FireDrums: “Disclose your financials?”

Posted on March 3, 2014 by

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There’s been a request by the fire dancing community that attends Fire Drums, the first fire festival in the US (if not the world), for the company owners at the Fire Arts Institute (formerly known as Axis Mundi Collective) to release their financials in response to some community outcries about instructors not getting paid. Fire Drums being a festival near and dear to my heart, I have a vested interest in the conversation. For the past few days, I’ve been deep in thought about the question of releasing financials and I direct this question to the community.

Is the community really looking for full discloser of the financials? I ask because it seems to me releasing the numbers is a hornets nest of challenges waiting to happen. Everyone is going to have an opinion about expenditures and then there will be a series of different questions, likely starting with, “Well, why’d you spend money on this and not that?”

Then the questions will follow: what is a reasonable amount of profit to make? And that will be a whole other argument.

I want change as much as anyone else (the reasons for which I will explain in a different article) and, it’s not fair to the organizers in any way for the community to nit pick their decisions about budget. I think gross numbers would satisfy the questions people have about the issue, providing 4 basic numbers:

    • $X in expenditures covering <list of types of items>
    • # of Tickets sold
    • amount of $$ in scholarships offered
    • $Y in salaries distributed between <#> of people

And I think anonymity is important. I don’t think a director or whoever should have to justify themselves. No matter what anyone of these people is getting paid, I’m guessing it’s less than their time is worth.

I hope everyone sees that the organizers work very hard on this event. It would be impossible to make it happen without them.  And if I weren’t me and didn’t know what I do or didn’t care about conscious capitalism, I’m sure I’d be able to go and have a blast. Fire Drums, for me, has been a more powerful transformational catalyst than Burning Man. In the end, we, consumers, have zero right to tell the owners and organizers employed by the business how to run it.

Of course, we also don’t have to give them our money and time, either. So if they want us as costumers, it serves them to listen to us.

I approached various business practices, including the recent conversation about teachers not being paid, to varying degrees, since my 2009 experience where other instructors were offered compensation I was not. (Specifically, discounted and free tickets, travel expenses and lodging for some as well.)

What I learned in how I was specifically treated by the FireDrums organizers in their responses over the years since 2009 is that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and the one. And, in the end, a small number of us are unimportant to their bottom line.

It’s a hard truth.

The reality is, they don’t need any of us as consumers because the community is growing much faster than they are losing us. What the business owners may care about is the amount of bad press this is all generating which, I’d guess, is the only real reason to take action and only if it’s a loud enough impact. As far as I can tell, less than 10 people have said anything particularly challenging. So, maybe, if these attendees put their money where their mouth is, it equates to the festival losing maybe 10 attendees?

It’s easy to lose 10 attendees that want more of their resources because it’s easier to find 10 newbs willing to pay for whatever they get because they don’t know any differently.

Plus, the fact that they turned down professional and quality instructor’s classes is a sign that what we offer isn’t even really of value to them because there are so many options from which to choose.

And I get the challenges — it’s a tough situation because it is about a community gathering being run by a private company, one whose information, mission statement and values aren’t even visible (not that I could find at any rate) on the FireDrums website.

To the FireDrums Organizers, I say great job running the business as a business. Hats off to you there. If it were all about the bottom line, I probably would have made every choice you did as well.

Weather or not you remembered to create an inclusive, non-marginalizing community through this is another question, one you may not care to answer where I do.

Stay tuned for more on the topic and check the other articles section of this website.

Written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek professional guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little at symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).

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Posted in: Articles, Festivals