Will Burning Man Even Be On the Playa Next Year?

Article by: Laura Mason|@masonlazarus

Tue August 18, 2015 | 00:00 AM

Would Burning Man be the same if it migrated to a new locale? In a new episode of Positive Head, host Brandon Beachum speaks to one of Burning Man's founding board members, Marian Goodell. In it, she hints that the infamous lawsuit with Pershing County, Nevada in 2013 did not help to ensure Burning Man's future in Black Rock City. Listen here.

Now, we know that Burning Man didn't always take place in Black Rock City (it originated on the shores of Baker Beach in San Francisco in 1986), but it's tough to imagine our next Burn without the iconic playa under our feet, or that sweet alkaline dust gracing every pore on our bodies.

Beachum specifically asks about the challenges organizers face when doing Burning Man, which unfolds into a heady discussion about the future of the event. Goodell mentions issues like government relations (explaining to the Feds and local Nevada officials what Burning Man's celebratory and experimental intentions are), dealing with evolution of the types of people coming to Burning Man (the arrival of the tech community, of foreigners, of affluent individuals), the issue of paid workers, law enforcement, the rumor that Burning Man is against EDM, entering and exiting the event, regional Burns, a long-term, permanent center for people to learn about Burning Man, and more.

Right around the 46-minute mark, Beachum brings up the rumors of Burning Man either shutting down or relocating:

"The biggest danger right now to Burning Man is that the state of Nevada has levied an entertainment tax and we still believe that we don't fit under a form of entertainment," says Goodell. "We're not a Las Vegas show and we're not a car race or concert in a stadium. So we're not happy about what's basically a 9% tax that's going to happen on every person's ticket. We're not able to absorb that. We don't have enough breathing room in our budget to do that. So that's the thing right now that makes us look longingly towards Utah or any other state that might not have levied that. That's the thing that's putting us in the most danger at the moment. We have worked with the Bureau of Land Management to iron out some things from this year...we were on opposite sides of some issues leading into the summer, and their approach was to put another million dollars on top of what it cost us last year."

When talking about regional Burns, Goodell continues, "We're running out of space on the Black Rock desert, so we're doing everything we can" to nurture regional Burns.

And, right above the 1-hour mark, Goodell brings up the intriguing possibility of Burning Man's first permanent structure beyond its office in San Francisco: "For the long-term survival of the culture, we are going to need a physical space...We will, as time goes by, find it hard to only be in the Black Rock Desert. We may need to find a place that would allow for infrastructure. I'm certain that's in our future."

Whatever happens, it likely won't occur overnight. Will you miss the playa if Burning Man were to migrate?