Back in high school, nearly everyone dreamed of they day they could attend their first major music festival.
The day you could afford to hit up one of America’s hottest festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo was something that stuck in the brains of many teenage kids. “I may be too young and broke now,” you thought as you imagined being one in a crowd of tens of thousands of people sharing the same music-driven experience, “But come college I will be old enough and have the money to make a trip to one with friends.”
Now you’re in college and have accepted Ramen noodles as one of your daily meals –the epitome of being broke. You have realized that the festival experience will have to wait until you land a job after graduation. But once you put on your big-boy pants and secure an entry-level position somewhere, you know that festivals are still leaps and bounds out of your budget.
It’s safe to say that mainstream music festivals are not economical for millennials, the twenty and thirty somethings that the weekend-long concerts were once marketed towards. Once upon a time, festivals were the gathering of society’s misfits to experience music, drugs, copulation and other traditionally youthful activities in celebration of some theme or shared value. Festivals today are fashion shows where media moguls and corporate sponsors flock for marketing opportunities and selling purposes.
Though not the first music festival ever, Woodstock is the iconic depiction of what festivals once were, providing a stark contrast from what they are in the new millennium. People today opt for hygienic, VIP festival experiences that are far different from the rugged squalor of those in history’s past. And because of the poshness of modern festivals, sponsors and promoters are able to cash in on the swanky whims of the consumers.
Run-of-the-mill music fans are entirely excluded from the new model for festivals. These fans are disenchanted by the rising prices for concert tickets and the experience packages that accompany them, coming to terms with the fact that they would need a small loan to take a vacation and fully experience a festival. Many recognize events as large as Coachella as less of a concert and more of an informal red-carpet.
Elijah Fosl, senior at American University in Washington, D.C. and general manager of the college radio station, told USA Today that he thinks of Coachella as “totally a celebrity experience.”
He continues to say “I think those kinds of festivals are already irrelevant. I don’t want to sound like a crotchety old person, but most people at big-name festivals these days go for the experience and the fashion. That’s cool, but it’s not exactly a music festival anymore…The only times my friends will go to a big fest is if their job is paying for it.”
Celebrities and those of equal wealth can afford to partake in the plush private happenings at the world’s top festivals. The two leading summer festivals in America, Coachella and Bonnaroo, actually offer ticket buyers the option of paying in installments due to their colossal prices.
The most luxurious VIP experience at this year’s Bonnaroo costs $32,500, which actually exceeds my annual cost for attending a public university in New York state.
Why is this “Roll Like A Rockstar” package so altitudinous in price? The helicopters, private planes, tour buses, private viewing areas, private lounges, backstage access and meet-and-greets with the bands don’t leave me questioning the cost. Other amenities include luxury pavilion tents with real queen beds and real bathrooms, an on-call concierge service, catered meals, open bars and golf-cart shuttles, champagne parties and morning yoga sessions.
I am all for people doing whatever they wish with their wealth. If people want to experience a festival in a sterile, trapped-in-a-bubble sort of way, that is up to them and their own judgment. I am pretty grateful for these people who are supporting artists that don’t make jack squat off of their recorded music by seeing them live at a festival, and more power to them for demanding a comfy-cozy experience. But I do see a problem with the increasing general admission ticket prices for the average music fan.
For example, this weekend’s Coachella festival in Indio, CA, has GA tickets starting at $400, and the price climbs upward from there depending on the selected experience package. It’s more costly to buy on the secondary market, where Coachella is priced at $500 and up. Don’t forget the price of food, travel expenses, accommodations, and transportation, which all add up and make taking a vacation to Disneyworld seem like a bargain.
According to StubHub, the average ticket price comparison for major festivals show Coachella down slightly in 2016 compared to 2015, while Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo are up: 2016: Coachella ($445), Lollapalooza ($266), Bonnaroo ($386). 2015: Coachella ($497), Lollapalooza ($223), Bonnaroo ($316).
How can festival promoters and organizers get away with such high prices?
Festivals have become a multi-generational holiday destination. People of all ages flock to festivals all over the globe, and those with a disposable income often do it just because they can. These folks are interested in making appearances and sharing their time over social media, proving they went to the hot event. It’s a case of supply and demand: because there is a heavy demand for these festivals and people are willing to buy tickets regardless of their price, organizers can get away with charging such exorbitant ticket prices. Consumers forget they have the power in such economic situations-they are the ones who decide if an event will be a boon or bust.
When looking at a festival from the cost-per-band perspective, they actually are pretty reasonable. Even if you do not see every band on the program, you are still only pay x amount of dollars for each individual concert experience, saving money from what you would have paid for tickets to a headliner’s arena tour. And festivals are necessary for discovering new, younger bands as fans anticipate the big-shots. It’s up to festival organizers to be the tastemakers, making decisions on which fresh acts to unveil to mainstream festival goers, and thus identifying who will be the artists-to-watch in the coming years.
There are ways to keep the cost low if you are chasing your dreams and attending a dominant festival in 2016 and we’ve got 13 to keep you in the green this festival season:
1. Limit yourself. Manage your festival spending by setting aside cash to be spent on each day. Avoid using a debit card or spending all of your money in one place.
2. Pack lightly and plan for the mud. Don’t bring your favorite pair of jeans or brand new shoes of equal value to your concert ticket. Dress in clothes that can get dirty or can get lost, and do not bring anything that is not necessary for the weekend.
3. Seek out the freebies. Festivals often have free water-bottle refilling stations or free phone-charging booths. Go green and reuse your water bottle instead of buying new bottles whenever one goes dry!
4. Don’t buy a festival program, guide, or map. Be on the lookout for mobile apps that detail the festival’s lineup, set times, and stage locations. Or print the lineup and map beforehand if it is offered online!
5. Make travel and accommodation plans far in advance. Once you know the dates of the festival, plan accordingly. Book your campsite and/or hotel room before tickets even go on sale to ensure a better price.
6. Be a volunteer. Volunteering at festival can be a rewarding experience-you can make new friends, get close to the bands, and maybe even get a free bite to eat in the process! The jobs are fairly simple and will not take away from your festival experience.
7. Leave the iPhone at home. You don’t want to risk having someone pocket your phone or it breaking while in a rowdy crowd. Fish out $10 for a cheap burner phone: you won’t have to worry about the battery dying and your phone won’t take you away from experiencing the music!
8. Put off buying merch until the very end. Spur of the moment splurges on merch for a band you just discovered might set you back financially. Write down the names of artists you stumbled upon and check their merch out online at a later date. This will give you time to assess the purchase and possibly save a few dollars. But if you HAVE to have a souvenir, wait until the end of the weekend when vendors are more likely to offer discounts on dated merchandise.
9. Plan out your meals and festival eating habits ahead of time. If the festival allows it, bring some food with you for breakfasts, snacks and the beer munchies, which will cut out a huge portion of your costs. Scout out all the cuisine options before buying any food: learn who’s dishing out the biggest portions by watching what others buy. Eat your biggest meal at lunchtime, when cheaper prices are offered.
10. Buy your tickets early. There usually is a graduated ticket pricing scenario for festivals, where the earlier you buy your ticket, the cheaper it is. Tickets cost less before the line-up is released, so if you’ve been dying to attend the festival year after year because of their awesome past rosters, buy your tickets ahead of time.
11. Hydrate or die-and keep it H20. Remember, festivals often after free water bottle refilling sites, which means unlimited free water all weekend. Stay away from alcoholic beverages if you can help it, as they often encourage reckless spending and are expensive themselves. If you must drink, stick to a cheap beer to supplement festival activities.
12. Come prepared. Make sure you don’t pay more than you have to buy equipping yourself ahead of time with sunscreen, shades, first aid, rain gear, and a hat.
13. Opt for local, small-scale, lesser known festivals in your region. You’d be surprised at how much more you can enjoy a local festival within your budget over a festival that breaks the bank. Chances are, there is a kickass festival within hours of you that are much more economical with amazing bands, vendors, food, alcohol, and culture.
Whatever festival is for you in 2016, stay safe and have a great time. Let us know which ones you’ll be spotted at on IG and Twitter: @theviralpirate with the hashtag #MusicMutiny!