2019 AFTER BURN REPORT
Introduction and Thanks
NYC Decom 2019 was a success! The first all ages large scale NYC Decom in a decade. We would like to thank everyone for their participation. We are honored the theme camps involved brought their A game and the leads and volunteers were exceptional.
Eclosion meaning to hatch, or emerge from a cocoon was a play on Burning Man’s 2019 theme of Metamorphosis.
LEO, Sound Complaints, Reported Injuries
We are proud to report that we had no issues with law enforcement, no sound complaints, and no reported injuries! The venue was elated and surprised with our efficiency and our leaving no trace.
Venue, Capacity & Contract
New York City is a large community, with a varied population of participants. After 2018’s resurrection of Decom in a 1,250 person venue, we received complaints that we were not “radically inclusive” due to the small capacity and adult only admission. Therefore we spent months seeking a venue that would accommodate at least 3,000 participants, be all ages inclusive, allow fire art, provide multiple days for set up and breakdown with a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces.
In July 2019, a venue named The Knockdown Center with a capacity of 3,100 began contract talks with Stefan Spins who led the negotiations for the date of September 28th. Stefan chose to take a path that was untraditional, adventurous and financially risky. Backed by Participatory Safety, the non-profit that has fiscally sponsored Decompression for the last 2 years, Stefan agreed to give the venue a bar guarantee of $60,000 in return for Decom receiving the full income from ticket sales. The plan was to not have it be necessary to make the full bar guarantee by making up the cost in ticket sales. The budget for the event was set at $60,000. It was originally estimated that Decompression would have to sell 2,609 tickets to break even, and that any drinks sold at the bar would be our profit. As late as August 22nd, a few days before Burning Man, the producers were debating whether it was worth it to move forward with the time, effort, and risk to make this deal happen. Announcements went out the next day.
After negative feedback from 2018’s tiered ticketing system we instituted a price of $50 (which included over $4 in credit card and ticketing fees which we absorbed) for every ticket. On our first day (Sept 10th), we sold only 403 tickets, and a week later (Sept 17) still only 716. Without tiers, and with a larger venue, people felt they did not need to buy tickets early. We were a little concerned, and this was compounded by online accusations of impropriety, and people asking to know, “Why does it cost so much?”. Instead of trying to answer an onslaught of online questions, we decided to address concerns in person at New York Burning Man community events; Container unload, and two Burning Man Happy Hours.
A week later, Sept 24th, with 4 days to go, we had sold only 1045 tickets. The future of Decom looked bleak. Losing money would likely slow down our plans to create a non-profit, and severely limit our ability to throw future events. Meanwhile, a small but vocal minority was still throwing shade online.
In order to promote ticket sales, (1) we decided to offer a free drink to anyone that showed up before 8pm. We likely weren’t going to make our bar guarantee, so we felt it was best to give these drinks away in an attempt to get people to the venue earlier, and to encourage participants to purchase additional drinks. (2) We decided to notify everyone that tickets would be rising to $60 on the day of the event, Sept 28th, hoping that would encourage more advance ticket sales. (3) We asked the community to invite people to the Facebook event and notify their friends about Decom.
As of Friday morning, Decompression had only sold 1446 tickets. The producers had accepted that the event was going to lose money. It was an unfortunate reality but “worth it” to bring the community together. While we had hoped to sell out, the truth was our community had not created an event of this size in over a decade, and we were competing with “Burner adjacent” events that were now a part of regular New York nightlife.
However, excellent weather, additional in kind promotion, and positive daytime buzz from the all-ages portion of our event, allowed us to sell almost 500 tickets on the day of the event, bringing our total paid attendance to 1915.
The bar performed better than expected. The Knockdown Center reported net bar proceeds of $48,130.05 (which included the drinks we gifted) our total cost for Decompression was slightly below our expected budget. And, we made some additional income by increasing the ticket price on the day of the event. All those factors lead to a profit of $35,138.66. However, rain or cold weather easily could have changed last minute attendance, and caused us to lose money.
Decom awarded over $21,000 in grants to participating art projects. Our art grants were directed to theme camps to fund their spaces, art installations and other programming.
New York’s 2019 Decompression has profited $35,138.66. 10% will be donated to the Burning Man Project to further support their mission. We plan to use the remaining funds for administration costs (such as legal & application fees for setting up a 501c3) that would allow us to continue to have a long term benefit on the community. We are currently in talks with the law firm Reed Smith, LLP to finalize our paperwork. And, a capital fund will be created to facilitate the production of next year's events.
50% of the remaining funds from 2019 Decompression will be used for an art grant program. The art grant program is aimed at helping to facilitate the creative process through public art, education and events. The art grant program will be open to applications by the community for any New York City based artist/educator who is building art to be brought to Burning Man, building art for Decompression, or building art for BM-related events in NYC. The application form and criteria will be published in November. We will prioritize funding of highly interactive, community-driven, collaborative works of art that are accessible to the public and civic in scope.
We expect to have applications open until just before the Annual NYC Playa Arts Preview event, artist will be notified in the late spring and funds will be transferred in early summer. If you are interested in being on the review board, you may apply by filling out the form at: http://j.mp/ReviewBoardNYC
Daniel Zen, Decom Producer & NYC Regional Contact
Stefan Pildes, Decom Producer & NYC Regional Contact
The moment you have all been waiting for. Where did my ticket money go!?