The Best in Festivals & Conferences: Burning Man


Final Chapter – Burning Man

I had to keep Burning Man for the last post…I haven’t been YET but I must. I’ll try to summarize it as best as I can but as the organizers say themselves: “Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind”

The event started as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice in the 80s in San Francisco where a few people burned a giant wooden structure in the form of a man. Therefore Burning Man…From 1986 to 1994, it was a free gathering promoting arts mostly. In 1995 they began charging for the event and it went from 35$ (4000 participants) to $420 with 52000 participants (in 2012).

Burning Man is music festival yes, but as I’ve been explaining in other posts, this one is another clear example of how some of the most popular music festivals are branding themselves as an experience, a vacation, or a unique community. I hate to say branding ‘cause it sounds so fake but it is in some way, even if their roots, history and traditions are legitimate.

On the artist side, Burning Man is an amazing opportunity for artists to get exposure and grow their fan base. Mostly electronic music is played and it is a great opportunity for up-and-coming DJs to get heard. In fact Burning Man helped a couple DJs such as BassNectar to kickstart their career.

On the festival experience side, Burning Man nails it. The conditions are harsh but all the traditions, the people and the music create a unique experience for festival goers. Each and everyone attending Burning Man is encouraged to participate in the festival and has an important value in the community. Burning Man also developed a strong culture based on 10 core values: inclusion & respect of everyone, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy. In fact, no cash transactions are permitted between attendees. Cash can only be used for a select few charity, fuel and sanitation vendors.

So to conclude, as I been describing in my posts, music festivals are now becoming more of an excuse to detach yourself from reality and join a fantastic, utopian world, based on different values and rules. But isn’t the main focus supposed to be on the artists? Are artists and music simply becoming an excuse to gather like-minded individuals and create communities? And even if it is the case, does it really matter?

6 thoughts on “The Best in Festivals & Conferences: Burning Man

  1. No i think he is saying Yes he does want to go.

    I have been to ‘the burn’ for the past two years and it is incredible. Upon arriving and waiting in the long line of fellow burners, you are welcomed by many with open arms and the usual ‘welcome home’ which puts a big smile on your face. I fully agree with the statement that it is incredibly hard to explain the experience in words, you just have to go their and see it for yourself, f’real.

    One cool fact is that it actually started as burning a women, burning Patricia to be exact – the x-wife of one of the founders, Larry Harvey. The idea was to burn a wooden statue of her, but then once it moved to the desert, they decided to make it burning ‘man’ because otherwise no women would want to show up. But when the women think about burning a man, they are like, “Yea, fuck it, burn em’!” From that point forward, the rest is history which I highly recommend you check out at least once in your life.

    • I think it is also interesting to note that some of the most affluent people in the world attend every year. It is something that many, especially where i’m from in uptight New England, look forward to, almost live for. It gives them something that fuels them to do good, and they never try to explain it, they just take it with them.

      • The founders of Google attended that festival before making bigger decisions on the company few years ago. The spiritual meaning os what really started this “desert festivity”. I was gonna attend this year but the plane few directly to Spain instead!!

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