Sleight of hand is another term for magic. It is also sometimes used in relation to the world of accounting. Just like you can play tricks with your hands, people can also play tricks with words and numbers.
That’s why it’s always good to read the fine print. I would like to thank Burner A Balanced Perspective for picking up this detail about BMOrg’s 2014 permit from the BLM for Burning Man: the way the population is counted has changed. Which I think is the real reason for the last minute ticket bullshit.
In 2014, the BLM agreed with the BMOrg’s method of counting population. Only paid participants are counted within the 2014 population, whereas previously in 2013 the BLM counted volunteers, contractors, and others, within the population.
The Special Permit for 2013 authorized a population cap of 68,000 participants. Burning Man’s population number for 2013 was 69,613. No doubt this led to some discussion during the year with the BLM, and a clarification of exactly what “participant” meant. In 2013 it had been defined as per the Environmental Assessment. The EA says:
“The population includes all attendees of the event, including paid participants and volunteers. The population does not include government personnel, Humboldt General Hospital emergency services providers, vendors and contractors”
The Special Permit for 2014 authorizes a population cap of 68,000. It says the maximum population must not exceed 70,000, with “population” as per the definition above
BLM gave the Green Light to BMOrg for 68,000 TICKETS. Paid Participants. The infrastructure was separate. Many volunteers still had to pay for tickets, though some were eligible for low income/half price tickets.
The official number of tickets were 61,000. 3,000 tickets were released in the OMG sale, which brought the official total up to 63,000.
They said that 2500 Burners sold tickets to STEP, and 1500 Burners had tickets distributed to them. There were plenty of people waiting in the STEP queue, in fact so many that they closed STEP earlier than planned, saying that there was no way all the people in the queue were going to get tickets anyway. This implied there were a large number of Burners waiting in the STEP queue. But maybe not 7,000.
So it looks like, rather than only 3,000 tickets in the OMG sale, they had the chance to unload even more than that. And they wanted to make sure all those tickets sold – hence, pulling people out of STEP. It didn’t matter how long Burners had been waiting, or what their place in line was – all that mattered was to sell those extra, unplanned tickets. Using their new Ticketfly technology, they could. It took about 7 minutes to sell all the tickets, with thousands, maybe tens of thousands, left waiting in vain. OMG indeed.
The Special Permit doesn’t say anything about vehicle passes. Officially, there were 35,000 vehicle passes, for 61,000 participants. There could have been more sold. Another OMG sale was a better way to sell more vehicle passes than STEP, because even Burners who couldn’t get tickets could buy a vehicle pass, which their friends might be chasing. At the time, vehicle passes were still going for 2-3 times face value on the secondary market.
Another 7,000 tickets beyond the official count earlier in the year is worth $2.8 million (at $380 plus handling fees of $19). The costs of the event don’t change, so that is all profit, just like the $1.4 million vehicle tax is all profit. If 3,500 extra vehicle passes were sold too, that’s a healthy $4,340,000 profit on top of the 61,000 tickets they started the year planning to sell.
Buried in the paperwork is another little gem: in 2013, there were 44 licensed vendors in Black Rock City. This is your plug-n-play camps, your gasoline, propane, water, pump-n-dump. All brought to you at the courtesy of the US government:
There were 44 SRP vendor permits of record for this event. RV services would include delivery and set up of RVs and trailers for customers at the event. Air Carrier services would include the use of a temporary airstrip, and airport parking allowing vendors to shuttle participants to and/or from the event. Camp services would include transportation of equipment rentals, event participants, supplies and towing services, water tenders, generator rentals, theme camps, and other services needed to support event participants.
All vendors pay the BLM a 3% cut, which they are not permitted to describe as a Federal tax or land use fee. They also have to provide a brochure of their services and price list to the Feds, and display a special “OSS” sticker for Outside Services. The OSS was the predecessor of the CIA, so this is an interesting Federal TLA choice.
A Balanced Perspective:
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.
So 68,992 was the peak population – only down slightly from last year. I was wrong about the peak population being down, because the method of counting had changed. What number will it be in Wikipedia, though? 65,992, I would expect.
We will see what numbers BMOrg finally uses as their official head count and vehicle numbers for Black Rock City 2014. They’re
fudging crunching the numbers in their war room as we speak.