As ticket prices rise and demand continues to skyrocket, young people are finding it harder and harder to attend music festivals. Our writers ask: is the modern festival still worth it?
Now, anyone who knows me knows that Glastonbury is a very important part of my life. You could say that I talk about it way too much…
But some people certainly have not had this same love affair with the festival. A lot of this is down to not getting tickets, believing the system is somehow unfair. This year tickets sold out in around 40 minutes - which was actually around about the same amount of time it took them to sell two years ago (50 minutes). What makes this so impressive is that last year was a fallow year. And in that two-year gap, more people decided to go than usual, feeling like they were missing out on not going. So with record numbers of people trying to get tickets, to match the selling out time is pretty remarkable.
The misunderstanding with people who have never been to Glastonbury before is that they often think getting tickets is like when everyone was in year 11, about to finish their GCSEs, and people wanted to go to Leeds or Reading. These festivals don’t have the immense International draw that Glastonbury does, so their tickets are available for more than 40 minutes after they go on sale - these festivals give you months. Getting tickets for Glastonbury is a process that requires planning, alarms, and multiple devices - it’s not something you decide on a whim.
People also seem to get annoyed by the speed of which tickets are bought - thinking it’s ticket touts. This 100% is not the case with Glastonbury. Your ticket arrives with your face on it. The tickets are essentially as difficult to resell as holographic IDs. “Real fans” are getting tickets - it’s is impossible for ticket touts to take advantage. People also get kicked off of the website if they are refreshing too often while trying to get higher up in the queue - you really think that a bot is going to get past that if manual refreshing can cause people to get kicked off?
And I can hear the question that you, the reader, is asking: did I get tickets for 2019? And the answer is yes. And if you didn’t, don’t worry. There are other ways to get in - Glastonbury really does give you multiple chances. Try volunteering for Oxfam - in fact, you can do this with almost every festival in the UK, with the cost of your ticket being paid for by your volunteering hours. There is even a resale in April for those who didn’t get tickets the first time around - and the benefit of buying tickets then is that you know who the artist will be, so you’re not buying tickets with a hope that your favourite will be there. If you aren’t already, registration for these tickets opens on November 1st.
Glastonbury tickets sold out in forty minutes this year. FORTY. That’s around 130,000 people at £248 a head. That’s a lot of dollar in the Worthy Farm fund. And that’s not even considering all the additional costs like transport, tents, food, booze, the inevitable purchase of a second tent halfway through the weekend after yours has either mysteriously disappeared or started to smell just a little bit too funky. It’s a lot of money, but it’s sold out in under an hour every year and there is always a waiting list, so people are clearly willing to pay the fee and wait with bated breath staring madly at a computer screen. But should they be?
Looking at the wider context- festival ticket prices are all well up into three figures now, and the culture is becoming more and more bourgeois. Fashion designers have festival clothing lines, outdoor shops sell festival starter packs, there’s the option of hiring a yurt or tepee for well into the thousands of pounds. Festivals, which once were such an accessible and community orientated notion are becoming extremely commercialised and are outpricing the very people for whom they were designed. Glastonbury began with asking for a humble £1 entry fee, with the promise of some of Worthy Farm’s finest milk included in the ticket price. Now, the ticket -if you are fortunate enough to get your hands on one- gives you only the permission to be in that particular field on that particular weekend, accommodation, food and drink are all luxury add-ons.
Of course, it’s a good thing that music is being celebrated on a wider scale- there’s TV coverage now and the names appearing on the Pyramid stage are some of the biggest in the industry. There’s been legendary collaborations (see the BeeGees and Coldplay in 2016’s headline set- what a combo!), political activism (see Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in 2017) and the beauty of music bringing people together despite being covered in shit and soaked to the bone (see every Glastonbury ever). But at what cost? Music is not something which should ever be made unaffordable. Safer and better quality festivals are desirable, but not if it means simultaneously pricing out the very people who deserve to enjoy them the most.
There seems to be the opinion that the price of being a music fan now is higher than ever. However, for me, I struggle to see that this is really correct.
Personally, I’d guess that at least 50% of the money I earn myself does go towards music related activities. Whether it be my Spotify subscription or vinyl or gig tickets or the travelling to get there. Although, that is not caused by the price of what I chose to do, more the frequency that I do it.
More and more artists are actively fighting against ticket re-sales, Ed Sheeran made ID and proof of purchase obligatory for the whole of his Divide tour and Taylor Swift took a massive cut in ticket-sales for doing the same thing on her Reputation stadium shows. Admittedly, you’re going to have to shell out upwards of £60 to catch the huge names live, but it is still possible to see smaller acts for as little as £12 at local venues.
When it comes to festivals, it is an unaffordable amount of money. I wanted to attend a few this summer but just couldn’t afford the entrance fee, let alone the price of food and drink when I got there. For music fans, when you break the price down to fee per act you see, it can come to under £10 per set - a great deal. But for those more invested in the weekend’s fun, paying upwards of £200 is not the one.
In my opinion, the reason tickets are becoming so hard to access and fans are spending so much, is the frenzy whipped up in fandoms on social media. Music, especially pop music, is reaching more people than ever before through these channels. These record breaking numbers of people following artists means more competition for tickets, and therefore more people disappointed.