Why are music festivals so expensive? | The Economist
Why are music festivals so expensive? | The Economist

I’ve never been to a music festival… …until today Surprising I know, because in the past 20 years… …they’ve become increasingly popular Let’s take California’s Coachella It’s been running since 1999 when it had 25,000 attendees In 2017 there were almost 250,000 of them And as festivals have grown… …so have ticket prices In 1979 a ticket for Glastonbury, the UK’s biggest festival, cost £5 In 2019 it was £248 To put things in perspective, if ticket prices rose with inflation… …it would be five times more expensive today In reality they’re 50 times more So why are festivals so expensive?Running a festival takes a huge amount of workThis is Jennie Jordan, she’s a festival expertWe never imagined the level of detail you need to go intoLak Mitchell is a festival producer He runs Boomtown… …one of the biggest independent music festivals in the UKIt’s like setting up a small townWe’ve got hundreds of lines of budgetsYou’ve got to make sure that you’ve got water……to make sure you’ve got Wi-Fi……internal traffic management, external traffic management……toilets……four different security companies……food……stewarding……drink……artist internal transportThe list is just bonkersAt Boomtown it also takes 12,000 crew… …1,596 tonnes of scaffolding… …3m litres of water and 2,000 bins… …and all that costs But then there’s one more thing that makes festivals much more expensive… …the music And actually it all comes down to thisIt’s much more difficult now to make money selling recorded musicThe rise of streaming has basically flipped……the economics of the music industry on its headThis is Tom Standage He’s the head of all things digital at The Economist And… …a drummer in his spare timeIt used to be that you made your money……from selling records, selling CDs, selling LPs……and you promoted them by going on tour…and now you make your money by going on tour……and releasing an album is just really an excuse for another tourAnd as the importance of touring has increased… …so have artists’ fees At Woodstock in 1969… …Jimi Hendrix got today’s equivalent of $125,000 In 2019 at Coachella… …Ariana Grande was paid $8m That’s 64 times morePeople out there really think that we’re making millions……but we barely broke even last year……even though the festival completely sold out……because it’s so expensive to put onArtists are really, really tricky……because they will get offers from the big corporate festivals……that are like five times what we can affordHere’s the deal Over the past decade two companies Live Nation and AEG Live… …have become a dominant force in the festival market They’ve been pushing prices up… …and buying smaller festivals out Now they own close to a third of the British market alone Live Nation’s net worth in 2019… …was estimated at $15.6bn And they’re scaling their business models… …turning the likes of the Lollapalooza festival into a franchise… …and exporting it to countries across the globeCompanies control the risk by running a number of different festivalsThat allows you to have mitigating factors……if the weather’s awful one weekend……you’ve got another festival with income potentially……a couple of weeks laterIt allows them to get some economies of scale……and it allows them to get the top artists’ tours……so that they can offer them more than one date over the summer period……and that’s very effectiveAnd this means that the most popular acts… …headline many of the big festivals While these economies of scale may be cost effective for the big companies… …the risk is that festivals feel more samey And perhaps that’s one of the reasons why overall festival attendance… …has declined since 2016 In Europe 18% of surveyed festivals reported a downturn in ticket sales As the market gets more challenging… …some independent festivals have turned economic necessity… …into an opportunityWhen we launched Boomtown……we had no chance of competing on big acts as well……so we had to kind of create this model and this experience……that was unique and had its own sort of identity……that set itself out away from other festivalsThis is where it gets interesting A ten-year, British-audience survey …headline acts are a deciding factor for only 8% of festival-goers But 53% said the overall experience… …is the reason they bought their ticket We asked these festival-goers why they’re here A line-up will drag me in……but when I’m here, sometimes I don’t even see any musicI’ll be honest I don’t know any of the friggen musicIt’s nothing to do with the music……it’s all atmosphereAnd that’s part of a much bigger picture… In the past 20 years the Western world… …has shifted from buying things… …to buying these kinds of things In other words, experiencesMy name is Joe Pine……and I’m going to tell you all about the experience economyJoe has written a book called… …well, “The Experience Economy”Well what’s happened is we’ve gone from……an agrarian economy based off commodities……through an industrial economy based off goods, through a service economyAnd today we’re in an experience economyWhat experiences really do is that they engage everyone inside of themIt’s this engagement that the likes of Boomtown are banking on… …to pull in the puntersDo I know you friends?In 2019 Boomtown hired 2,000 actors… …to draw festival-goers into a variety of immersive experiences… …spread across 110 venues throughout the festivalI have a question I would like to ask……can you tell me……who really was the man behind the mask?And it’s all designed to create this unique communal experienceLiving in the digital age that we are now……there’s more need than ever for people to connect……and that’s what festivals do the bestAnd the digital age also means we can document these experiences And of course show them off onlineWe take selfies not because……we think we’re going to get the perfect picture……but because we were there and it proves that we were thereThese are similar to……that souvenir that you picked up on your seaside holiday……that means absolutely nothing to anybody else……but is so important to youThat is if you like the kind of evolution of what happened beforeIf you went round to someone’s house……you could see what records they had, what CDs they had……and that was a kind of social mediaReally posting stuff on Instagram is just the kind of updated version of thatAnd in the spirit of keeping up to date… …pretty much every music festival is now selling the experienceGather round……the futureSo what else will convince festival-goers… …that their tickets offer value for money?What’s the future of this incredible city?In other words… …what’s more experiential than experience?There is an experience that changes us in some way……and that we call a transformation……and a transformation is the fifth and final economic offering……this progression of economic valueWe’re using experiences as the raw material to guide people to change……to help them achieve their aspirationsSo expect to hear that a ticket to a festival in the future… …will be an investment in a truly transformative experience… …one that will offer an opportunity to help you discover your better self… …and one that might even be worth it

100 thoughts on “Why are music festivals so expensive? | The Economist”

  1. Will B-C says:

    Just in time for Boardmasters to be cancelled

  2. Desmond Tresfaye says:

    It's not the music, but the STDs now

  3. Stephen Ds says:

    Because celebrity musicians can't live without their millions and influence other musicians into that lifestyle. Simple

  4. Rita Rita says:

    Why does this feel so dystopian

  5. KnowleDJ says:

    fantastic video, interesting insight on the reason people go to festivals is the experience not the artists. although, even if the majority don't go for that reason, I'm wondering if it's because of that "core" group that do go for artists, it creates the catalyst needed to bring the rest of the people?

  6. lukas_marge says:

    Ive been at Electric Love Festival in Austria and I loved it 😍
    Even made my own aftermovie 👍🏻
    The experience was just amazing

  7. SlopedOtter says:

    They're selling bullshit to people who want to show off that they saw it

  8. Shaun Scott says:

    Thank you for sharing!! I have ideas for my dissertation now

  9. LFC 2001 says:

    I spent £1000 on Tomorrowland this year. Was worth every penny

  10. wuschelthepuschel says:

    Here in germany, small and cheap festivals are all the rage. You can go to a weekend festival and pay 80€.

  11. Peter Head says:

    Song at 1:44 anyone???

  12. Jonathan Williams says:

    5:00 on drugs

  13. Luca Caldari says:

    Please we all know it's jus a huge business, like Tomorrowland.

  14. MrBati122 says:

    Only in America shitty EDM festivals are expensive… In Europe they aren't.

  15. Ņeųţrał Føgg says:

    Shut the fuck up ! You didn't even talk about Tomorrowland wich is the most expensive festival.

  16. Guinness says:

    Incredibly interesting as I am sitting here, preparing my sunglasses and XTC to go to a festival here in the Netherlands.

  17. Jonathan Edward says:

    Interesting video, although a few thoughts:
    1. very selective interview clips to tell a story. E.g. I'm pretty sure at other festivals people go for the line up.

    2. comparing Coachella with Woodstock (for explaining how expensive artists are nowadays) is weak, as Woodstock was of very different nature and attracted a completely different crowd compared to Coachella today.

    3. I don't agree with the notion of experience economy only. I'd say we are hybrid experience-industrial.

    What are your thoughts?

  18. josep brunet says:

    It's actually ridiculous that back in the day the music quality was better and they got paid less. The example of jimmy hendrix just made me think

  19. Nick Peters says:

    Bullshit .. they charge what they know the punters will pay …

  20. MrGrombie says:

    Without even watching….. 3 words. Easy af, no business degree needed.

    Supply and demand. You're welcome.

  21. Umut Karakurt says:

    I think these "new experiences" are just good old mating rituals – which can also be easily mass-marketed these days like everything else.

  22. Alex White says:

    Wait who actually thinks festivals are expensive?!

  23. David Cipriano says:

    You guys should watch fyre festival lol

  24. A330 says:

    Because people are dumb enough to pay for them lol

  25. Booba says:

    Molly makes any festival better

  26. Karthik Sastry says:

    I'm gonna be honest here …this looks more like a cult/religion

  27. Abraham Rodrgiuez says:

    Boomtown is a rip-off of Tomorrowland

  28. Henri Kirsi says:

    This video won’t load for me. Everything else works but this one I can’t view

  29. Ostrich says:

    If 53% of the festival goers don't care about the music, how are artists able to charge so much? Where tf are they getting fans from if more than half of their crowds are there for the drugs..(experience)?

  30. Greg Burman says:

    RIP boardmaster 2019

  31. AJ says:

    RIP Houghton

  32. nafetS92 says:

    seems like I'm one of the 8%, because I choose a festival based on artists and music gerne.

  33. L1F3 1NVAD3R says:

    "It's got nothing to do with the music, it's all atmosphere." SMH

  34. Uplifted life says:

    The reason why it’s so expensive because people are stupid enough to pay the most expensive prices and that’s why it’s so expensive

  35. Donald Keating says:

    Screw Music festivals, concerts is where it's at

  36. Maicho says:

    It’s astonishing that you didn’t mention the stupidity of people willing to pay their whole month’s wages to listen to artists who really aren’t in the music business because of their fans (and probably sadly vice versa too) that keeps the industry supply met, not to mention the mediocrity of the artists’ music and performance that mesmerise tasteless fans! Sounds like you’re one of them!

  37. Clovis da Cruz says:


  38. Plane Drifter says:

    Bullsh*t -Festivals are one big corporate sellout.
    Todays festival are not an experience, back in the 80/90's before the corporations took over they used to be festivals with real eye opening experiences.
    A 1980's festival costing about £10 – £15 was from my experience having been to many many back in the 80's and 90's and a few in recent years. 80's and 90's were real festivals.
    Todays festivals equate to less than 1% of the experience that festivals used to have before the corporate sellout.

  39. Mirza singgih says:

    8,000,000 wow i thought she was paid like max 1 dang 😂

  40. mo brown says:

    Artist have always made more money on tour

  41. Charles Shires says:

    can confirm that £250 for Glastonbury is the biggest bargain going

  42. kofManKan says:

    Transformation indeed. We be strange.

  43. 394pjo says:

    All that pussy and coke aint gonna pay for itself.

  44. Luis Zenteno says:

    I waited 12 hours to see Robbie Williams last year, 10 to see Noel Gallagher and 14 to see U2. Guess I'm an idiot because I saw none of the frikin festival "experience"

  45. Linh-Thao Chung says:

    This is starting to sound like temporary theme-parks for young adults. Who am I kidding myself, they are.

  46. Reim Omar says:


  47. C says:

    interesting, I always choose lineup versus the experience. good lineup = good experience lmao

  48. Abd Rahman says:

    Let's subscribe the magazine owned by reptilians family, my favourite authors said , David Icke. Want to see to what extent this Illuminati ,Frankist zvian family can go.

  49. Abd Rahman says:

    By the way, I love it , love it very much CONSPIRACY THEORIES. Followers of all alternative media . No , not mainstream media ,lousy and whore media agency. Economist among the few, Monarch programmings media outlets I followed.

  50. King Julien says:

    offcourse it's expensive if you using that's point of view

  51. Nico W says:

    Nationalise it

  52. jedijooj says:

    Didn’t they was that bad in price tbh

  53. C17H25N says:

    A bunch of hippy BS

  54. Keir Thomson-Skinner says:

    2:43 what they fail to mention is that not only are you paying more but you’re paying more for shitty music(mostly)

  55. Jess Stuart says:

    Virtual music festivals are the future.

  56. Weicong Zhang says:

    if everyone don't go then we will see price drop

  57. feraru stefan says:

    7:24 7:24 7:24

  58. lolll says:

    Reading>Leeds 😬😏😆😆

  59. Chelsey Blair Kendig says:

    i spot a wild @amandafuckingpalmer

  60. LUpilot2012 says:

    They’ll just keep getting more and more expensive until people just stop going. Lollapalooza has been a staple of mine every year. It’s sucked the past few years. Not even close to being worth $300 anymore.

  61. Doug Harper says:

    Idk anything about the music… here for drugs, I mean the experience. Fck, is it hard to do drugs and like the music. Smh… 😒

  62. Jam says:

    I’m looking at you Ultra Miami 😒

  63. Rodrigo J. Da Silva says:

    of all the concerts I went I hardly remember any of the acts!! I only went there for the beer and for the atmosphere

  64. SC Boro says:

    8 million for ariana grande what has this world come down to smh

  65. Bill Bell says:

    OK, I'm old. These 'experiences' look completely empty to me.

  66. Alexander Tepper says:

    Well I have been to all of them when they were cheaper and way more comfortable to be at

  67. MightySavagE says:

    dunno about those people in the video, but I always put music first. With so many festivals to choose from I just select the ones with best lineup.

  68. Alexis Garcia says:

    i agree with the festival goers! the lineup draws you in but it is really about the party atmosphere and having a good experience with friends and strangers! its like escaping reality for a few days. Ive met some awesome people at festivals.

  69. Hcaz Htims says:

    Music festivals are retarded

  70. abdi ali says:

    These festivals are primarily not for the music.

    It’s a Hub to get pregnant. It’s a pregnancy centre

  71. Big Johnny says:

    Fyre festival was lit af

  72. Dave Brewer says:

    Why are music festivals so expensive ? The simple answer is that No matter what a Festival or Concert costs people can't wait to pay it .

  73. John says:

    Meanwhile I have never been to a music festival. Oh well

  74. Matt Mac says:

    festival attendance has declined because the "industry" was taken over by people that wanted to make money. The problem is… these events can make a lot of money, you shouldn't book acts that costs millions of dollars… these festivals made it big to start because they were bringing up new artists people didn't know about… today that isn't the case at all.

  75. Sherlock Holmes says:

    because people are willing to pay for it

  76. hi hi says:

    Imagine tomorrowland

  77. Music Lover says:

    Hipster trust fund brats are the only people who can afford to go to festivals.

  78. Kuziai says:

    Question is who the fuck goes to music festivals hahahahahah WhAWHWHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

  79. Warren Day says:

    Exemplary clarity and explanation as always. Thank you.

  80. back bencher says:

    Sad to learn that they are in a music festival and they are not in it for music!

  81. Jay Mehta says:

    is Tom a cartoon character? his body seems smaller compared to his head.

  82. XMonteh says:

    0:54 more like crack expert

  83. sailaway258 says:


  84. Shalv Singh says:

    "She's a festival expert"


  85. val says:

    cuz u guys are going toshit festivals

  86. natsiel says:

    Balloons (Nos) costs a fiver, just for one. Can you research why people pay that much when a box of 24 is £11.50

  87. StaciMay says:

    festivals becoming mainstream and the "thing" to do, ruined them

  88. Л М says:

    They should start taking money for people wanting to take selfies

  89. Palm Trees and Rum says:

    Festivals are dog shit when you have pop princesses performing. Like Sars Stock when we had The Stones, The Guess Who, Sam Roberts, AC/DC. Then they trot out Justin Timberlake in the middle and he got about 1000 bottles thrown at him.

  90. You're Only Young Once says:

    I believe festival culture contributes a lot to climate change. Look at the huge carbon footprint and all the trash

  91. Atipat12 says:

    HAHAHA 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

  92. Jesse - says:

    8 million… are you kidding me… the world needs to change man…

  93. Ideas are Powerful - Mick Demi says:

    Big festivals cost a lot because the owners are making money hand over fist, and people are willing to pay it. That's the only reason. There's no other reason.

  94. Dave Humphrey says:

    Ariana gets 8 mill for coachella, so Beyonce got 15 mill just for 40 mins performance. Duuuh!.

  95. Ginsu131 says:

    * in America and/or marketed towards Americans

  96. Yash Kshirsagar says:

    A musicfest is to music as a carpet is to a car

  97. Isaia Wright says:

    Hard summer 2019. 170,000 festival goers at lest say a low cost of 100 dollars. What the hell does 17M dollars go to exactly 😂
    EDC 2019. 450,000 attendees at a cost of 300 before taxes comes out to 135,000,000…

  98. Philip Abundo says:

    I personally think that music festivals are the perfect price. $150 to see headliner tier artists on album-drop tours alongside a bunch of other artists whose singular tickets can go from $25-$75? The secret is making your money's worth. Bring food and eat it before the gates, make sure they're high protein. Eat a salad or something beforehand, avoid drinking too much, always keep your waterpacks full with the free water around the festival. Take drugs and deal with the appetite curb lol. Don't go for things high in sugar during the festival and you'll be fine

  99. Mint Mastering says:

    for $8 mil i wanna see some pussy

  100. Steve Evans says:

    Soooo expensive! I go on holiday instead so much better! Not paying £14 for a slice of pizza after paying several hundred quid to get in!

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