Sound Policy

Burning Flipside Sound Policy

PDF Copy here.

  • Policy for Amplified Sound at Burning Flipside – Revised 2023


This policy serves as general guidelines for sound installations and performances operating at Burning Flipside. This policy is not intended to be comprehensive. Anything not covered by this document will be allowed or disallowed at the discretion of the Catalyst Collective board member serving as Flipside Actual. There is no appeal for a decision by this person.

Why do we even have this policy?

There are several reasons why Burning Flipside needs to have a sound policy.

  • There are legal limits on the amount of sound that can leave the property boundary. Additionally, even when we are under those limits neighbors may still complain. Keeping both law enforcement and the event neighbors happy allows us to continue having the event year after year.
  • Even without these external pressures there are internal factors to consider as well. Pyropolis is a functioning city for the week of the event. Some people need to sleep or just find some time to be alone with their thoughts. Therefore, we need to have some places where people can go where it isn’t so loud that they cannot do those necessary activities.

These relate back to the Three Principles under which Burning Flipside operates. These principles are Self Expression, Cooperation, and Accountability. Many participants at Burning Flipside consider either producing, performing, or interacting with music or other sound-based art a key part of their Self Expression at Flipside. However, as always, the three principles need to work in concert and bound one another.  This policy helps us all cooperate and lays out each person’s accountability to keep Burning Flipside going.

What part of this policy do I need to read?

Everyone should be familiar with the definitions for the next section, defcon 10, and the information for general participants. If you will be providing, operation, or using sound hardware at a location that is registered and placed on the map either as an art piece or a theme camp then you should familiarize yourself with the Placed Sound Installations section. If you will be providing, operation, or using sound hardware at a location that is not placed on the map, but is stationary, then you should familiarize yourself with the Unplaced Sound Installations section. If you will be providing, operation, or using sound hardware in a mobile setting (this does not necessarily mean moving at the time, merely that the piece moves from place to place during the course of the event) then you should familiarize yourself with the Mobile Sound Installations section.

Important Definitions

  • Sound Marshal – A volunteer with the Sound Marshal department. They will be able to be identified by their department shirt. If a Sound Marshal is unavailable a Ranger or board member may fill in for this role as needed.
  • Sound Marshal Duty Chief – The lead Sound Marshal volunteer for that shift. If none is available Flipside Actual may fill in for this role.
  • Flipside Actual – The Catalyst Collective (CatCol) board member on call for the event at the time. Any decisions by Flipside Actual are final.
  • Sound Equipment – Any equipment designed to broadcast sound at a volume greater than normal human speech. This is not limited to electronic equipment.
  • Sound Pressure Limit (SPL) – The limit on the sound able to be produced by a project, camp, or vehicle. This will be measured in decibels dB on the C scale.
  • Sound Sponsor – The official registrant of the sound equipment and the individual ultimately responsible for its use. The official Sound Sponsor may pre-select four representatives authorized to act in their stead. Sound sponsors or one of their representatives must be readily available any time the sound system for which they are responsible is in use. They are responsible for ensuring that any community member using the equipment is doing so within the guidelines set forth and agreed upon in the Burning Flipside Sound Policy.

Placed Sound Installations

A placed sound installation is any set of sound equipment at a fixed location which has been pre-registered with City Planning and has been placed on a map. Note: Just because a theme camp or art project has been placed on the map does not necessarily mean it is a placed sound installation. If the sound aspect of the camp or project was not correctly pre-registered, you may need to operate as an unplaced sound installation. City Planning volunteers will have a copy of the registration documents for your camp. Please make sure that you are properly registered so that you don’t fall in the other category.

In general, Placed Sound Installations may operate at the maximum sound pressure level (SPL) allowed by Burning Flipside. Currently that sound level is 85dB(C) measured at 50’ from the center of the camp or installation. While that is the level generally allowed, certain sounds such as heavy bass or very high-pitched sounds can carry differently. You may be asked to turn down your sound or change speaker directions or configurations based on these other factors.

Unplaced Sound Installations

An unplaced sound installation is any set of sound equipment at a fixed location that has not been properly pre-registered with City Planning. This includes any sound equipment which must be stationary to operate but cannot make any sound while being moved. Because Burning Flipside may want to have some areas that are quieter than others or we may not want sound facing certain directions to avoid  the risk of external noise violations you may be asked to operate at a reduced sound level.

An unplaced sound installation may not operate their sound equipment until a Sound Marshal is present to set their initial level. This level may be anywhere from the maximum allowed on the site to a level such as 60dB(C) which is no louder than a conversation between two people. The Sound Marshal will coordinate with Flipside Actual and City Planning to determine appropriate levels for the area and direction the sound equipment is in. This may take some time to coordinate. Failure to wait for this calibration is considered an infraction and my even be considered multiple infractions depending on the results of failing to wait (for example, if failing to wait results in an external sound complain it may be considered a 2nd or 3rd infraction instantly). If a Sound Marshal has not arrived to give you a level within 2 hours after your check-in with Zone Zero, please go to Safety HQ and provide your location to the Ranger on duty. They will contact the Sound Marshal on duty for you.

In short, if you don’t want to have long delays before you can use your equipment and ensure that you aren’t set at a ridiculously low sound level you should preregister any sound equipment as part of your theme camp or art registration forms so that it can be placed appropriately.

Mobile Sound Installations

A mobile sound installation is any set of sound equipment used while on a moving vehicle or sound equipment that is moved to any place that is not a placed sound installation during the event. Mobile sound is the most difficult to deal with when it comes to both external and internal sound complaints.

If you have sound on a Mutant Vehicle, you must declare this when you get your vehicle inspected by the Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV). Failure to do so may result in your vehicle permit being revoked. If you add sound to the vehicle after inspection, go back for a new inspection and do not operate the sound on the vehicle until such time as you have completed the inspection. Sound equipment should be tested and the level set as part of this inspection.

In general, mobile sound installations need to operate at a much lower level than most fixed sound installations. That sound level is currently set to 85dB(C) at 20 feet from center of the vehicle or equipment. Additionally, as mobile installations can, by definition, move, they might be placed near other camps, projects, or other participants. If this rises to the level of harassment as defined by Flipside Actual that may be considered one or more infractions. It is also possible that the Sound Marshals may designate some locations and times where a louder volume is allowed (for example, it may be acceptable to play at a louder volume on the main effigy field after DaFT has completed effigy construction). Check with the Sound Marshal team for any such time and location combinations.

Penalties for Violations of this Policy or Onsite Instructions

Depending on the severity of the violation Flipside Actual may decide to skip certain steps. Additionally, CatCol will not tolerate expression in any form that serves to demean, intimidate, or ostracize. Use of sound equipment to perform such expression may also result in skipping certain steps or immediate escalation to Flipside Actual. Only the Sound Marshal Duty Chief or Flipside Actual can assign strikes.

  1. On the first infraction, a verbal warning will be provided to the person currently operating the sound equipment and the sound sponsor. They will be asked to turn the equipment down to the appropriate level. Failure to do so immediately or doing so and then immediately returning to the prior volume is an instant escalation to the third infraction.
  2. On the second infraction, the sound equipment will be turned off for no less than 3 hours and no more than 24 hours. If the sound equipment is used again during this period, it will be considered a third infraction and result in the maximum penalty. The third infraction will be reported to Flipside Actual and the Flipside Ranger team for close monitoring. For mobile sound this will result in the “grounding” of the installation or vehicle which means it must be immediately returned to the operator’s camp and will not be allowed to move for the same period as the sound sanction.
  3. Upon a third infraction, the sound equipment will be deactivated for no less than 24 hours up to the remainder of the event. There are several ways to enforce this, from impounding the equipment to asking the sound sponsor to leave the event. CatCol is not responsible for any loss or damage that occurs while the equipment is impounded. This infraction will be reported to Flipside Actual and may result in action taken against participants, sound sponsors, or even whole camps. For mobile sound this will result in the “grounding” of the installation of vehicle which means it must be immediately returned to the operator’s camp and will not be allowed to move for the same period as the sound sanction.


In an emergency or after receiving an external sound complaint, the desired outcome is to have all sound off or vastly reduced within 10 minutes. Hence the name “DEFCON 10” (DEFCON is “Defense Readiness Condition” borrowed from the United States Military). If a Sound Marshal or Ranger comes up to you as a sound sponsor or as someone operating sound equipment and asks you to turn it down or off because of an emergency or external sound complaint, please comply with their request instantly. Failure to do so may result in the loss of privileges on the sound equipment for extended periods (3rd infraction above depending on the severity of the situation).

If it is an emergency, Rangers and other volunteers will then disperse throughout the event to provide further information and instructions to all participants. If you hear all the sound go off, be prepared to receive this information and further instructions.

If it is an external sound complaint, Sound Marshals will come by as they are able and inform the sound sponsor of any new limits they may need to operate under. This could be anything from “no more sound” to “cut/reduce the bass” to “operate at this new reduced SPL level.” Note, it may take a while to inform each and every camp depending on how many Sound Marshals are on shift at the time. Please be patient and do not reactivate sound until informed to do so by a Sound Marshal or Ranger.

Information for All Participants

Sound artists are a vital part of the Burning Flipside community. Many of them spend countless hours preparing for the limited amount of performance time they may be allowed. Please respect their art whether you appreciate it or not. We also suggest that everyone bring ear plugs because not everyone will want to be quiet when you would like them to. However, conflicts can still arise from sound levels that are too high for comfort. We ask that you try to resolve the issue yourselves by working out a compromise with the offending camp, installation, or vehicle. If you cannot come to an amicable understanding, then please find the nearest Ranger to help you. The Ranger may call in a Sound Marshal to check the level of the camp or they may work with both groups to try to reach a compromise.

Interactions with other Flipside Departments

City Planning will provide the Sound Marshal team with a list of all registered sound camps and art installations. Any camps or installations not on the list will fall into the “unplaced” category.

Sound Marshals will meet with the DMV team to provide them a sound meter and any appropriate training before Gate opens. DMV will use the meter to set initial limits on the vehicle only. All subsequent enforcement is through the Sound Marshals.

A log will be kept at Safety HQ. This log will be updated regularly by the Sound Marshal Duty Chief. At a minimum it will contain each strike recorded against any camp. It should be kept somewhere accessible so that Khaki or Flipside Actual can locate it when the Sound Marshals are not on duty.