Cheap festivals. Not two words typically associated with one another. Ticket price increases have far outstripped the actual rate of inflation in the UK. Many other countries follow the same trend.
So is there still room for savvy festival-goers to enjoy their favourite pastime without getting their wallets fleeced? Let’s start with looking at why festivals are so expensive in the first place.
Even music festivals have not been able to escape the endeavours of large corporations. Deep pockets mean more substantial artist fees and hence higher ticket prices.
According to crunch.co.uk, the proportion of festival ticket prices to the average wage increased from 7% to 10% (2005-2015). And in the time it has taken ticket prices to rise by 90%, wages rose by just 28%.
Live Nation owns the Lollapalooza franchise and UK favourites like Lovebox, Reading Festival and Leeds Festival.
AEG features the likes of Coachella, All Points East and Electric Forest. Huge events for a corporation that makes money from many aspects of the entertainment industry.
Make no mistake; these are all great events with stacked line-ups. But what factors affect prices and what should you look for when trying to identify hidden bargains?
Cheap Festivals 2021
Given the current global COVID-19 situation, the live entertainment industry has taken a substantial financial blow.
It is highly likely that many of our favourite music festivals will not make it through these times. At least not in the same capacity as they were in 2019.
We have seen a massive uptake in live streaming as a result of government regulations, and festivals will probably continue to use these means to reach their loyal followers.
Livestreams are here to stay, and those festivals that can no longer afford to install a show on-site physically will migrate online to reach you in your home.
With this comes more considerable saving of costs than anyone could have expected. If these festivals can survive by doing this and in turn, cutting your ticket prices so substantially. Then hey, everybody wins, right?
Explore Festivals Abroad
It may seem counter-intuitive to think that travelling to a festival abroad would be in a cheap festivals conversation.
Flights, accommodation and other expenses all play a significant role in weighing up the affordability of overseas travel.
But let’s look at face value of tickets for festivals with similar line ups and see how they compare.
Bazique festival in South Africa featured many top international DJs in their 2020 line up. For a 3-day festival pass, they were charging £45 (€50).
Compare this to a similar line up at the Alfresco festival in Kent. A 3-day festival pass will set you back £140 (€155) for their 2020 edition.
Two similar line ups and both are smaller boutique festivals with a price difference of £95 in the ticket face value.
Incorporate Your Summer Holiday
With such a large difference in the face value of festival tickets in relation to geography. A great way to effectively cheapen your summer festival is to incorporate one into your main summer holiday.
Croatia is a popular European summer holiday location, and it has a plethora of music festivals on offer.
Love International takes place over a week-long period (14-20 July 2021). An early bird pass will set you back £129 (€145), and they offer a buy 5 get 1 free deal for groups. They also offer day passes for as little as £45 (€50) if you only fancy a day or two.
Morocco is an intriguing destination to consider. With many top artists drawing musical inspiration from the North African nation.
MOGA Festival is a 3-day event in the stunning coastal town of Essaouira. Offering wellness, yoga classes and Morrocan cooking workshops. A full access pass is £90 (€100). The town itself has much to offer travellers and was featured on Game Of Thrones.
Combine Single-Day Events
Most European cities come alive with music festivals during the summer, with many single-day events taking place.
Take advantage of this by spending a weekend away and simply combining single-day events to create your own cheap festivals itinerary.
Using a service like Shingig can help your wallet. They offer an all you can gig service for just £17 a month! With a vast array of events available throughout London, you can plan your line ups. The Netflix of live gigging!
Alternatively, the Resident Advisor website lets you filter events by city. The list of events is substantial and you can pick up early bird tickets for as little as £12 (€13) for parties that go all night long.
Dot To Dot Festival takes place over the last weekend of May in 3 different British cities. You could move from town to town on an epic road/train trip all starting at £12 (€13).
Look Out For Day Tickets
There is plenty of competition for your attendance. So events need to offer more entertainment and go on for longer.
Which inevitably drives up ticket prices each year. And many of us can’t get enough time off work to attend the whole duration.
Many festivals recognise this and therefore offer day entry tickets. They are a great option to pick and choose which days you want. Be sure to do your research into the programming beforehand to get the most bang for those hard-earned bucks!
Free Festivals Do Exist
Yes. Free festivals. They do exist, and there is a surprising number of them out there. Granted that you won’t get a jam-packed line up of superstars, but you can’t get cheaper than free.
Perhaps the most well known in this category is the Notting Hill Carnival in the UK. Usually taking place over the summer bank holiday weekend, it is the second-largest street festival in the world.
Indie rock fans should be on the lookout for Norman Music Festival in Oklahoma each April. The Danube Island Festival in Austria is a huge open-air event that draws almost 3 million visitors over three days each September.
Fans of rock & reggae (and free) can head to Poland for Pol’And’Rock in July 2021. Formerly know as Przystanek Woodstock the event takes place near the German border of Poland.
As the saying goes ‘if you don’t ask then you don’t get’ so if you are unsure of a festival offers group discount be sure to reach out to them. It is pleasantly surprising how many festivals do offer a group booking discount.
Typically the type of structures found are; buy 4 and get 1 free or buy 5 and get 1 free.
The concept of breaking down payments into more manageable portions is available on pretty much anything these days. And festival tickets are no different.
Festicket provides a festival payment plan service on some tickets and packages. It is a great way to manage your budget, but do read the terms and conditions before you purchase.
Many festivals also internally offer this service, and their fees are lower than 3rd party providers. It always worth contacting the organiser directly to check whether they provide this service.
City Festivals Are Cheaper
The overheads involved in setting up a small town in the countryside is a cost passed straight onto the festival-goer.
Factor in fancy glamping areas with posh toilets/showers, gourmet coffee bars, and a whole host of other luxuries and the costs start to soar.
Of course, these usually are factored into the price of a glamping ticket, but regular punters will bear some of the burdens through the labour costs required when it comes to setting up (and breaking down) the venue.
By comparison music festivals held in cities do not have these same issues. All the same, luxuries are available, but it’s not the organiser’s job to bring them on-site. That usually equates into savings at events like Kew The Music at the stunning Kew Gardens in London.
Smaller Line Ups Lower Costs
The more headliners a festival can stack on the line up does help promote an event and is a buying factor for some.
However, more choice means a higher total artist cost for the organiser. And ultimately, ticket prices are more costly.
Perhaps the best example of a vast line up costing mega is Tomorrowland where a day pass will set you back £99 (€109) and a full weekend pass is a cool £265 (€295).
Be on the lookout for festivals like Abode on the Rock which featured a lineup of 17 DJs over 3-days, and included Danny Howard, Steve Lawler & Fisher. Quality over quantity only costing £79 (€87).
Being prepared to dig a little deeper and not chase the flavour of the month could be the difference in turning two summer festivals into five or six.
But you are going to have to sacrifice well-known artists and support lesser-known acts. But considering what a tumultuous year of 2020 has been, support for grassroots music is more important than ever.
These underground festivals focus on a handful of headliners to draw you in and then curate the lineup to complement the stars and enhance your experience.
Butik Festival in Slovenia is a great example. They feature a well-known headliner each day (3) and then stack the bill with underground talent. The price of a ticket is just £45 (€45).
It is another example of a cheap festival abroad that you could combine into your summer holiday.