2014 Attendance Drops 5%

[Update 9/3/14 11:35am] It seems that this story has not factored in a change in the calculation method for this year, which technically enabled BMOrg to sell 68,000 tickets and have thousands more volunteers. See here.


On Saturday, before The Man burned, BMIR were reporting approximately 10,000 people had already left the party.

According to the Bureau of Land Management, the peak attendance this year was 65,922 – on Friday. It seems that despite the lost couple of days due to the unprecedented event closure, and the previously planned extension of the event by an extra day, a massive number of Burners didn’t even want to stick around to see the giant Man burn, let alone the last minute substitute Temple. Perhaps Jack-u’s set was so bad they cleared out not just the Robot Heart dance floor, but Burning Man itself.

photo: John Goodman

photo: John Goodman

From the Huffington Post:

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Burning Man counterculture festival drew a peak crowd of nearly 66,000 celebrants as it neared an end Monday on the northern Nevada desert.

Friday’s official peak attendance of 65,922 was within the population cap of 68,000 the federal Bureau of Land Management imposed on the quirky art and music festival 110 miles north of Reno, said Gene Seidlitz, manager of the agency’s Winnemucca District.

The number was down from last year’s record peak crowd of 69,613, which resulted in organizers being placed on probation for a second time in three years for violating the limit.

Organizers had been warned that if they were placed on probation a second straight year, the agency might suspend or cancel their permit.

“That (crowd size) is not a problem this year,” Seidlitz said, adding the attendance cap was one of 55 conditions organizers had to comply with under terms of their permit.

“We don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t meet all other stipulations,” Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said.

Overall, the weeklong festival leading up to Labor Day was successful and safe except for Thursday’s death of a 29-year-old Wyoming woman who was struck by a bus carrying passengers on the playa of the Black Rock Desert, Seidlitz said.

Crime statistics will not be released until later this month, he added.

Rain early on closed the gate for a day — the longest closure in the event’s history — and dust storms caused occasional whiteout conditions Friday.

But the festival’s eclectic artwork, offbeat theme camps, concerts and other entertainment drew praise from participants from around the world.

“Actually, I feel renewed faith in humanity,” John Bacon, of Seattle, told KRNV-TV.

Ron Adair, of Ojai, California, said he felt “a little tired.”

“It’s a little hard to have that many nights in a row and get by on four, five, six hours of sleep every night,” Adair said.

After it moved from San Francisco, the inaugural Burning Man in Nevada drew only about 80 people in 1990.

It’s hard to get by on six hours of sleep a night? This kid must be 20 or something.

So much for Burning Man being a sold-out event. The question needs to be asked, if 2078 people didn’t show up, what happened to their tickets?

26 comments on “2014 Attendance Drops 5%

  1. Pingback: OUTBREAK! Burners Warned of Virus Risk | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. I heard that during the Sunday night rain the entry line backed up 95 miles back to Wadsworth. Some time after that I heard rumor that in order to move things along vehicles were simply waved in through the gate without checking tickets. I’m not sure of the truth of that, but if so, the accuracy of the population count may be off.

  3. Pingback: Population Control Through Sleight Of Hand | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  4. I got stuck in the 12 hour exodus to Reno last year and there was no way i was going to do that again, so our rv of veteran burners voted and it was get out while we still can and have a decent exodus. 29 minutes from last street to the road. We watched the burn on live steam from a wonderful restaurant in Sacramento and have no regrets.

    • It all depends on when you got there. I always observed that the best times in BRC were before the weekenders showed up on Friday – with there telltale of using the port-a-potties as trash cans. If I was going these days, I would likely try to get there as early as possible, and might leave as Patty noted. Burn night is cool, but it is kinds sad to see the camps start to deconstruct on Sunday. Seeing them go up is much more fun.

    • I just waited.. left at Monday, dusk and no line, no wait, and smooth sailing all the way Reno and beyond. 🙂

  5. Wow, broken logic much?

    Peak population has nothing to do with total attendance. Especially with gates opening a day earlier this year, there were plenty of burners who left before Saturday or even Friday. When managed right though, the peak population is governed more by the BLM population cap than anything else.

    BORG was put on probation for allowing the population to exceed the BLM population cap last year, and threatened with serious penalties if it should happen again. This year’s lower peak population was obviously a planned thing. I know last year during Friday peak, they were keeping arrivals at the gate, waiting for people to exit before allowing more people in. Clearly they still dropped the ball in spite of that, so I imagine they were more strict with the population cap policy this year.

    • Since your logic is working so well, do you have an explanation for why 10,000 people left before The Man burned?

      Are you trying to say that this year was bigger than last year, despite a 5% decrease in Black Rock City’s population?

  6. The population, of 2014, was near to the same as the population of 2013, near to 69,000, of both burns. Post the quarrel betwixt the BMOrg and the BLM, of 2013, as to whom is counted within the population, the statements within the 2014 permit not the same as prior burns, purposed towards preventing the same quarrel within 2014.
    ‘The maximum authorized population (also referred to as the “population cap”) at any point in time during the 2014 event is 68,000 paid participants”. The population cap does not include volunteers, government personnel, Humbolt General Hospital emergency service providers, vendors, and contractors. Black Rock City LLC (“BRC”) is required to keep the maximum population of the event from exceeding this population cap. …’ and

    ‘If during the event it appears the number of participants is likely to exceed the population cap …’
    Thusly, both the statement of 69,000 people upon the playa on Friday, and ‘Friday’s official peak attendance of 65,922 was within the population cap of 68,000 the federal Bureau of Land Management imposed on the quirky art and music festival 110 miles north of Reno, said Gene Seidlitz, manager of the agency’s Winnemucca District.’ are correct.

    In addendum, this states that the BMOrg sold a higher number of tickets, and gained more cash, than they priorly stated. By appearance, they sold the 68,000 permitted tickets towards paid participants, or, perchance, a bit more tickets, not the numeral they stated towards us.

    • In addendum, kudos to the exodus crew, and Burners, for an awesome exodus, except of the collision upon Pyramid Highway this morning. A comment by TheBlueCross, an awesome gate bloke, states ‘You all did a fantastic job spreading your departure perfectly over the maximum amount of time, with no real “peak” in departure volume. Max wait times to the blacktop was 2.5 hours. If history is a lesson, next year will not be as nice.’

  7. “Most burners” didn’t want to see the man burn because 10k people left? They means over 50k people DID stay, and it’s rather clear which number constitutes the “most.” After a few years of reading this blog the negative bias is finally getting to me. I get enough snark and pessimism on the Facebook page.

  8. I don’t think it really matters to the Org. They’ve tapped into the mainstream jugular vein. 60k – 70k? Doesn’t matter. People are lining up to check BM off their bucket list for the next 10 years, easy. If 10 people died this year, the Org would have spun that bad press into more ticket sales next year.

    I can’t imagine (and please help me out) anything that would stop this train in its tracks. What would it take?

    • It’s true. Just like Happy Days went on to greater commercial success than ever after the “shark jump” episode, BMOrg will go on to ever greater ticket revenues even if “cool” Burners get replaced with Broners. Grover’s gotta come back with his 10 people next year.

  9. How do you figure there were 3,000 unused tickets? The BLM Friday peak is not necessarily the cumulative attendance. There must have been people coming late, including those turned back by the closing, replacing many who left early. With flow in, as well as out, seems like they could have had every ticket used. Do you have another source for the cumulative attendance?

      • Sounds like you are comparing apples to how many apples were on the truck at one time. The one number is a peak, which cannot be total attendance – otherwise, they would not know that the peak was on Friday. After all, some people had to show up on Saturday. It was the people who left by Saturday that made Friday a peak, but they were nonetheless part of the total, which we apparently do not know.

        As I suggested, I would not put it past the BLM (or BOrg) counting people who left against the total peak, but not adding back in the ones who returned with the exit wristbands instead of new people with tickets.

        • Every year they publish a population total. When comparing one year to another, we will use the figures on Wikipedia, unless we have more current figures (as happened last year, when they announced 69,613 but left Wikipedia at 68,000 until very recently).

          You are right that all kinds of ticket counting shenanigans could be going on. This year’s count could be more, or less, accurate than last year’s. Although there are two carts full of apples, we cannot verify the integrity and consistency of the apple calculation method. One set of apples may be of inferior quality to the other, or someone may have tampered with the cart.

          It is useful to be able to talk about Black Rock City’s size from one year to the next, and this year’s number is 65,922 – unless anyone can provide a reference to a more accurate number for Black Rock City’s 2014 population.

          • Apologies, burnersxxx, I must politely be in disagreement. The confusion is in due of the BLM agreed with the BMOrg’s method of counting population within 2014. Solely paid participants are counted within the 2014 population, whereas priorly, as within 2013, the BLM counted volunteers, contractors, and others, within the population, whereas, the BMOrg did not desire to count them within the 68,000 population permitted limit. The count, by Gate, is correct, of each category.

            We gained this knowledge solely within the prior month, of when the 2014 permit was posted upon the websites, the BMOrg priorly hid this, which is the cause of the confusion. By appearances, the BMOrg stated to the BLM ‘Permit us to to count solely paid participants within the 68,000, and we will place a limit upon vehicles entering BRC”, and gain $1,4 million of cash upon doing so.

            On Friday, 65,992 paid participants, and 3,000 volunteers, contractors, and others were upon the playa. By appearances, near to 1,000 half price tickets were sold to fire troupes, and volunteers whom did not quite gain of free tickets, in addendum to near 67,000 tickets sold, by the BMOrg, for cash. Or, perchance, one whom drinks the coolaid might be of the belief of the BMOrg not selling the 68,000 tickets permitted by the 2014 permit.

          • brilliant. Post-worthy, thanks for the pickup – I’m always happy to be proven wrong, if that leads everyone (including me) to a clearer understanding of the truth.

  10. I wonder what the attrition rate was with the 1% audience. The BRC airport flight plans should easily show this.

    My theory is that with 40% virgins, the 1-day washout, the dust storms, and the death, many thought it was easy to punt before the Saturday burn. Or… BLM cooked the numbers to keep the event viable. It is a bit silly to think they would not jump through their own hoops to keep the NV Burn an ongoing concern, revenue source, and antidote for boredom.

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