Friday, September 25, 2015

9/25/15 Burning Man Article
by Dan Kolber
Post No. 3,320

The following article appears in the September 25 - October 1, 2015 issue of Atlanta Business Chronicle page 35A.  It is also available at but the entire article is only available for subscribers. All rights reserved.


LEGAL STRATEGIES     Dan Kolber is an Atlanta attorney and owner of  Intellivest Securities Research Inc.

Ten business lessons learned from the recent Burning Man festival

I went to Burning Man this month, joining a sold-out crowd of 70,000 people who paid $390 to spend the week before Labor Day in the Black Rock Desert near Reno, Nev., where temperatures ranged from 38 to 105 degrees.  Burning Man is an art festival of sorts but it is also the world's biggest week-long party.

My bus from Reno was stuck in a 60-mile traffic jam but was able to bypass the main entrance gate on opening day.  No. 3 of the event's Ten Principles is "radical self-reliance" so only tea, coffee, lemonade and ice are sold at Burning Man, but no water.  I schlepped in 10 gallons of water, my tiny tent, a bike and food.

On the second day I biked out a mile to the main entrance gate to see why it took so long to enter.  Here's why:  Everyone was ordered to leave their vehicle while it was searched for trespassers. I thought this police action and lack of trust inconsistent with Principle No. 7 -"Civic Responsibility" and said so to one of the supervisors at the gate.

"Why are you asking so many questions?" she asked me.

"I'm thinking of writing a column for my local business newspaper," I said.

"So you're a journalist!" she snapped.

"I guess you could say that," I said proudly.

"Then you must leave this area immediately and report to the Media Mecca at Center Camp so they can register you," she said.

More blah, blah from her at which point I sort of lost it and siad the "F" word as in: "Sounds a bit fascist to me."

Fearing ejection, I retreated to the main camp, where I found a sympathetic ear from two of the minds behind the Black Rock Beacon, the "Black Rock City's saltiest independent newspaper."  Mitchell A. Martin, who in the "default world" is an editor for Bloomberg News, and Ron "Rockstar" Garmon, former arts editor for L.A. CitiBeat.

Here atre 10 business lessons I learned from Burning Man:

1.  A good product needs no marketing or advertising.  Burning Man has sold out the past five years and does neither.

2.  The U.S. government can be a good business partner.  Burning Man operates pursuant to a lease and permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Manageement.  According to The Beacon, 3 percent of the gross ticket sales goes to the BLM.

3.  The use of a not-for-profit structure can be a good public relations ploy but means very little in terms of giving up control or economic benefits.  Although claiming to be nonprofit, individuals still own the real value of Burning Man - its intellectual property.

4.  Ticket prices can be secretly manipulated via the Internet.  While condemning scalping, an event organizer could sell tickets at inflated prices via consolidators.

5.  Increasingly, the value of a company will be in the brand and not a particular product.  Buring Man will need to adapt in order to survivie.

6.  Increasingly, consuermers are expecting goods and services to have a societal benefit.  Part of Burning Man's success is its aiblity to build a community through its Ten Principles.

7.  Increasingly, hierarchical structrures are being flattened.  Despite my confronation with an authority figure at Burning Man, others in power there openly shared my  belief that there shold be transparency at the event.

8.  Burning Man is a great place to plug into the language and ideas of some of the best minds of global movers and shakers.

9.  Buring Man is a great place to network for clients and jobs.

10.  If you really want to get off the grid and recharge your creative juices, attend Burning Man soon.  The founder, Larry Harvey, according to The Beacon, intends to find a new venue.