing tickets. 4 times that amount for 2 million seems quite a bit excessive. the rest makes sense..sort of
3/27/2020 06:20:38 pm
Insightful analysis. Much more thought provoking than the BS rattling around Facecrack. Thank you.
3/27/2020 08:53:53 pm
I feel the same. I’m in for two tix and a vehicle pass through the DGS and $1,200 is more than I can just eat right now or leave on a friendly “loan” til next year. The faith and goodwill of the longtime burner community (the heart of DGS ticket holders) is priceless and thus merits thoughtfulness, transparency, and respect.
KELLI c BINDER
3/28/2020 07:24:50 am
Well said. I totally agree with you
3/28/2020 08:53:49 am
I am also in for two tix and a vehicle pass through DGS, over $1200. The email announcing my DGS seed:
3/28/2020 10:10:42 am
Their T&C clearly states that tickets are non-refundable. The org is trying to figure out refunds, but the whole point of the post is that it's tough and has implications for the future of Burning Man's ability to continue at all. They're facing a pretty existential set of decisions here. I have also purchased DGS and paid for them with disposable income. Nobody saw this coming, but it seems really unfair to peg the responsibility on the BM org because folks spent money for a vacation and now want it back. Airlines have not been so kind with their non-refundable tickets, and I know many folks who have been screwed out of tickets, though lately many are able to transfer to other flights. I registered for a conference that has since been canceled, and they can only refund 75% of my ticket, and that is only after negotiating with venues to let them hold the conference 2 years from now and clearing out their cash reserves. They're begging for donations. SXSW isn't offering refunds, but also deferring for future events. BM Org seems to be waiting out the news, but it doesn't look good. Any efforts on their part to figure out a way to transfer tickets to future events or possibly issue refunds will have to be accompanied with downsizing their staff, and that will hurt, too.
3/28/2020 12:52:39 pm
Jessica, is not "just holiday". Not to mention that every human being deserves one to keep the mental balance... some people have to cut out on a lot of things to be able to meet with friends at Playa! And a lot of people lost their income sources! So 1200$ is to survive or not
3/28/2020 02:42:34 pm
Mehr, of course, it is deeper than a vacation, but what happened to radical self-reliance? If people are using savings that should sustain them in an event that they lose income, their priorities might not be totally balanced. It's an uncomfortable truth, I realize that. I still don't think it is BM org's responsibility to replace income for people who agreed to and accepted a no-refunds policy. It is too early to know how this will end, but they have expressed a willingness to try to find a solution if they ultimately cancel. I'm sure they are grappling with how this is affecting low-income burners, and I sincerely hope it factors into their decisions if the worst happens. Ultimately, the government should be providing support for everyone who cannot earn money at this time.
3/28/2020 06:27:38 pm
I'm not sure I totally agree. Burning Man IS transparent about its finances. Granted, you have to actually read their financial statement each year, but not taking the time to do that is not on them. They are burners, too, and deserve to be helped if we can. As with other canceled events, they may try to refund part of it and ask ticket holders to donate the amount. That's fair.
3/28/2020 08:04:22 pm
Jessica, sounds like you have plenty of money the way you mention your disposable income and low income burners and your conference losses. Why don’t you donate your money if they offer partial refunds?
3/29/2020 10:51:09 am
None of us want to eat $1,200 in tix and VPs (I'm in the same boat) but the argument that any of us "can't afford to" is senseless. We spent the money expecting entertainment in August. We might not get it. But none of us had expected any financial return on it.
3/29/2020 01:26:07 pm
Tgs...Well stated... I agree
3/30/2020 07:05:12 pm
Builder, I'm not a member of the org, or their shill, nor am I excessively wealthy. I dreamed of going to BM for years before I could afford it, and would donate part of my ticket if it helped keep it alive. I wasn't comparing BM org to airlines or SXSW, I was just giving examples of how refunds on nonrefundable tickets are working out in other scenarios at the moment.
3/30/2020 09:24:38 pm
3/31/2020 05:05:01 pm
Builder, I think you have a rosier view of what's actually happening in terms of extracting refunds via disputing charges. You are only guaranteed a refund on a flight that is canceled, so if you decide that you don't want to risk it or an event you planned to attend was canceled, and you don't need to fly, too bad. SXSW is offering a deferral to future events and a discount for another future additional year, probably arguing that it is a postponement. https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/coronavirus-canceled-events/
3/31/2020 07:33:59 am
The org has a really hard problem to solve + any of the solutions is going to cause debate. I think it's a little harsh to say "lack of transparency". There's a possibility that org (and burning man) essentially fails forever because of this. I think it's worth a bit of trust that they are looking at all the possible options and will communicate when they can + ask for feedback when they can.
3/27/2020 06:46:14 pm
RStar. Good post. 15 years for me. I also have 2 tickets which I gift. Future participation for me is about the community & what I call the " Burner Way, "not the Bmorg for me, despite whatever choice the Bmorg makes.
3/27/2020 07:00:29 pm
Thanks for your good analysis. It seems to me, that it’s possible with the ticket sales thus far they could survive until 2021. Of course they would have to do some refunds to people in desperate situations. Then the tickets remaining could be sold in 2021. These non-DGS tickets could be sold at a much higher price. The artists and serious theme camps will be there. Let the newbies pay more for all these years of Building this.
3/29/2020 02:37:20 pm
That’s a really narrow view of general ticket sales. My group has burners that have been going for 20 years and do the main ticket sales . Saying the newbies should pay it is ignorant of who all the ticket buyers are in the main sale.
3/29/2020 04:32:42 pm
"The artists and serious theme camps will be there. Let the newbies pay more for all these years of Building this."
3/27/2020 07:17:03 pm
This reminds me of Leto, God-Emperor of Dune; when the bridge collapsed, he fell into the river and disintegrated into thousands of sandworms, each with a tiny fragment of his consciousness. Maybe something like that is about to happen to the org. Shai-hulud!
3/27/2020 10:51:46 pm
It'd be a hilarious Burn if we had to all walk without rhythm to avoid attracking the sandworms!
3/28/2020 01:05:26 pm
Well. This is why I am unafraid should the event cancel. From great change comes new challenge and opportunities.
3/27/2020 07:39:34 pm
Make the refund optional! Let the community vote to save it or not with their money. They can keep my money and I look forward to going next year.
3/27/2020 07:48:13 pm
The virus needs 14 days quarantine. Have the event but make it known that you can’t leave for 14 days after the temple burns, so plan accordingly. Actually, to play it safe, let’s go with 21 days after the temple burns.
3/27/2020 10:48:47 pm
I know you’re trying to be funny... how about flipping this around and having everyone quarantined 14days before the event and maybe even have drive through tests in Reno and you’d have to show beg results with your ticket...
3/29/2020 01:05:11 pm
Honestly, it's not a terrible idea. Have people quarantine in surrounding smaller cities for 2-3 weeks before the event. Show proof of quarantine and a proof of 2 negative tests. I'm sure they'll find plenty of people willing to do it.
3/29/2020 08:54:09 pm
So we pawn off the risk to a surrounding city? Thats your plan??? Really???
3/31/2020 10:15:44 am
Yeah no. As a person from Reno I’m going to tell you this is a horrible idea and pretty sure one that wouldn’t be welcomed much by the people living in N NV
3/27/2020 07:58:34 pm
Good analysis and fairly presented, thanks. If you’ve never run a festival (or equivalent) it’s easy to say “they could just do...”. It’s never that easy or they would have just done it.
3/28/2020 01:07:35 pm
Thanks Chris, we are on it. And, I'd say truthfully I think it will be a combination of options. We are also researching disaster relief loans to see if we qualify.
3/28/2020 09:01:37 pm
Since event sells out in five seconds on web site - org doesn't care about reaction to strict enforcement of no refunds policy which was announced to everyone. Instead of five seconds to sell out in 2021 it will be 14 seconds.
3/27/2020 08:25:55 pm
Many years ago Burning Man was financially in trouble. That year they offered special tickets at a higher price and if you purchased them you’d get into the event with that ticket in perpetuity. They could offer something like that again. You could get your ticket refunded OR you could let them keep the money for this year AND pay some additional dollars and get a forever ticket. Just a thought.
3/28/2020 06:23:09 am
Hey, Tony. With much love and respect, fuckin really? Much of the point is for us to figure it out, radically. The BORG isn’t some ninny daycare designed to usher a specific experience. Let’s participate and build it out together, eh mate? I’m curious about your expectations for the coming burn. And for the record, next year was better. -clanwitch
3/28/2020 01:14:59 pm
Hardly agree with you, Tony. If we are all going to behave like a community then that is what we are. The ticket refund policy is "no refunds". So, technically having a ticket in your hands and no event is actually your problem. Not mine. "me" being Marian. My position is that we're a community and we need all of us to survive and thrive. So, i am looking at solutions and options that help us all level up in this crisis. I am hoping to set the stage so those that need a full refund get a full refund, and those that can take a partial refund do that, and for those who are generous and understand the work the organization does year round and can afford to support us I would graciously accept their contribution for 2020 operating costs so we can not gut the organization (which is a carefully chosen community of dedicated public servants to the culture) which would make it very hard to bring back in 7-9 months to start for 2021. I don't know if rolling over the ticket as an option works with the other options as well. But, i'm looking all suggestions. The goal for the Project isn't to build Black Rock City. The goal and mission are around helping nurture the culture in Black Rock City and beyond. So, the ticket supports the efforts of the Project. Tony, I do so wish you really had more of the Burning Man spirit of Communal Effort. It's one of the better principles.
3/28/2020 10:00:54 pm
I suggest refocusing the Org on truly supporting the regional network instead of producing BRC is the best path forward.
3/29/2020 04:41:04 pm
Tony has a point, We the community trust you with our funds to run the event. tho pay for the venue, infrastructure and enablement. We trust you to promote, support and cherish art. We do not appreciate even entertaining the 'lets keep the cash and then sell new tickets next year' as a viable plan. Either use (OUR) money to build on next year or refund it. Simple. Whether its legal to keep it and just shut down it's NOT MORAL! The community IS a community and Toni is part of it. SHAME on you for dissing on him. He feels the pain of the possible loss of this annual pilgrimage just like the rest of us, He is worried and angry and has EVERY right to be. I always thought the BMORG is not some CABAL so stop acting just like one for once.
3/30/2020 12:23:53 am
Fuck you Marian. The bullshit irony from you is, once again, waaay too much. That money is the peoples money. With out the honest-money paying participants, along with Larry’s good idea, the Burn, the Borg, yes, even You would be worth jack shit. Having a ticket but no event is your problem, not mine!? Wtf!? Even tho, yes, thats your policy, ever hear of doing the right fucking thing? Some people during this economic crisis could use the money they paid you in good faith before this became a problem that you would deliver the goods. Can’t throw an event because of a pandemic? That’s actually your fucking problem, not one that should be passed to people of whom without their financial input, would not be possible. Hold a fundraiser to make up the windfall after you return all the money and get the rest from your abundance of private donors and obvious off the books investors that have peppered the borgs past. You know, just like everyone else in communal effort. Good luck getting people to give you more money after they feel stolen from. Smart business solution. (Rolls eyes harder than everyone who has ever done drugs out there collectively). You think these people owe you that money if you can’t provide the service even if it is a supposed “act of god”? Bullshit. Straight up shady drug dealers right there. You cunts are no different than the supposed beast you purport to get away from. Way to completely undo the entirety of the communal effort principal you sell so freely while talking so cavalierly about essentially stealing peoples money. No refunds... fuck off. If cash is such a concern, quit writing your entire fucking life off on burning mans expenses. I have been to the burn about as many times as you have, and if this response is really where YOU are at, then communal effort is fucking toast and so is “your” event. Fucking phoneys. Rip to a great idea, 30+ years ago. If this is what it all comes down to, I hope the event does get cancelled and all of you so called mystics are forced to re-examine your shit and go find a fresh idea and find new art. Not my problem we wont give your money back... ha! What an asshole.
3/30/2020 08:44:07 am
While I can't abide by the obscenities, the sentiment expressed above is real. Maid Jackrabbit's gliding through comments describing a $100,000 a month office space without an even passing mention of perhaps this is not a reasonable expense in the first place is very telling of how the folks in charge of Burning Man live their lives.
4/3/2020 03:46:32 pm
What is Burning Man doing to help the nation deal with this pandemic?
4/3/2020 03:49:54 pm
I am sorry to say you all sound like narcissists. What about the global effing pandemic?
4/10/2020 08:36:31 am
Kathleen: No one is saying the Global Pandemic is a small issue or not worth of attention. This discussion is not about that.
3/28/2020 08:56:39 am
I personally have over @1,200.00 out of my pocket right now for 2 Tics and 1 Vehicle pass... If this event is cancelled I want my money refunded including all associated fees. To give me tics for next year is insanity with this killer virus going around I have no clue if I will be walking the Planet next year so much for a promise of next year. BM is a Business... you have to roll with the punches... REFUNDS...YES.... PROMISES... NO.
4/28/2020 12:42:39 pm
Sorry guys they got your money and they ain’t giving it bac
3/28/2020 10:21:09 am
I see in your spreadsheet that many of the figures you used are just guesses. Why are you sharing this info based on inaccurate figures? Very disappointing.
Roy (TheWiz) Trammell
3/28/2020 11:26:16 am
I have 15 years in a row, $1200 DGS down, an eye-watering sum already spent on this year's honorarium project (my second). I hope and expect they will honor my DGS, and honorarium next year. I'll eat the (considerable) interest on the art expenses. I'm building my art at home without the usual volunteer help because I already bought the materials, I seem to have some time on my hands, and the work is therapeutic. If I survive the next few months (I'm 70). I'll find something local to do with the art until BM2021. I can't address how the Org will survive a dead year. We are all struggling through it. I just know I can't throw any more money at it myself. Be safe everyone, stay at home, and whatever gods there be help us.
3/28/2020 12:11:41 pm
One way or another, they'll have to make that call. General sale is in ~ 2 weeks, so not that much time left.
Maid Jackrabbit Marian
3/28/2020 01:27:15 pm
Hi Patches: Since i respect Burn Life and Matt I actually did read this when he sent it to me last night. And, he's not far off the mark. I'm here reading comments and replying. General sale will likely be delayed announcement on Monday. Registration starts on April 1, so we will be announcing the sale, which brings up the refund question which brings up the event happening question. And, we don't have a lot of answers. So we are answering one question at a time based upon the most urgent one in front of us. And, meanwhile looking at contingency planning, managing finances, cutting expenses and salaries and staff, donors etc. OH, and along the way we had to hand over $1.9million to the BLM on March 10th, so we are already managing that relationship. Well, let's say we've been debating with them since October and again in December about a regulation that they've never enforced that would require the companies that we hire to help build our infrastructure to surrender 3% of their gross to the BLM.
3/29/2020 04:48:31 pm
"And, then covid comes along. So, we are fighting the survival from all sides."
3/30/2020 12:06:17 pm
Maid J.M., I so appreciate your view that this situation is opportunity, not just crisis. It’s what I’ve said a hundred times already today. Burning man as a culture can certainly survive and reinvent. People who don’t get that are really missing the point. This virus event is utterly life changing, world changing, and it will take a long time to see all the impacts, but one thing is obvious: it will not be what it was before. I can see many ways this will be good, and way better if we actively plan it to be good. Your perspective matters more than anything. I’m very glad to hear it. All best.
4/9/2020 05:33:42 pm
Thank MJM. You’re navigating a tough set of circumstances, and I’m grateful for your dedication.
3/28/2020 01:53:58 pm
One way to save a few pennies would be to do away with tickets (and ticket vendors, shipping costs, etc.) altogether.
Maid Marian Jackrabbit
3/29/2020 08:47:26 pm
Here is how the ticketing works. We pay the vendor a small fee. Your ticket transaction fee is what they receive. It's a pass through. So, the ticket holders pay the ticket vendor more than we do.
3/28/2020 01:05:27 pm
For some reason (maybe an excess of caffeine) I'm feeling unusually optimistic this morning.
3/28/2020 02:14:08 pm
What about, as some other events did, a voucher of the value of your ticket for the following years. BMP keep this year money, and allocated you a 100$ discount for the next 4 years. Everyones happy.
3/28/2020 02:59:05 pm
Is this a mistake? $2,000,000 per year for office space between SF and Gerlach. I know rent is expensive in San Francisco but 2 million a year sounds like a typo.
3/28/2020 09:24:13 pm
Isn't there office space in Reno as well? And what about storage or container spaces?
3/31/2020 11:09:53 am
What does office space in Gerlach go for? Are there wads of potential high dollar tenants competing for that space?
3/28/2020 03:08:50 pm
Is it feasible to establish the sale of the Fly ranch through shares, with a management company to over see operations?? Say $1000/share @ 10,000 people creates 10 Million dollars in cash. What do I get as a share holder? ability to visit the property (like a timeshare?) or some other value that would be worth it to me, aside from just a $1000 donation with no return. Thoughts???
3/29/2020 03:41:18 pm
This is an interesting and partial resolution to the Org’s dilemma. Something I would consider. I also like the idea that if the event is cancelled, and for those with tickets, could see a reduced rate for future events. Kinda like a pre-payment. Only issue here is that if the event folds, people would be out their initial ‘investment’ which, coincides with the No Refund policy.
Maid Marian Jackrabbit
3/29/2020 08:51:13 pm
You have an interesting idea that we've been toying with. What if the event is cancelled and we do refund tickets or do a partial refund or people donate the whole ticket. What does that say about future events. Is there a credit or opportunity that comes with making a contribution to the now? We can't make refunds NOW as the event is still moving forward, though delaying some activities while we understand the options and gather data. We aren't full steam ahead. We are actually slowing the boat to a crawl while we figure out the many answers being asked.
A lot of the info in this article is inflated. First of all, most businesses suffering from the outbreak are going to get a chunk of the stimulus package. PLUS, every person making less than $99k per year will get $1200 a month for the next three months or their full salary if there are laid off or unable to work. Burning Man could make use of these programs and probably will. If they do and they still dont roll over the tickets to next year, then yes, they are just a bunch of greedy business whores.
3/28/2020 09:29:11 pm
Where did you hear there will be "$1,200 per month for the next three months?" My understanding is that's a 1 time deal. Thx.
Maid Marian Jackrabbit
3/29/2020 08:59:56 pm
Really does amaze me that Burning Man people can speak so unkindly to other Burners. Is it the internet that makes that okay? Rolling over tickets to next year isn't the best option. Refunding is a more sensible option. But, we are not yet cancelled so these are moot points that are both part of scenarios we are considering should we need to cancel.
3/30/2020 03:12:08 pm
Marian, what options are on the Nevada state level? Being we pay an additional 9% fee placed on the event by the state, are there funds allocated from a rainy day fund due to that tax (I’m forgetting the name of the Nevada tax)? If the casinos, who pay the same tax, are getting a bailout, would BM possibly fall under this as well?
3/30/2020 06:34:13 pm
Technically if the event didn’t happen and we don’t get refunded, then we basically just donated to the org. So our purchase should shift to a charitable donation (doesn’t help most folks) and the event tax should no longer apply and should be refunded by the state.
3/30/2020 10:22:35 pm
Calling anyone at bman a "greedy business whore" is obviously not accurate, but bmorg does have a history of looking out for itself first. But lo it now has the opportunity to prove that it CAN treat well the folks who make the event what it is - the folks who receive DGS tickets.
3/31/2020 02:15:19 pm
It’s called the entertainment tax 9%
3/31/2020 02:12:51 pm
Mmmm you got your numbers wrong on the stimulus check. It’s a one time whoop to do
3/28/2020 04:33:43 pm
I've seen the suggestion before but what about if instead of a refunds the 2020 DGS sales are basically credits / discounts for future events for those who would take that option. This would allow the org a lot more flexibility since they could also compensate when setting future ticket prices.
Maid Marian Jackrabbit
3/29/2020 09:01:10 pm
can you tell me more about how you would see that work? If you spent 1000$ now for 2 tickets, what does that go for in "future events" plural?
3/29/2020 11:38:22 pm
If the event cannot happen in 2020, I would be happy to see the money I've already spent on tickets rolled forward as three equal credits over the next three years, towards the guaranteed ability to purchase 2 tix + vehicle pass/year. Think of it as a pre-DGS. This would satisfy multiple concerns:
3/30/2020 03:45:01 pm
I agree with Matt’s solution here and almost everyone we burn with agree. Being able to use credit towards a guaranteed ticket over the following 3-5 years is not only investing the health and viability of the Burn, but an investment into ourselves and the community.
3/31/2020 10:51:36 am
Marian, thanks for all that you do, I can't imagine the world without burning man. If I don't get a full refund, I'll survive. I like Matt's idea and was thinking of something similar: people have the option to get a refund, but if they choose to hold on to their tickets, they will roll over to next year, which guarantees that they get to pay this year's price, and that prices next year will increase by a good amount.
3/31/2020 02:33:19 pm
I really like this option (3 years in 5, not 3 years in a row, everyone may have a serious reason to skip a year.)
3/28/2020 04:34:13 pm
I am just trying to figure out how office space rent in both SF and Gerlach equals 2 million a year. Am I missing something? So could all these costs they are reporting on the above mentioned form be exaggerated, therefore maybe they do have enough money to refund all of us our DGS and car passes. I admittedly am not a math wiz, but even if they are paying 40k a month let’s say on rent and utilities in SF and let’s say a generous 5k a month for Gerlach, that does not add up to 2 million. Something in my gut tells me they have the money to refund us.
3/28/2020 05:06:43 pm
That's what I don't get. This must be a typo, unless the org is personally paying for the apartments of several employees and treating it as office space. That's an insane amount of money.
Maid Marian JackRabbit
3/29/2020 09:10:25 pm
SF office space is $100,000 month for 25,000 square feet for 128 employees. Which of course we aren't using right now which has me wanting to pack it all up and put it somewhere. Then there are utilities and insurance.
4/5/2020 11:58:51 am
Lay off 50 employees for six months. Those that stay take a 50 percent paycut for six months. Vacate expensive real estate. Move to a cheaper location like Richmond. Problem solved.
4/5/2020 11:53:54 am
You can buy a mansion and ten acres land in gerlach for 5k a month. Vastly overpaying on all of it. And don’t need to be in San Fran. Can be in a cheap suburb. They have been overspending for years.
3/28/2020 05:55:54 pm
I agree that BM needs to find a way to make this right. As a theme camp organizer I have paid for 8 tickets as is usual since some of my core set up crew can not afford to pay for tickets in February. The single camp members on my crew are required to purchase both their tickets and I pay them for the second ticket. I don't require my campers to pay me until the tickets have been delivered and I can ship them out to them. This gives crew members a good five months to put the funds together. I will be done if I have to eat the cost this year.
3/31/2020 02:42:53 pm
Oh, I was wondering why nobody is raising the question of the camp leads' situation and here it is. I do believe that a no refunds decision would cost us most of camps. Too many leads would lose more than they can afford.
3/31/2020 07:22:19 pm
1. There is no conceivable reason for the BMOrg to lease 25,000 square feet of office space in San Francisco, the most expensive place in the country. Burning Man is not held in San Francisco. It's not even held in the same State. There are MANY cheaper alternatives. This possibility should have been explored long before the current crisis. I'm feeling like maybe the org has not been the best steward of our money. They had so much they just didn't have to care. And everyone thinks working in San Francisco is groovy.
3/28/2020 09:52:14 pm
I have not seen anyone else point out the obvious: despite the joy and positive experience most of us get from the privilege of being citizens of Black Rock City....
3/28/2020 11:25:28 pm
I have no doubt that the species H. sapiens will survive this virus; after all we've been evolving together for a long time. Hominids and viruses were made for each other, so to speak.
3/28/2020 10:46:38 pm
Gawd there must be a rich Burner who can float a year operating costs who actually DOESN'T demand a board seat or any damn thing in return. There are so many Burners for whom $20 million can be their annual charitable giving...
3/28/2020 11:12:29 pm
3/28/2020 11:32:07 pm
It was very quick and easy for them to raise the money for fly ranch. There is more money squirmed away. They treat the volunteers like shit I know because I am one. Volunteering at Burningman cost me my vision.
3/29/2020 02:14:24 am
Too many people will pass. 2020 will always be remembered for what is about to happen. This is the time where the ten principles can make a difference in the lives of people worldwide. Burning Man was never just an event, it is a social experiment where humans value each other for everything, the way it should be. We need that to spread. For an event where money does not work anymore, the BMorg makes it about money. Walk the talk.
3/29/2020 05:29:40 am
I ran a non-profit that had to cancel its annual convention in 2001. It was scheduled to open on 9/12/2001. So I appreciate the analysis provided. Not refunding or roiling over DGS and FOMO tickets would kill Burning Man. Making these ticket holders eat the cost or floating a one year loan to keep the doors open is unconscionable. With some 70,000 plus who would like to see the Burn survive until 2021, we could run one Hell of a kick-starter campaign. Raising 10 plus million should be very doable. If the vast community of burners wouldn’t turn out to provide the support, it’s time for Burning Man to die.
3/29/2020 06:13:23 am
3/29/2020 07:14:43 am
Using the multi verse idea.
3/29/2020 10:13:44 am
Either way they should make a decision before main sale this week. I do not think it is fair at this point to sell additional tickets without a plan and transparency
3/29/2020 10:20:54 am
Could they sell FOMO tickets for 2022 at sky-high prices this year? I would buy a couple. Everyone will be vaccinated by 2022, and people coming from other countries would have time to plan cheaper travel and logistics buying those a year in advance.
3/29/2020 10:36:00 am
They could create a Bman etsy's type platform to sell schwag items, necklaces, paint rocks, clay, metal, wood.
3/29/2020 12:26:31 pm
BULLSHIT 40% + of the money collected from ticket sales go to salary, why not layoff like everyone else is and ask the Gov for a loan like everyone else is and feel the pinch like everyone else is. ORG is not special and should not ask the ticket holders to treat them special.
3/29/2020 01:29:49 pm
I find it very odd that almost all of the comments are related to money in one way or another.
3/29/2020 01:42:45 pm
Disappointed to see that the decision on whether or not to cancel seems to be more about money and the “survival” of the organization rather than social responsibility and concern for spreading infection. Even if the disease tapers off by early summer, there’s nothing that guarantees a massive congregation of people from around the world won’t trigger a resurgence. Right now there are 8 genetically different forms of COVID out there, cross immunity is not guaranteed. A social experiment indeed. One thing is for sure if further outbreak can be linked to BM, it’s done. Period.
3/29/2020 05:09:31 pm
Come on BMORG
3/29/2020 05:24:44 pm
I really think that BMORG should only limit the festival in 2020 to USA domestic based burners. No international burners can attend period. If you can show proof that you live within the United States than you can attend. Sorry but most of the Burningman man attendees are from California and Washington states. Kind of like in the old days prior to 2005. Just a thought. Also, should provide documentation of COVID-19 virus neg. test upon entry along with medical insurance liability. Sounds kind of harsh but throwing it out there my fellow burners.
3/29/2020 05:27:37 pm
"Kind of like in the old days prior to 2005. " BS in '96 we had international exposure and have had a large component since. all this would do is make it more exclusive and still risky for those attending. we rreally don't even know if the virus il be in check by then (I doub't it)
3/29/2020 05:46:40 pm
I don’t normally vent in public, this time however I think I will.
3/29/2020 05:51:08 pm
So in summary, I am sick and tired of wondering what the burning man gods will do to me next, I will donate my tickets to them this year, if they don’t start acting responsibly, open, and fair, I will deprive them of much more than my $1500, I will deprive them of my experience, by not being a leader and not teaching the 10 principals, and not keeping my camp on track, and not being a good will ambassador for them. In the military the enlisted keep it going, at BM the Theme Camps make it happen for the entire event. Piss off enough of the Theme Camps and let the new camps scam your tickets and you will become just another festival, with sponsors and advertising, oh, and you can put the trash collection sites at the port-a-potty locations.
3/29/2020 05:52:36 pm
I think, according to BM Census 80% of attendees are from the West Coast. But who knows. Working Will Call Box Office for the last 15 years I’ve seen more and more international burners. Hopefully even a virus vaccine by then. Just food for thought!
3/29/2020 05:56:58 pm
Does BLM drive the ultimate decision to cancel the event since BM takes place on their land? Since they reap a financial benefit, isn't it in their best interest to keep stringing everyone along, to keep selling tickets until Covid becomes so bad, they are forced to cancel but not before BLM and their associates get their non refundable down payments and upfront fees for services? As long as BLM says its a go, BM will continue to sell tickets, right? If BM chooses to cancel, I'd think BLM would also impose a fee if not already included in a contract for cancelling.
3/29/2020 06:01:39 pm
Keep. Me posted. Love the Burn
3/29/2020 07:17:05 pm
I was dismayed to see the March 20 post on the Burning Man web site, in discussing the refund issue, say: “Our terms and conditions state that tickets are non-refundable ‘for any reason.’” This is a decidedly default world response to a question that implicates values more than law. Reading the comments here and Marian's responses, I'm again disappointed by the reliance on the "no refunds" legal disclaimer. This legal hook from the default world is not the right guide to a good result. I suggest that deeper values, like love, trust, and honor, should guide the decisions that must be made.
3/29/2020 08:11:27 pm
They could eliminate ticket handling fees by making them all digital. You buy a ticket and get a pdf. Your serial number is recorded. If you sell it it is updated on the website with the new person;s identity. There are so many ways to avoid the fees with tickets, yet bmorg refuses to look at them. A facsimile of your ticket is included with your sticker in the package you receive at greeters. We live in an electronic age, act like it.
3/29/2020 08:17:12 pm
It seems to me that Burning Man, doesn’t have a way for long time burners, those of us that have been in camps building, keeping the 10 principals alive, have a way to get a ticket, unless we are still key members of a theme camp. We can’t retire or even slow down.
4/9/2020 12:31:18 pm
Unfortunately I think ticket sales are much more complicated than this. Some performing artists have fought ticket fees for processing/shipping/electronic for years and have been unsuccessful. For example, Pearl Jam. Granted, technology has come a long way since Pearl Jam was fighting that, but I believe a lot of the same barriers still exist.
3/29/2020 08:48:49 pm
I would be happy to buy a ticket this year if this guaranteed my purchase for next year. The playa has always provided for my group, the least I could do is give back!
If you offered me a guaranteed slot in the general ticket sale for 2021 and 2022 I would agree to buy tickets for 2020 at the regular price even though I understand there is a good chance the event will cancel. I'm effectively paying $500 to guarantee me tickets the next 2 years. You get the revenue needed for this year. I get to rescue the event AND make sure I have no ticket hassle for the next 2 years. Boom. Problem solved. Drops mic and walks away
3/30/2020 11:35:56 am
As a camp lead I had to cover the cost of many of our DGS tickets personally, with the assurance that I would be reimbursed closer to the event by both our crew, and through camp dues for select tickets (person transporting our trailer gets gifted a ticket covered by camp dues, etc). I am currently out of pocket over $4,000. One of my co-leads is in the same situation. We are not wealthy people that can afford this huge hit - we are only able to cover these expenses when trying to bridge a few months of time. I understand the difficult position the org is in, but not at least partially refunding or carrying forward the tickets to a future year can be completely devastating to leads like us.
3/30/2020 12:25:31 pm
I do think the org should offer the option for a refund for all tickets already purchased as a sign of good will. We're in the midst of a global pandemic and a lot of people will be needing that money for survival.
3/30/2020 02:58:46 pm
I think that at this point, the reason there are so many aggressive comments and opinions, is that the DGS sale primarily affected people who work their ass off for this event. The survival of BM and the year round operation, is absolutely something that long time cultural contributors are vested in. But with the notion that the option is A. Full Refund, or B. No Refund - that's a bit simplified, and as always, we hear the people who shout the loudest, or take the time to rant. (Ranting, and discussions shouldn't be discredited, but its a small cross section of our entire global community.)
3/30/2020 03:31:01 pm
It would be a good opportunity to reduce the size of Burning Man (finally), at least temporarily. Make it 20,000 people max this year. Get all the fundamentals back in place, de-commodify, and adhere strongly to the principles. A wonderful chance to reset and show the world how it should be. Since there is no refund and no Force Majeure clause, just put Burning Man on this year, with a much smaller staff and smaller crowd. Ask for donations from the world wide community to help BM restructure to emerge from this whole and viable. My two cents.
3/30/2020 05:01:19 pm
As I read all the remarks i honestly cannot believe that BM has not already cancelled the event. I have been going since 1999 and with COVID 19 it seems implausible that the BML would issue a permit for BM this year. BM has no running water, has only portable toilets for most people, people are gathering , touching, hugging, etc. It is the perfect spot for an outbreak and then they leave and travel throughout the world possibly spreading the virus.
3/30/2020 05:24:28 pm
How about cutting costs starting at the top:
3/30/2020 11:06:11 pm
It seems like there's a solution from the world of professional sportsball (shudder): personal seat licenses. PSLs (not to be confused with pumpkin spice lattes) give the buyer the first right to purchase tickets for that seat when an event is held in the stadium.
3/31/2020 12:06:58 pm
It is ludicrous to have their most dedicated participants fund this disaster in whole while many have lost their jobs and are starving. Sell ALL the tickets and then cancel and give partial refunds back to everyone. Why should the people that were going to BUILD THE CITY be penalized, and at HUGE proportions, while all of the rest of the would-be participants get off scott free. It's ridiculous and will create so much bad faith that I doubt the burn would survive. This will be my 21st burn in a row and if i'm now going to be out of pocket THOUSANDS of dollars, I will never, ever be back because the entire ethos that is/was Burning Man will be ruined.
4/4/2020 04:05:55 pm
that is indeed spot on.
4/2/2020 09:57:36 am
Thanks for all you do Marian.
4/2/2020 04:51:01 pm
If the event is cancelled,what if the BMorg opened up Fly Ranch for a smaller-scale event, when feasible, to DGS ticket holders? Perhaps they could sell additional tickets to group members who didn't get DGS.
4/3/2020 10:22:45 pm
I'm confused about the calculation for "Payroll, Benefits, Taxes" -- your methodology states it was 125 workers * 70K + 16% = 16M
4/4/2020 12:21:08 pm
Writing this therapy for me, lots of emotion in this string, I am going to keep this factual and then will slide into a more emotional perspective.
4/5/2020 10:12:34 am
Hopefully you are already considering doing the below:
4/6/2020 01:26:23 pm
My suggestion, emailed to Marian, if you [optionally] donated your DGS ticket, you get a guaranteed option-to-buy next year (& perhaps that option doesn't expire for a few years, until you use it)?
4/7/2020 06:45:29 am
LOL, I can see both sides of the coin, but I'm not sure which side you're landing on :P
4/6/2020 01:37:55 pm
Let's just not cancel Burning Man 2020!
4/10/2020 09:10:48 am
I really do not see who that is gonna work. The risk on the assumption it MIGHT get better in stark contrast to what the CDC or WHO recommended? You are basically betting Lives in that gamble.
4/8/2020 10:07:43 am
Wow, a lot of strong views and opinions here. Accusations about cultural hypocrisy seem to be only going one way, (from the entitled ticket purchasers) and directed at the people who work year round to keep Burning Man alive and interesting. To me there is a certain irony in that... the pot calling the kettle black.
4/12/2020 10:07:41 am
Your numbers are a bit of a reach.
4/12/2020 12:51:23 pm
OK, so now there's no bman 2020! Can't say I'm surprised. On blanace I'm not sad either. I'll miss the event, but I've been thinking that BMORG has needed a hard reset for years. It has become lazy about being frugal because… it doesn’t have to be! No matter what it spends money on, all it’s had to do is raise ticket prices a bit. People might complain, but they will eagerly queue up to buy all the tickets in 13 seconds anyway.
4/15/2020 09:06:26 am
>I want to see the office expenses cut to near zero.
4/16/2020 12:51:24 pm
" I want to see the office expenses cut to near zero. I want to see the payroll cut by something like 90%. I want to see individual salaries cut by 50%"
FlyGuy (aka John Koenig
4/16/2020 12:26:58 pm
1: this is a LONG thread and, I have not read every post.
4/16/2020 10:39:22 pm
I read through this article and my take is - horse dribble. Granted, I've been working 13 hour days for the past month keeping my business alive, so I'm a bit tired and cranky, but for love of all that is holy ....
So much this. Delaying refunds for a few weeks so you can build infrastructure that encourages people to donate to you first in a pandemic where millions of people have lost there jobs is a level of out of touch only BMOrg could manage.
4/17/2020 11:27:45 pm
Having seen the plan for the refunds, I'm pretty horrified. Anyone who bought two DGS tickets will be out $89, and this money won't go to help the org, it will go to the ticket vendor (who didn't mail any tickets) and the credit card companies. Wouldn't it be far better to either:
>Give every 2020 ticket buyer the option of rolling them over to 2021?
Comments are closed.
I'm Dr. Yes. I run this site, lead a theme camp called Friendgasm, and make Burning Man videos. Just say yes, folks, and help keep Burning Man weird!