AFTERBURN REPORT 2006
BURNING MAN INFORMATION RADIO (BMIR)
2006 was the year of Hope and Fear and BMIR (94.5FM) aspired to elevate the art of desert radio-- apparently to considerable acclaim. The latest Arbitrari-Tron ratings rank BMIR as the second most popular radio station serving that prized demographic of 40,000 or fewer ephemeral, desert-dwellers who exist for a week or less at an elevation of 4000 feet or more; first place, as usual, went to Clear Channel's "Air Taklamakan". With your help, however, we are confident that this can be rectified in 2007. And how did this unlikely ascendance occur? With significant growth, new facilities, and new technologies that characterized the station's 2006 evolution.
As usual, the 2006 edition of BMIR featured a mix of out-of-the-ordinary music, theme camp news and events, public service announcements (PSAs), behind-the-scenes and on-the-scenes interviews, and original programming. Old friends returned, including the mutant vehicle aestheticians of Art Car Talk, the culinary, cock-sure Nudist Chef, a cavalcade of celebrities lounging in Theme Camps of the Rich and Famous, and most prevalently --YOU, in the form of on-air chats with a steady stream of Black Rock citizens who dropped by the station and participated in our on-air forum. We were fortunate, however, to introduce several new elements to our on-air programming and capabilities this year. To wit:
BURNING NEWS NETWORK'S LIVE NEWS AT FIVE
The Combustible News Service produced a ten minute newscast each day, which was broadcast on BMIR and simulcast on eight other participating Black Rock City radio stations. In addition to facilitating community connectivity, the daily broadcast also served as the de facto test of the emergency broadcast system network. Remember, BMIR was originally mandated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as an emergency communication tool in the event of a weather meltdown or other potentially catastrophic event. And while we take this job seriously, we thought a newscast would be a better way to test the system, compared to bombarding you with those quotidian reality doomsday tones you hear on the radio or television in the wee hours.
REMOTE BROADCASTING CAPABILITY
In 2006 BMIR had capability to broadcast live from anywhere in Black Rock City during the event. As a pilot effort this wasn't fully functional until Thursday and this capability was used sparingly. But as one example we broadcast the annual Thursday Meet the Artist edition of the ARTery art tour, including artist’s talk at each stop and interviews with tour participants. We hope you'll listen for expanded live coverage of the city in 2007.
EXPANDED PROGRAMMING AND LIVE ON-AIR HOURS
BMIR runs non-stop throughout Black Rock City's all-too-brief existence, but we expanded our live DJ programming this year, up and running the Thursday before the event and on-air personalities from 9am to 10pm each day of the event. Beyond our usual mix, we also produced theme-related audio art this year through a series of future broadcasts that "interrupted" our regular programming to convey messages of hope or fear--or sometimes both. Some were Welles-ian faux newscasts, others were ads for products we would either love or loathe to see. We hope that all were engaging and intriguing--and our apologies if they were occasionally confusing. Such is the nature of the future.
We also expanded our interview programming this year, as we spoke live with a variety of artists, regional reps, alternative energy advocates, and other participants doing the vital work that characterizes the Black Rock City community. We put a particular premium on speaking with those whose focus is on expanding the ethos of Black Rock City beyond the boundaries of the playa, taking it to a wider reality where it is most needed. Regional reps have served this role on-air for several years, and this year they were joined by representatives from the Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burners Without Borders--each of which had its own dedicated interview show.
ADDITIONAL FACILITY SPACE
After years of cramped confines, BMIR was blessed with a new building that served as a second studio space for community recordings. Due to the building's late arrival, BMIR didn't have much time to enhance aesthetics, but the dubbed Purple Mirrored Majesty served citizens’ needs. This expanded space meant that BMIR could serve the community more fully for PSA and theme camp recordings, offer citizens a more comfortable and conducive space in which to participate, and embark upon more advanced on-site production -- such as recording Black Rock City musicians and performers, including the Department of Public Work’s (DPW’s) Bucket Band. BMIR was finally free of the human traffic jams that clogged our too-tiny facilities in the past, and for the first time BMIR was a space suitable for both non-conformists and non-contortionists.
DON'T FORGET THE BLING
Since BMIR interfaces with the Black Rock City community so much, significant effort into making our facilities more than just a nondescript Sani-Hut in the desert, and the tower was part of this effort. Yes, BMIR finally got a handsome el-wire sign mounted on the BMIR tower this year, officially making it yet another attractive beacon for late-night playa participants desperately trying to find their way home (once all the less civic-minded among us have stolen the street signs after the burn leaving everyone literally and proverbially stumbling around in the dark to be saved only by the Rangers' and DPW's uber-wise action of labeling street stakes with addresses --thanks! -- because if you steal one of those stakes you've got to be either a real jerk who just wants to screw with people or you have a very strange sense of aesthetics). Excuse the digression. A little pet peeve.
INCREASED COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT (AND IF YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED, HERE'S HOW)
As has been the case for years, we continued to hold “official” drop-in hours from noon to 4pm each day so that participants could record announcements for radio play throughout the week; hundreds of citizens came by to announce their camp's events, send a shout out for that desperately needed item or service, or lay down a PSA. As usual, we also received numerous PSAs and theme camp announcements from various camps before the event, either on CD or through emailed MP3s. Thank you for your participation, and course BMIR will do the same this year (and yes, it does make our lives a little easier if you submit your spots in advance, though we’ll never turn anyone away at the door, of course).
Beyond this participatory element, BMIR is always open to new voices, new ideas, and new energy. If you are interested in doing an on-air show --music or otherwise-- please drop BMIR a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with a paragraph or two describing what your fertile brain is dreaming up. Additionally, BMIR is always looking for volunteers to assist with the day-to-day operations on the playa, including staffing drop-in hours. It's best to contact BMIR before the event, since there is a full staff roster pre-playa and it's often difficult to schedule new DJs on-playa. Alas, the reality of a temporally-based reality precludes being able to accommodate everyone who wants to get involved; BMIR routinely has more volunteers than jobs, particularly in the DJ department. BMIR does its best to program the station in a way that reflects the citizenry's diverse aesthetics and interests, in a way that sounds like the playa feels.
Is it always successful meeting this and other goals? As said before, any oversights are simply that: mistakes made within the chaotic context of an overly-ambitious and excitable desert media outlet run by volunteers who, like everyone, have way more on their plates than they could ever hope to ingest, doing their best to run a radio station in the middle of a Nowhere that feels like Everywhere. So if BMIR has ever dropped the ball, either in our communications with you or in the on-playa services provided, you are encouraged to kindly harass BMIR, both during and before the event (Just make the harassment fun, alright? You know, more like the playa, than a priest.).
And one final note on oversights: our sincere apologies to those of you who got the go-ahead from BMIR for Exodus, only to suffer through interminable delays getting out and getting home. BMIR reported the information given by the Exodus crew — who have an inordinately difficult and relatively thankless job, to be sure — but there were obviously some problems with the accuracy of this info. The Burning Man Project is well aware of the Exodus imbroglio and is working to find solutions for 2007.
A few weeks worth of desert operation after shifting out of automation and going live, BMIR has arrived as a real community radio station--and not just a source for conveying information to the masses. If you've never listened to the station, or if it's been a while since you have, BMIR encourages you to tune in during those quieter moments in Black Rock City: while you're making a meal or festooning yourself in your finery for an evening out or chilling with your campmates in the heat of the day; you'll be pleasantly surprised. And whether you love or loathe what you hear, BMIR encourages feedback at email@example.com
As we march into a hopeful future, BMIR will continue to expand its participant volunteer base, bump up the quality and quantity of programming, and spread the ethos of this singular event. And, with a little luck and a lot of dedication, you might be hearing us in 2007 a little sooner than you think.