Sound Systems

Sound Policy

The playa is a natural amplifier and it doesn’t take much to produce a large amount of sound. Bass travels multi-directionally and cannot be effectively contained with any structures. This gives “sound” as an art form an unfair advantage over other art forms. Burning Man is dedicated to radical self-expression, but it is also dedicated to creating community. This means we all must find a way to get along with our neighbors. Our past history has led us to this point where we MUST give guidelines on amplification and limit space for this sort of art.

The following four rules make up our basic sound policy:

  1. Neighbors should talk to one another when sound becomes problem and try to resolve the issue through direct communication.
  2. Large-scale sound installations MUST be located along the ends of our city. They may express themselves unless community complaints persist.
  3. Within the city, a maximum power amplification of 300 watts is permitted, producing sound amplification not to exceed 90 decibels, when measured at 20 feet from the source.
  4. Any complaints about excessive sound will become the concern of the Black Rock Rangers. Concerns about excessive sound can result in:
    a) volume check and mediation between camps,
    b) volume check and a final warning on complaints,
    c) the disabling of equipment.

Loud vs. Quiet

Again this year we will have no “loud” and “quiet” sides of the city. These are relative terms, and they set up expectations that may be impossible to meet. These terms create infinite gray areas regarding what is perceived to be “loud” or “quiet,” and this results in difficult negotiations between neighbors.

Large Scale Sound Art

All large-scale sound systems will be located in the Large-Scale Sound Art Zone. Like all theme camps, these camps will be encouraged to be as creative and interactive as possible. The primary rule is that all speakers MUST be turned away from greater Black Rock City toward the open playa at all times. The deadline for large-sound art installations is first-come, first-served, so when these spots are filled, no more sound systems will be permitted within Black Rock City.

Sound Complaints

If you believe your neighbor’s sound is too loud and you are not able to effectively negotiate a solution, you may report this to a Black Rock Ranger station or directly to a Black Rock Ranger. (Please do not mistake a BLM Ranger for our own). Black Rock Ranger Stations are located at both Outposts and in Center Camp. A complaint should contain:

  • The exact SOURCE of the sound. (Vague reports will result in no action or ineffective action.)
  • The exact TIME of the disturbance. (Vague reports will result in no action or ineffective action). Please report problems when they happen, although reports filed the next day can be useful with persistent problem camps. We will not take action on issues of taste.

As a community, we need to work together to keep sound at desirable levels. This means that everyone involved is personally responsible for how they affect everyone else’s experience. If your neighbor believes your sound is too loud, you must work with them to find an acceptable volume. You will need to check in with those that you are camped near to find out what other events are planned and work with them to create a schedule. With these actions you should be able to handle all of your own sound issues. If everyone works together there will be no need for Black Rock Rangers to monitor sound. Please pass this information around to other participants in your theme camp or village and to those that are not planning on being listed on the map. A community effort is need to pull this off.