In a new era of double-weekend extravaganzas, of-the-minute EDM rockstars and insanely overpopulated venues, the quality of the music festival circuit is always in question, even as it continues to expand. Those of us spending hundreds of dollars due to ever-increasing ticket prices are often underwhelmed by the lack of sound quality, set cancellations and bro-ification of the crowds that come to these increasingly popular events we cover every year. Though Burning Man is certainly not immune to these hazards of growth, there's plenty of ways that the mother of scorching outdoor festivals continues to keep the quality control high as we return every year to party our asses off. In light of all this, here's our list of the five things EDM festivals can still learn from Burning Man.
5. Leave No Trace
Like with any major concert or event, trash is always one of the biggest complaints by nearby residents and venue holders. The Burning Man community puts a large emphasis on respecting the environment and is actually committed to leaving no physical trace of their event. After 10 days on the playa, the temporary metropolis packs up in moving trucks and RVs and vanishes like it never existed. Granted the “Leave No Trace” mantra has seemed to be forgotten in recent years, but this is mostly due to the typical music festival goers attending without any regard to the burner principles. If everyone was more conscious to pick up after themselves and pick up trash as they see it, these events would be a much cleaner enjoyable place for everyone.
4. Emphasis on Art
We know several art installations mostly those hailing from Burning Man have already made their way to Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival, but Burning Man promotes interactive public art far beyond their yearly event. Through the Black Rock Arts Foundation, they focus on community art at regional events all year long. The artist participating at Burning Man who are largely funded by the organization work all year to create innovative sculptures, installations, performances, theme camps, art carts and costumes that keep the playa spirit alive. Imagine riding around in your own art cart through Coachella like the Do Lab people (who are also burners). Giving attendees a chance to participate whether through work or play with art is what makes Burning Man so unique.
3. No Headliners
No one really goes to the burn for specific artist like they do at other festivals. Of course burners care about the music, but the name of the DJ playing it isn't all that relevant for the most part. And with so much incredible electronic music playing 24 hours a day for a week, it's nearly impossible to keep track of all the world renowned artists you're bound to hear. The result is an atmosphere where people aren't facing the stage the entire time snapping pictures and videos of the DJ. Instead they are dancing, making friends, feeling the music and having a dammed good time without being squished by barricades. Even when Major Lazer hopped onstage for a surprise set at 3 a.m. on Friday morning, there was still ample room to dance–unlike their Coachella set at the Mojave tent this year, where getting anywhere close to the action was basically a fight for your life.
2. Free Water and Drinks
We get that Black Rock City is an experimental community where you can't buy or sell anything. But how freaking cool is it that every camp, stage and party you go to at Burning Man gives you free drinks at the bar? Can't they come up with some sort of package at other major festivals that includes drinks–not just alcoholic ones. $10 for a beer and $5 for a water bottle is starting to get a little ridiculous. Especially since safety is such a big issue at these things. We like that Insomniac has free water refill stations, but there's got to be a way to include other beverages or food with the cost of a ticket (which is about an arm and a leg these days).
1. Respect and Responsibility
The biggest thing we've noticed missing at major EDM festivals today is respect and responsibility. Isn't that what P.L.U.R. (peace, love, unity, and respect) is all about? Yet everywhere you go these days people are pushing and shoving through crowds. Vandalizing and causing a scene or in recent cases like at Electric Zoo Labor Day Weekend abusing drugs and their bodies. How is it that Black Rock City can have 68,000 inhabitants and you don't hear stories like this? Everyone is responsible for their own public welfare and most importantly respectful to their fellow burners. They respect their safety, personal boundaries and even sound measures. Burning Man proves to be a place where thousands of people actually care more about other people and the environment than they do themselves, something attendees in the rave scene could really learn from.