Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The cost of living

One day we'll have all our bright ideas simultaneously, but after the piece about festival disillusionment we got to thinking about how much festivals charge across the board and whether it really represents inflation in interest and value for money. Here, then, is a good cross-section of twenty popular weekends out with how much one non-early bird weekend adult camping ticket cost three years ago and now:

Festival2006 price
2009 price
Reading & Leeds
T In The Park
V Festival
All Tomorrow's Parties
Big Chill
Isle Of Wight
Secret Garden Party
Green Man
End Of The Road
Summer Sundae
Beautiful Days
Belladrum Tartan Heart

* No Glastonbury in 2006, 2005 price taken
** Increased from two to three days
*** Camber Sands 2006, Minehead 2009

Plenty of things to say here, of which these stick out:

- If we assume Glastonbury '06 would have been £135 (it was £145 in '07), then Reading & Leeds seems to be deliberately keeping up with the Eavises on price, despite the fact that as every piece about Pilton Farm culture will reinforce Glastonbury is about far more than music, man, whereas modern Reading is designed with music and moreover headliners in mind, with a fraction available of what makes Glastonbury the standout event it is. Is it oneupmanship? If you're paying £175, plus booking fee etc., you'd expect more than standing somewhere at the back of several thousand people with a jumbotron and favourable wind conditions your best hope. Benn has argued that with the weakness of the pound against the dollar those international acts won't pay for themselves. On the other hand, that means Kings Of Leon again.

- We know why, outside the really big festivals, a lot of this happens - organisational cost inflation, the desire to be bigger and better every year, spurred on by your financially afflicted punters, and not helped by the figures booking agents can charge. We heard some figures for last year regarding mid to high ranking guitar bands whose commercial best is plainly behind them and you'd wonder how they ever get any gigs during the summer. And then there's security and police charges, and again that's akin to presenting them with an open chequebook. To be less fair, Vince Power's Hop Farm festival is £125 in this debut year proper. For two days.

- Festival culture and its relationship to our beloved class system has itself changed, and this post-Skins idea of a lads' awayday to watch The Killers and whoever Annie Mac was on about last week as opposed to somewhere for the 'proper' music fan is now seeping through to the lower ranked - oh, alright, boutique - events. You can take those people quite easily for a ride. Despite everything Reading weekend tickets sold out in two days this year, so Festival Republic know there's a keen audience they can exploit by charging that much, reducing the camping area and booking Jamie T as second stage headliner.

- Latitude is properly eyecatching with its £55 increase, but remember that 2006 was the first event, and you can't really envisage that Melvin Benn and co would know how it would evolve and whether it'd catch on at first - that concept of an arts and culture festival in which music is central but not the big catch in terms of how high profile the people it could attract is hadn't been done before. Along similar if less highfalutin lines is Wakestock, which has put prices up by £50 but does seem to have turned from wakeboarding event with music sideline to big ambitious music festival (N*E*R*D, Moby and Dizzee Rascal are headliners this year) with an extra bit of wakeboarding gratis.

- On the other hand, what's Secret Garden Party's excuse? For a few years now it's sold itself as festival season's best kept secret, priding itself on its sculptured gardens, bizarre events and attractions and at its core an almost DIY element of putting on unique stuff, having people in costumes de rigeur etc in a chilled setting. Yet it's increased its price by £47 over three years and is as a result nearly as much as Bestival, another festival that goes big on fancy dress and oddity, with a sixth of the capacity and nowhere near the artist pulling power or publicity.

- Jo Bartlett, Danny Hagan and Fiona Stewart, take your respective bows. These three co-organise Green Man, which has over the last few years completely musically repositioned itself, liberally sprinkling the folk core with more outre offerings plus cultural add-ons. It's also physically repositioned itself and increased capacity. The net result on full weekend ticket prices, a figure we've double and triple checked just in case? £17 up. That's less than Reading & Leeds or Latitude just this year. End Of The Road, meanwhile, had early bird tickets for this year at £90, less than their 2006 debut.

- You don't even want to get into day tickets...


Jim W said...

A conversation, yesterday, on a football supporters' coach back from Barrow-in-Furness:
"Got your Leeds Fest ticket yet? It's proper mental."
"No, it's a rip-off and you can never see any of the groups."
"Nah man, just think how many bands you get for your money. And I've always liked camping."

It's not like I really care too much about the music at festivals - often the lineup that matters is which old friends have bought tickets. But the main qualifiers for the non-music geek festival buyer appear to be loads of people (more is better), a checklist of big name bands that you can tell your friends that you've 'seen' and the ability to sit in a field and drink.

Cost doesn't come into it. Although I've always thought that if you could find a campsite and convince people that you'd provide the "loads of people" and "drinking in a field" aspects for £30/weekend then you could make good money.

What the hell is that Hop Farm stuff? Their Saturday lineup is 'interesting'.

Completely arbitrary cost/vale ratio of good festivals on your list:
1. Truck
2. Tartan Heart
3. Summer Sundae
4. Glastonbury
5. Leeds

...unfortunately I end up looking a cheapskate.

gooblefrump said...

please consider dour festival: it's a wonderful thing to attend, especially given its obvious introduction to the novel as it's in belgium. www.dourfestival.be/en has infos; 85eur (+travel, basic nutritional requirements etc) for a 4-day festival is evidently appealing! furthermore, the price has been constant for the past two years ;]

nonetheless, commendable research and commentary

Simon said...

Well, true, but if I was to get onto non-UK festivals I'd be here all day.