[The following post is by TDV Research Analyst, Justin O'Connell]
Burning Man, in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, attracts more than 60,000 so-called “burners” annually. The event, which revolves around community and art, has 10 main principles, such as “radical inclusion”, “radical self-expression”, “radical self-reliance”, gifting and decommodification. In recent years, Burning Man has come under pressure from Nevada laws, taxes, and federal Bureau of Land Management scrutiny and exorbitant fees. “The end of Black Rock City as we know it,” lamented one Burner on Facebook. Things in Nevada have grown so bad that Burning Man is considering a move to Utah.
For years now BLM has increased Burning Man’s fees to use the public land on which Black Rock City – the temporary community at the heart of Burning Man – takes place annually. As Burners point out, the event takes place on public land, for public use, and the event has not increased in size due to BLM regulations. Yet, costs imposed upon Burning Man have increased each year:
BLM fees from Burning Man
2012: $1.4 million
2013: $2.9 million
2014: $4 million
2015: About $5 million.
The BLM does this while capping the number of Burning Man goers at 68,000, limiting the event's ability to grow. BLM has increased fees levied on Burning Man so they could enjoy a so-called “VIP-Compound” two miles from the playa. Some of the 2015 demands by the BLM:
- Flushable toilets and sinks.
- On-demand running hot water.
- Three hot meals a day, with things like burgers, chicken fingers, quesadillas, and more available between meals.
- 24 hour service bar that must include, among other things, Chobani Greek Yogurt, protein bars, brownies, Hot Pockets, personal pizzas, burritos, noodle cups, cookies, jerky, Skittles, licorice, Payday bars, Snickers bars, M&Ms.
- 24 hour standalone freezer for ice cream that must be stocked with: Drumsticks, Choco Tacos, Individual served ice cream – assorted flavors, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches
- A salad bar for both lunches and dinners that contains a minimum of five salad toppings, mixed greens with at least three types of leafy vegetables, three types of salad dressings, and three ‘salad condiments.’
- Meal suggestions include things like prime rib, t-bone steaks, roasted pork tenderloin, and so on.
BLM agent Dan Love, in charge of the Winnemucca office where Burning Man takes place, is seen by many Burners as a corrupt figure. Nevada Senator Harry Reid has shared his thoughts on Burning Man. Nonetheless, the BLM is not Burning Man’s biggest threat. Nevada State entertainment taxes are hitting Burning Man hard.
“The biggest danger facing Burning Man right now is that the State of Nevada has levied an entertainment tax,” Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell Brandon Beachum of the Positive Head Podcast. “We still believe that we don't fit under a form of entertainment. Frankly, we're not a Las Vegas show. We're not a car race or a concert in a stadium.”
According to Goodell, the so-called Silver State levies a 9% entertainment tax on the Burning Man project. “We're not able to absorb that,” she said, before lamenting, “That's the thing right now that makes us look longingly towards Utah or any other state that might not have levied that.”
The Burning Man community has ideas for how to overcome the issues they face in Nevada. Many are suggesting a permanent structure elsewhere in the US. Others are suggesting moving the event to an area west of Casa Grande Arizona between Phoenix and Tucson. They could get out of the US.
“I’m kinda tired of Nevada and the BLM. Less cops, more art,” said one Burner.
[Editor's Note: The problems faced by Burning Man are problems faced by all Americans. The Dollar Vigilante is on the cutting edge of preparing individuals and organizations like Burning Man to prosper financially and politically in the years and decades to come. To learn more about how The Dollar Vigilante can help you, click here.]