Seeing your favourite bands in a field can cost a lot of cash. I’ve taken a look to see if festivals are worth the money and if there are ways to spend less on a ticket.
Pretty much every summer I’ll head to a festival (or two). The line up is my biggest consideration when choosing which to attend, but with ever increasing ticket prices, I always keep an eye on how much it could cost – and whether it’s worth it.
So how do you know if you’re being ripped off or getting value for money?
How much are you willing to pay?
A simple question: Do you think it’s worth shelling out whatever the price is?
I’m a big fan of Beck, but his outdoor summer show at the one day Flow Festival with Chic in JUne comes in at nearly £70. I like Beck, but not that much, especially since the rest of the line-up holds no appeal. And it’ll probably rain. So for me that’s not worth the money.
A few weeks later, British Summer Time with Florence + The Machine, Jamie XX and Cat Power comes in at a similar price but has five or six acts I want to see. A bit pricey but much better value.
A while ago I compared the price of festivals and live music based on the cost per band. Glastonbury – pretty much the most expensive ticket to buy – has a full schedule for three days and has so many stages that you’ll see far more acts than heading to something like V Festival or a one-dayer in London. On that basis, even though the weekend festivals cost more, they’re usually much better value – as long as you can afford it in the first place.
I like the cost per band method (I don’t expect you to actually work it out, just get a gist), though for some people what bands they see isn’t as important as who they’re with – I’ve got friends who miss half the day as they’re still recovering from the night before!
So you’ve got to think about what you expect to get from a weekend – and what else you would do with the money. When I produced the infographic above in 2014, for the all-in cost of a Glasto experience you could buy an iPad or return flights to New York!
Can you afford the extra costs?
I’d hoped to head to a festival in Portgual this summer. The ticket was a bargain £100 for three days of Radiohead, Arcade Fire and others, but when flights and accommodation were added in, it no longer made sense, and regrettably, I decided to give it a miss. But you don’t have to go abroad to add extra costs.
My cost-per-band infographic took into account some of the additional costs such as travel, food and fees. These will quickly add up.
Not all festivals are created equal here. Some, such as Glastonbury, will let you bring food and drink onto the festival site, saving you a decent amount – if you can carry enough. Others won’t let you bring anything through the gate, forcing you to pay at least £5 for a pint of Carling.
Fees are one of my bug-bears, especially being charged postage for an e-ticket you print at home! Often they are unavoidable so do check the total cost and shop around different websites as they all charge different amounts.
Can you pay less for a ticket?
One option is to wait for a special offer – and these aren’t as rare as you might think.
For the last two year there have been discounts for British Summer Time on sites like Groupon. There’s also been a bargain £2.50 plus charitable donation flash sale each year in the days before the event.
With this in mind, I’m going to hold off buying my ticket.
Whether you do this depends on how popular the festival is and whether you’re willing to risk missing out.
If you want to go to Glastonbury you needed to get tickets as soon as they were available and pay the full whack – if you’re lucky enough to get through.
But over the last few years most of the other festivals haven’t been selling out. It’s always a risk, but I choose to wait and see before committing my cash.
I’ve a festival deals page I’ll update when I find cut price tickets. Last year there were savings to be found on Bestival, V Festival, BST and many one day festivals. This year I’ve already seen £20 off Field Day and I’m sure we’ll see more as festival season approaches.
What about resale sites?
I’d stay well clear of sites like Viagogo and Stubhub. You’ll pay over the odds and there’s no guarantee you’ll buy a legitimate ticket. Though you’ll usually get a refund if it turns out your ticket isn’t valid, that won’t cover the cost of getting there and the disappointment of not getting in with all your friends.
Other ways to save
Some festivals – such as Bestival – offer discounts for students (don’t forget, it’s easy for anyone to legitimately get an NUS card).
If you’ve got the time you can often volunteer and get free ticket in exchange for a few shifts in the car park or behind the bar.
You can also keep an eye out for smaller festivals which might not have the big name acts but will cost a lot less – or even be free!
>> For more tips read my 8 ways to save at a festival article
So, rip-off or great value?
My last Glasto experience had some fantastic moments, but also one day where I didn’t really like any of the bands, reducing the value I got from my hefty ticket, travel and food costs.
I love live music, and for me there’s nothing quite like a good festival. But with prices higher than ever before so I’ll now only go to festivals which have a cracking line up.
So my advice is to try my cost per band method, or work out your own system, and see if you think the festival you fancy is going to be better than a flight to New York or an iPad.