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Think the Bestival crowd are getting high? Check out the ticket prices

Posted by Claire Beveridge on Jun 24th, 2015 | News and opinion

Muddy Wellies | Think the Bestival crowd are getting high? Check out the ticket prices | Crunch

Festivals are the highlight of many people’s summer calendar. Live music, friends, loved ones and copious amounts of alcohol and dancing – what’s not to love?

Festivals are great for artists too – both big and small – as a platform to earn some dosh, reach a broader audience and promote themselves. Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds, V and the other major festivals continue to grow in popularity, and according to the Performing Rights Society (PRS) gig-goers are spending £1 billion on live music and festivals per annum. And with more people looking toward staycationing in order to have a break from the humdrum tedium of work life, the UK festival scene shows no signs of slowing down.

Festival-going has become an expensive pastime though. Long gone are the days where entrance to Worthy Farm cost a mere £1, and if you regularly attend large music festivals, you may have noticed that these days it’s all about the money, money, money.

Leaving on a jet plane?

Everyone knows that European festival tickets are a lot cheaper. For example, the four day EXIT Festival in Serbia will set you back a mere £89, Rosklide in Denmark converts to £187 for eight (yes, eight) days of festival frolics and Bilbao in Spain is £96.

Cost of flights and transport adds onto the overall outgoings, but book far enough in advance and it can still work out cheaper than attending a UK festival. Plus, you’re almost guaranteed hot, sunny weather. Bit of a no-brainer, isn’t it?

Taking into account the cost of a weekend ticket (without booking fee) to fifteen of the UK’s major music festivals – Glastonbury, Bestival, Reading and Leeds, V Festival, Isle of Wight, Download, Latitude, T In The Park, Secret Garden Party, WOMAD, Green Man, End of the Road, Wilderness, Creamfields and Wireless – the average festival ticket in Blighty is a hefty £195.02.

Despite this high cost, tickets are still snapped up sharpish. Glastonbury’s 135,000 ticket allocation sold out in 25 minutes, months before the line-up was even announced.

In 2005, it was a very good year

It wasn’t always this pricey though. Let’s rewind ten years to 2005: Charles finally got round to marrying Camilla, Blair secured a third consecutive election victory, Live 8 happened, it seemed every popular band name began with ‘The’ and festivals in the UK started becoming cool again. Bestival launched that year with Latitude following in 2006, both got off to a flying start and have since become stalwarts of the UK festival scene.

Back in 2005 you’d be charged £125 for a ticket to Glastonbury or Reading and Leeds, £110 for V Festival and a mere £89 for the three day Bestival event on Isle of Wight.

In 2015, both Glastonbury and Reading / Leeds charge well over £200 with Bestival, Latitude and V Festival hovering around the £190 mark – a sharp increase from prices a decade ago.

Both Bestival and Latitude have seen an increase of over 100% since 2005, with Glastonbury hovering in the low 80% range and V Festival and Reading / Leeds having a 70% increase.

Mo money mo problems

Property values have been exploding in recent years, and are often used as the benchmark for unsustainable increases in prices – but it may surprise you that festival tickets have risen at an even higher rate.

From 2005-2015 average house prices have risen by 23%. Ticket prices for major UK festivals, meanwhile, have risen at a rate of 90%.

In 2009, around the time of the recession, average house prices fell by over £30,000, whereas ticket prices for Reading / Leeds rose by £20.

Between 2009 and 2013, house prices levelled out whereas ticket prices continued to rise. This post-recession hike was spearheaded by Bestival, where prices jumped from £140 in 2009 to £190 in 2013.

If this ticket price hyper-inflation were to continue over the next thirty years, we will eventually find ourselves in a situation where:

  • Bestival becomes more expensive than Glastonbury
  • By 2050 festival tickets are in the region of over £600.
  • V Festival is the only festival under £500


Slaves to the wage

Not only are festival prices raising the roof where housing is concerned, they are also leaving punters out of pocket when it comes down to wage comparison.

In 2005 the average monthly income was £1,646. The average UK festival would cost you 7% of your pay packet. Compare this to 2015 when a weekend glamping in the sunshine will set you back 10% of your monthly income. Fast forward to 2050 and an average UK festival will cost 15% of your hard-earned pay. The real-terms cost of a festival ticket will have more than doubled.

These extortionate price rises might be justified if the money went into the pockets of artists – but don’t forget most festivals are money-making exercises. Festival Republic, which operates Reading / Leeds and Latitude made a £9 million gross profit in 2012/13 on revenues of £42.5 million – that’s a 20% profit margin.

In the time it’s taken festival tickets to increase in price by 90%, wages have gone up just 28% – still feel like you’re getting enough bang for your buck? Will there come a time when the general public just can’t afford festivals anymore? Will festivals price themselves out of business?

Sooner or later even the most hardcore festival goers will crash, but it looks like festival ticket prices – for the time being at least – will continue to soar.

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