“I’m Up For A Sherpa Myself”

CBS News did a video story on “Silicon Valley Elite Accused of Ruining Burning Man”. Larry insists that they’re not, that people have been saying “Burning Man is ruined” since the beginning, and in fact every demographic migration enriches the culture. So the culture should be awesome in the future, once politicians, Broners, and Safari tourists fill the spots formerly held by the artists and techies. It seems this Sherpa idea is a real drawcard for Virgins.

2014 Census Results

black rock city censusThe preliminary results are in from the 2014 BlackRock City census. Some key highlights:

  • 62.41% Virgins or Noobz
  • 37.59% Veterans  – up from 29%, reflecting the population surge of the last couple of years, or the discrepancy between counting “number of years since first” and “number of burns”.

The number of kids was 4.1% of the population when we first started raising awareness about the unsuitability of this event for children. Now it’s down to 1.4%. That’s still 1000 kids too many, taking tickets away from sherpas Burners.

Re-blogged from BlackRock City Census:

census centaurThe online survey is now live at and we encourage all 2014 citizens of Black Rock City to complete a survey as soon as possible so that your voices are represented in the 2014 report. Results won’t be ready until after the online instrument closes.

For the burning-data curious, we have some preliminary results for you! For the past 3 events, the Black Rock City Census Lab has randomly sampled entering participants through Gate Road. In addition, for the first time this year, we surveyed riders entering through Burner Express Buses (BxB). From these shorter, demographic surveys we get a baseline demographic profile that helps us weight the online survey. This post is a preliminary insight into the participants who attended the event in 2014 taken from this data.

This post reflects information collected from 1,367 entering participants randomly sampled at Gate Road from Friday pre-event through Wednesday mid-burn and 1,239 riders of BxB entering from Reno and San Francisco from Saturday, pre-event through Wednesday.

Though these results are preliminary, they do provide some new insights into the steady evolution of the event.


70% of Burners are in the highly marketable 20-40 age demographic. 20% are from another country (BMOrg lacks the ability to mail tickets to other countries, so all of these Burners have to go to Will Crawl).

A quarter of Burners are over 40, I wonder what percent of these are in RVs.




The median age this year is between 32 and 33, a little younger than last year.

_0_19 1.41%
_20_29 38.15%
_30_39 33.60%
_40_49 14.18%
_50_or_more 12.66%


What with all the Broners and Next-Gen Tech Gurus, it’s becoming a bit of a sausage fest.



Percentage of women at the event increased another percentage point to 41%

female 41.12%
male 57.99%
fluid 0.89%


“Time Since First Burn” is different from “number of burns”. We define “Veteran” as having been more than twice. Substitute “years” for “burns”, and we have 62.41% noobs, 37.59% Veterans.

Time Since First Burn

Virgin population continues to increase up from 36% two years ago, to nearly 41% of the population in 2014.


virgin 40.69%
_1or2years 21.72%
_3or4years 12.66%
_5to7years 9.90%
_8to11years 6.14%
_12to15years 6.45%
_16or_more 2.44%

Half the Burners are from California. There are as many from Canada, as from Nevada.


Language and Residence

Where do you reside?

California and Nevada residents continue to dominate the event.

NV 6.49%
CA 47.44%
US other 26.57%
Canada 6.12%
Other 13.37%


Foreign residents

After declining from 2012 to 2013, foreign participants rose to 19.5% in 2014.


Supposedly, 6.37% of Burners got their ticket through STEP. At 68,000 paid participants, that would be 4332 tickets. Official numbers are 1500. Of course, not everyone at Burning Man did the census, so this shows you the sort of errors there can be in these statistics, which are simply estimates.

0.68% of people were there without a ticket, this is 476 out of the maximum peak population (including volunteers) of 70,000. Workers like LEOs may have done the survey, feeling they are Burners too.

With 2624 tickets bought for above face value, the Census claim the data shows that scalping is not an issue. Which it never was. About 5% bought tickets from a reseller or stranger. 25% got their tickets from someone known, which is 17,000 people. That’s a lot of Burner to Burner sales going on, did every Burner purchase an extra ticket? There were only 38,000 available in the “individual” sale.


Purchasing your ticket

Nearly 4% bought tickets for more than face value. Presumably this includes anyone who paid $650 to BMOrg for a scalper Exception ticket.

A vast majority (2/3) purchased their ticket this year from the Burning Man organization either directly or through the STEP program. Nearly 25% purchased their ticket from someone known to them. The growth of STEP coincides with a 50% drop in purchases from Strangers (potential scalpers) when compared with data from 2012. Additionally, 92% obtained their ticket for face value or less. Though the remainder who weren’t lucky enough to receive their ticket this way may feel frustrated, the data indicates that the issue of scalping has been mitigated significantly.


Where did you buy?

BM 60.57%
STEP 6.37%
Someone_known 24.56%
Stranger 3.26%
Reseller 1.46%
IDK 0.56%
No_ticket 0.68%
Other 2.55%


How much did you pay?

Less 6.51%
Face value 79.15%
More 3.86%
Gift 6.52%
IDK 0.98%
Other 2.98%

 Where did you get your ticket (2012 vs 2014)?




Almost 10% of Burners support “alternative” political parties. Only 4.4% vote Republican. Now we know why Larry was so keen to bring Grover Norquist out, and the PR blitz around it was so strong. Perhaps by associating themselves publicly with Burning Man, Republicans can seem more “hip” to the political base that voted the Democrats into power.


Politically, burners have historically been significantly more likely to vote than the default US population. This year, we again see that 85% of those eligible to vote in US elections actually do. Moreover, a 51% majority voted in at least 3 of the last 4 federal elections, significantly above the US population.

Another interesting fact to note is that, for the first time, US voting participants, when asked about party affiliation, chose “unaffiliated” (nearly 41% of eligible voters) in larger numbers than any other political party, reflecting a broad trend of dissatisfaction with US political parties. The combination of being such a strong voting population and also being unaffiliated may imply that politicians need to pay attention to their Burner voters in their district. This maybe especially wise in Nevada and California where Burners represent a non-trivial portion of their constituencies.

Political Party Affiliation

 Not_eligible 23.27%
 Democratic 30.86%
 Republican 4.40%
 Libertarian 3.74%
 Green 2.36%
American_Ind_Party 1.58%
 Other 1.60%
 Unaffiliated 31.57%
 Multiple 0.62%

1st world problems

Dark Arps Reports

A guest post here by Burner Dark Arps:


At the risk of sounding like one of those insufferable bores who bangs on about Burning Man, I’m just going to go ahead and say this: everything you’ve ever heard about Burning Man, good or bad, is probably true. You can stop reading there if you want.

This was my first year, and I’d been avoiding it for a while. Too expensive. Not a big fan of the extreme heat, or camping in it. The dust penetrates everything. Too much hype, which automatically makes me suspicious of any event. But, enough people whose opinions I trust assured me this would be the festival to end all festivals, and with an open mind, and the opportunity to connect with some old friends on the playa, I made a commitment to go.

Burning Man and the culture it purportedly represents is one giant contradiction, and every Burner knows it. The notion of an anti-capitalist event which requires thousands of dollars of investment to adequately prepare for, is patently absurd. I have never spent so much money at so many major shopping outlets (Walmart, Costco etc); the idea of purchasing the necessary provisions at indie vendors is almost laughable when you consider the sheer amount of stuff you need to be comfortably self-sustaining for a week in the desert. Then there is the unfathomable amount of propane, gasoline and other carbon-based fuels which are burned in the process of transporting and entertaining 66,000 people in the desert, as inefficient, highly polluting 60 kilowatt generators drive state-of-the-art mobile soundsystems, military-grade spotlights and lasers, and an enormous mechanical octopus which spews fire from its eight tentacles, high into the sky. This is not an environmentally sensitive, or sustainable event, regardless of what you might have heard.

2014 unicorn playa veronicah cohenIt goes without saying that the desert is an inhospitable place. You face dehydration and exhaustion during the day, and the nights are cold enough to induce hypothermia for the inebriated and ill-prepared. Black Rock City is *dangerous*, and yet mercifully devoid of health and safety officials getting in the way of your fun. It’s a very adult party, but kids are allowed. If you take the time to read the disclaimer on the back of your ticket, the over-arching message is that you are responsible for taking care of your own shit, and if you don’t, you might die… and sadly, people do. Certainly, injuries abound as you drunkenly careen around thousands of peacocking ravers or climb 70 feet to the top of an Alien-styled Trojan horse to watch the sun rise, back-lighting an uncompromisingly beautiful landscape adorned with impossibly grandiose man-made art.

The third night is when the sheer scale and scope of the event hit me, and it hit home hard. A wave of freak lightning storms on Monday caused a 24h delay in getting a good portion of attendees on to the playa… so by Wednesday night most had arrived and set up, and the party was just getting started. Standing atop one of the roaming art cars in the middle of the playa (Tree House, from Victoria, which had previously been struck by said lightning storm), I was treated to a 360 degree panoramic and witnessed the most incomprehensible, densely-packed melee of countless brightly-lit mutant-vehicles, towering LED art installations, enormous sound-stages, and tens of thousands of ravers on creatively illuminated bikes, all criss-crossing and interacting, as the din of a thousand bass-bins massaged the orifices on either side of my disbelieving little brain. The comical outline of a life-sized basking shark eating an enormous psychedelic carafe as a giant, mechanised scorpion mashes its pincers and spews fire from its stinger, is a sight difficult to process the first time around.

“They” say a bunch of things at Burning Man. “You don’t know until you go” is one of them, but I’m doing my best to describe it anyway… not that I would want my best description to be an adequate substitute for anyone’s attendance. They also say, when you arrive at BRC, “Welcome Home”. At first, I wasn’t sure what that really meant, but I think I know now: If you’ve made it there, you are welcome everywhere you go, as if every stranger you encounter is a friend or acquaintance you’ve known for years. Human-to-human interactions flow with a joyous ease which is difficult to fathom when compared with the insular, distanced relationships we typically endure in a 21st century urban environment. All it takes is a smile and a “hey, how’s it going?”, and you might find yourself deep in stimulating conversation for the rest of the day. The inhabitants of this temporary city are some of the happiest and funniest and most beautiful people I have ever encountered and it is that, more than the perfectly-teched soundsystems, 20w lasers, elaborate staging, and the world’s best DJs and performers, that makes a great party.

I laughed so hard, I cried, and I cried so hard, I laughed. I get it now, Burning Man is the greatest party on earth, it’s in a desert, and I am coming back.

thanks to Parker for this photo

thanks to Parker for this photo