How to avoid being fleeced at festivals
Music fans will spend less and get more at this year's festivals, especially if they broaden their horizons, writes Roisin Burke
TODAY 140,000 people are celebrating the final day of Glastonbury. It's the 40th anniversary of the iconic festival original.
Bono did his back in, so Gorillaz headlined instead of U2. Rapper Snoop Dogg hit the main stage on Friday, finally granted a visa to the UK after a four-year ban battle. He was to appear at today's Parkpop festival in the Nederlands, but the mayor of The Hague banned him, though he'll perform tomorrow in Amsterdam.
So the festival season is now officially on. Irish biggie Oxegen kicks off on July 8, and its 80,000 attendees will hope the weather holds and staves off floods and mud.
Some festivals have become almost as famous for downright fleecing of punters as they are for their stellar line-ups, but a combination of a less freewheeling money climate and some serious competition from events abroad is boosting value for money this year.
"Festivals are becoming quite savvy regards not ripping people off any more," our music industry insider, whose job is to go to festivals here and abroad, says. "For the price of what you would pay for Oxegen tickets and all the money you would spend there, you could go to a festival in Croatia and spend a week there. The Irish festival market now has to compete with this."
So expect to shell out less on niggly extras. "The timetable of the festival was never available until the day, and you had to pay €10 for the laminate," says Mr Festival. "Nowadays you can just print off the timetable and bring it with you."
Social networking has been a further nail in the rip-off coffin. "Straight away people will be posting on the new video Twitter/Facebook forum on their mobile phone, so festivals get found out pretty quick if they are pulling a fast one."
LEAVE THE COUNTRY, SEE MORE FOR LESS
"People who want more for their money are hitting Europe for festivals," says Mr F. "They're much cheaper and good weather is almost guaranteed."
So you can gamble on a dry three days in a field in the midlands in Ireland for about €250 a ticket and the same outlay again for food and travel. Or you could consider the Spanish beach-resort-based Benicassim festival in Spain.
Four-day tickets for Benicassim are €166. Flights to Valencia are around €284. Line-up includes The Temper Trap, Kasabian, Delorentos, Goldfrapp, The Prodigy, The Specials, Klaxons, Dizzee Rascals, Fionn Regan, Hot Chip, Gorillaz and much more. We're told food and drink on site are far cheaper and facilities are worlds better. For details, see benicassimfestival.co.uk
Big line-ups are gracing festivals in places from Belgium to Poland at a fraction of the Irish festival price tag. Heck, we reckon you could do the famous Burning Man in Nevada for about €1,200 for flights, tickets and food and your surreal playa strutting tinfoil outfit all in. Tickets start at €227, see www.burningman.com.
BOOK BOOZE BEFORE
If you're intent on the festival circuit here, you can book cheaper chilled booze for Electric Picnic in September. You can buy in advance online at "standard off-licence prices" and avoid paying €5-plus for a pint of plastic festival beer. The online off-licence site opens at the end of July. See www.electricpicnic.ie.
Though the price of pints in bars has been falling, "drink-wise the average is €5 for a pint, sometimes €5.50", Mr Festival reports. "People living in Dublin are used to this price, but people coming from else where in the country find it quite expensive."
Bar tents at two big festival names levy "deposits" of €6 or so each on their plastic beer cups and jugs. Return these or your pint will end up costing you €11.
While a certain amount of €8 burger- or €10 noodle-buying and 20-minute queueing is probably inevitable, bringing even some of your own grub will cut your spending a bit. Some festivals, like Castlepalooza, have their own BBQ areas.
POWER TO THE POSH
Even at about €90 rental a night, the camper van option has a lot of appeal relative to the festival camping experience (people falling over your guy ropes and on to you, your canvas dwelling becoming an impromptu urinal for passing drunks caught short, etc).
Campers book out fast -- availability for Electric Picnic in September is already tight. Try www.bunkcampers.com.
Festival veteran Eavann McCarthy vents. "Myself and a friend rented a campervan to travel down to the Electric Picnic. Having experienced a noisy campsite the previous year and having had a taste of a friend's camper hospitality, we thought that it was definitely the way forward. So we paid €60 extra for a campervan ticket, thinking that we were going to at least have access to an electricity point, but no, we were basically herded into a field with hundreds of other vans with absolutely nothing extra to warrant the extra charge. We had back-up leccie in our van but a lot of people were left without electricity."
There's no electric hook-up for campervans at Electric Picnic or Oxegen in spite of the extra charge, so it's not clear exactly what you're paying extra for. It's still a cheaper option than the posh tee-pees and yurts, however.
BIJOU AIN'T BAD
The smaller events can't always compete on scale or line-up but offer other nice extras.
Broadband is free at Castlepalooza in Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co Offaly, as are the solar-powered hot showers. And, saving you heaps, there are free drinking water points throughout both the arena and campsite. It also has lots of real flushing toilets with real toilet paper. That's posh. www.castlepalooza.com.
At KnockanStockan in Blessington, Co Wicklow, camping is free and you can bring your own booze.
LOST YOUR TICKET?
A certain personal finance journalist discovered on the first day of Electric Picnic 2006 that her ticket was nowhere to be found, having been purchased eagerly six months beforehand (oh those halcyon boom days of panic ticket-buying, how MCD et al must miss them).
Ticketmaster simply reissued the ticket. Terms and conditions apply, and you might have to be in a position to go to a Ticketmaster office in person and show ID like a passport, but it can give you a new appreciation for the annoying booking fee.
Still haven't got your tickets? Relax, there's a recession on, it won't cost you your soul and your first-born to get one. Fan ticket site Viagogo.ie has Oxegen day tickets from €83.92 at time of writing, so over a tenner cheaper than the €99.50 on Oxegen's site. Other types are sold out though. Electric Picnic and other festivals still have tickets available.
"The main problem for the big Irish festivals is the price of the tickets -- they haven't sold out the past couple of years," Mr Festival says. "The smaller independent ones have reduced the price and are getting the return from this. Day-ticket options need to be available for all festivals these days, as a lot of people simple can't afford to stay the whole weekend and don't want to pay for a weekend ticket when they only are going for a day."
Oxegen had a deposit option this year and Electric Picnic has just extended its instalment plan with no extra charge -- you pay three payments of €80, the first on booking, the second €80 instalment is debited from your account by July 23 and the final €80 is taken out on August 20.
GET IN FREE
Volunteer and get in free. The usual deal is that you work 24 hours in six-eight hour shifts doing things like manning information points and checking wristbands at gates. When you're not working you have access to everything in the festival. Check festival websites for details.
Best to leave the iPod and laptop at home. If they're taken from your tent, they won't be covered by insurance.
All we have to add from bitter personal experience is: don't try the chairoplanes at Electric Picnic after three pints, two spicy burritos and a herbal brownie. And don't pitch your tent downwind of the portable loos. Ever.