Preliminary BRC Census Results from Burning Man 2015: Older, More Experienced, Less Californian Than We Thought

censuslogoThe BRC Census Lab conducts research on participants in Black Rock City and online after the event. We ask lots of questions about demographics and people’s experiences, because we want to accurately describe the community and the culture of Black Rock City.

Below are the preliminary results from the Random Sample, the short paper form filled out by randomly selected participants entering Black Rock City. This is just the beginning of the 2015 data that will be released by the Census Lab. But for us to produce more findings, we need you — YES, YOU — to participate in the Black Rock City Census online survey, which is live now at If you attended Burning Man 2015 and have not already completed this survey, please take the time to do so now! The survey will close October 15. The more people who complete it, the more accurate our data will be. If everyone participates then it will be a true Census of Black Rock City!

The preliminary results are based on 2,270 forms collected by Census volunteers from randomly selected vehicles along Gate Road and Burner Express buses entering Black Rock City between Sunday, August 24 and Tuesday, September 1. This is the first year we’ve been able to begin random sampling five days before the event officially started, which means this year’s data will include a larger number of early arrivers to Black Rock City. This may explain some of the differences observed in this year’s results. The final results of the Random Sample may differ slightly from these preliminary ones. (more…)

BREAKING: Shameless Marketers are Shameless

Image by (Creative Commons)
Image by (Creative Commons)

While we were on playa this year, a certain restaurant chain decided to launch an advertisement clearly designed to go viral specifically by leveraging the creative efforts of Black Rock City’s citizens — in order to hawk sandwich-shaped products.

As creative and funny as it was (we had a good laugh, we’ll admit), clever unfortunately doesn’t trump our commitment to protecting our community from commercial exploitation. We’ve been fielding anguished calls and emails from participants and horrified artists whose creations were used in the video without permission, a number of whom who have issued take-down requests of their own accord. We can laugh at ourselves. But we’re not laughing when a corporation exploits the artwork of others under the guise of poking fun at our event.

The shameless flouting of our Decommodification Principle to hawk sandwich coupons is equally unfortunate (and unnecessary to the purported “parody”). The Burning Man name, and the designs of the Man and Black Rock City, are core affinity symbols of our culture that we protect precisely so they won’t be used in ad campaigns. So as we always do in these situations, we sent a letter to the company to explain Decommodification and ask that they remove the Man and our other intellectual property from their advertising. We hope they’ll quickly comply, as most companies do when they realize how antithetical this sort of commercialism is to our culture. (We’re dismayed they haven’t taken any action yet — but of course they’re trying to collect every last page view.)

Thank you to those who brought this to our attention. Given the increasing number of people (and we use that term generously) who can’t resist the temptation to exploit our growing community by using symbols and imagery of the event to promote their products and services, we appreciate when you help us find them. If you encounter another instance that doesn’t smell quite right, let us know by emailing

So while we appreciate the creativity, we sure do wish it wasn’t attached to a commercial product.

Black Rock City 2015 Traffic Update

traffic jam

We are experiencing significant traffic delays due to slow vehicles on Highway 447. Estimated delays are up to 8 hours to reach Gerlach from Wadsworth. We recommend participants wait in Reno or elsewhere for several hours until the congestion is cleared.

For your own safety, if you’re stopped on Highway 447, please remain in your vehicle. And do not park on the shoulder of Interstate 80 — find an off ramp and park on a side road.

We will update this message with new information as soon as it becomes available.

You can also hear updates by tuning in to BMIR or by following @bmantraffic on Twitter.

[UPDATE: 8/31/15 2:00am]

At this time, the drive from Wadsworth to Gerlach is taking about 5 1/2 hours. Stay safe out there!

[UPDATE: 8/31/15 9:00am]

Travel times between Wadsworth and Gerlach dropped below 3 hours sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and we lifted recommended driving restrictions on Highway 447. C’mon out!

Get the Info You Need as You Approach Black Rock City

Traffic at the Gate, 2010 (Photo by George Post)
Traffic at the Gate, 2010 (Photo by George Post)

Want to know what’s up as you approach Black Rock City? Yeah you do. We’ll begin top-of-the-hour (because that’s what fancy news outlets do) news reports with traffic and weather starting at midnight tonight. Because these are the things you want to know.

Pro tip: Download the iHeartRadio app and tune into BMIR before turning on to Highway 447 so you’ll have a sense of how long Gate wait time is.

When you turn on to Gate Road, switch to GARS 95.1 FM for all the info you need to prepare, plus hear our latest public service announcements (PSAs, in the parlance).

Once you’re in Black Rock City, tune into BMIR 94.5 FM radio.

And remember: the Black Rock City gate officially opens at 10 a.m. Sunday — don’t arrive before then if you don’t have an Early Arrival pass. Yes, really.

We look forward to seeing you on playa!

BMIR is Now Broadcasting from Black Rock City!

BMIR sticker by JKanizzle
BMIR sticker by JKanizzle

Missing your playa? Want to feel a little more connected? Tune in to Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR), now broadcasting live from Black Rock City. Here’s how:

  1. BMIR website.
    There’s a flash player that will launch automatically, but you can pause that and click the Listen Now link that will launch in the audio player of your choice. There is also a BMIR iPhone app and a BMIR Android player, just search the Apple App Store or Google Play (apps are free and collect no user data). These are all 128 kbps streams so if you are using one of our mobile apps and are not on Wi-Fi it will eat data.
  2. iHeart Radio app – available for all mobile platforms.
    You need to download the iHeart app for a NO commercials broadcast, with no account creation required. Just search for BMIR or Burning Man. This is 48 kbps so it’s less of a strain on your data plan. (Only available in the US.)
  3. iHeart Radio website (Flash).
    Also 48 kbps, and only available in the US. Once again there are NO commercials and no need to create an account. Just search for BMIR or Burning Man.
  4. Over the air at 94.5 FM when you get to the playa. Bring a radio for your camp!

High Winds in Black Rock City Friday Night and Saturday

Playa Tornado, 2006 (Photo by Bowen Johnson)

Playa Tornado, 2006 (Photo by Bowen Johnson)

Nope, never a dull moment here in Black Rock City. The weather report tells us to expect sustained high winds beginning midnight tonight (Friday), peaking 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and continuing through 6 p.m. Saturday evening.

Winds are expected to gust up to 45 mph. Right, so what does that mean to you? Get ready and batten your stuff down! Like:

  • Batten down everything that could potentially blow away (furniture, camp chairs, folding tables, tents, shade structures, etc.)
  • Secure art pieces
  • Always travel with goggles and a dust mask
  • Use headlights and prepare to stop driving/riding in a whiteout

If you’re planning to come in tonight (Friday), definitely try to arrive before midnight.

If you’re planning to arrive on Saturday, consider postponing your arrival until later Saturday afternoon or evening. The way these things tend to go, your camp construction might be delayed due to the wind.

Keep an eye on the Voices of Burning Man blog, Facebook, Twitter, BMIR and IHeartRadio, cuz that’s where we’ll keep you updated.

Consent and Sexual Harassment at Burning Man: What You Can Do to Help

[This is the third in a series of blog posts addressing sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the importance of consent in the Burning Man community. It was compiled with the invaluable assistance of Bonnie Ruberg, a six-year Burner, university instructor and a queer community organizer in the Bay Area, and Gigi-D L’Amour, a founding member of and volunteer coordinator for the Bureau of Erotic Discourse.]

(Photo by NK Guy)

(Photo by NK Guy)

Black Rock City is a place where we go to be ourselves. We travel to the playa to feel “at home” in our community, our experiences, and our bodies.

Unfortunately, sometimes the public spaces in BRC don’t feel welcoming or even safe for some Burners because they receive unwanted sexual attention when they walk down the street. Sometimes they get catcalled. Or poked and prodded. People on bullhorns shout at them to take off their tops for bacon and get surly if they refuse. Moments like these are unfortunate but they happen — probably more often than you think.

What is sexual harassment? At its most basic, sexual harassment can be defined as unwanted sexual advances or sexually-charged remarks made toward another person. It can happen to all types of people, and it can occur between friends and acquaintances as well as between strangers. Sexual harassment is harmful because it makes those who are harassed feel targeted and vulnerable. Harassment that doesn’t seem sexual can still make a person feel uncomfortable in their body. Remarks about someone’s gender, race, age, body type, physical ability, etc. also have the potential to be deeply hurtful.

And harassment doesn’t just happen to women. LGBTQ folks and folks who are transgender or genderqueer also often find themselves on the receiving end of hurtful comments and inappropriate behavior. Men can be harassed, too. Everyone deserves to feel welcome and respected in Black Rock City. That’s what Radical Inclusion is about — that’s what Burning Man is about.

Making Black Rock City a more welcoming and respectful environment is a responsibility we all share. Here are some simple guidelines you can follow to help prevent sexual harassment on playa. (more…)

We Lost Spoono Today

RIP SpoonoBurning Man announced today the loss of beloved Department of Public Works staff member Scott “Spoono” Stephenson. Spoono passed away overnight on the playa, in the city he loved most.

Stephenson was in his late 50s and died of apparent natural causes, according to Pershing County officials. Stephenson had been in Gerlach and on the playa since April supporting construction of Black Rock City. His passing will have an enormous impact on the Burning Man community. (more…)