Glastonbury is taking a break this summer. This has caused horror to those who build their summer plans around the event and the festival has become the place to be for many and there are thousands of people who don’t know what to do with themselves with no Glastonbury to attend. Conversations with a couple of people in particular have made laugh but also got me to thinking: are festivals like Glastonbury really worth the money?
Summer festivals have lost their spark. They used to be about having fun and spending time with our mates. Now, like many other things in life, they’re increasingly just about hashtags, Instagram photos and the ability to say, ‘I was there’. People are not looking forward to exploring new music or unwinding – they are just looking to say they’ve done it. I’d bet a good number of these people throwing pints in the air to celebrate England winning a football match are Glastonbury-goers. The truth is smaller summer festivals are much nicer, and far better value for money.
Industry giants run the big festivals, and this has taken the thrill out of attending them. Whether it’s festivals like Coachella, Glastonbury, Leeds, or LoveBox, you won’t really have to wait in anticipation to find out the line-up. It can be pretty much the same in all of these festivals. Special mention for Leeds this year, who took a lot of “2006 called it wants its festival line-up back” criticism before adding further acts.
At smaller festivals, the thrill of listening to a live band you don’t yet know about still exists. The casual music lover can explore the line-up of Hardwick Liveand feel invigorated. Yes, there’s the bands you’ve heard of who will shift the tickets, but for discovering new music there’s nothing better than these small festivals. Even the festivals that have a line up exclusively made up of tribute bandsare great to attend. There is something new to look forward to.
Don’t get me wrong. Big, famous artists can be top performers live. But you can always go to their concerts, which are often a better experience than listening to them for an hour in the middle of a field, at the end of a long weekend when you’ve had enough and just want to go home.
Summer festivals are not supposed to feel like a trip to IKEA. You don’t want the same old experience, no matter how simple and straightforward it might be. You want excitement and something unique, like the Godfather of small festivals, Truck Festival in Oxford.
Because people don’t look for experience but rather follow the crowds to the festivals that are deemed ‘must-see’ by the industry and social media chatter, you get grumpy people in a crowded space. Few people are really having any fun at a big festival. Many of the others are filming on their phones rather than living the moment.
Smaller summer festivals tend to mean crowds that are relaxed and happy to be there. You’re not there to participate in a hashtag marathon but to spend a lovely summer day (or weekend) with your friends and family, listening to songs and exploring good food and music.
This leads to the major flaw in gigantic festivals: the imbalance of the cost and the value. The admission fee for a smaller summer festival might seem more expensive at first but then you consider the other costs. The food, the accommodation, the travel costs are all cheaper on average. Big festivals always spike the prices. It all makes sense from the business standpoint but it sucks for your bank account.
The same doesn’t quite happen with smaller summer festivals. Even when costs go up, you still don’t end up competing with thousands of others for a spot at a crappy hotel. As much as being stuck in a crowded field in an old tent is considered part of the experience, do we really enjoy it that much?
A big summer festival feels like a boring corporate job these days and people in the crowds are just as annoyed at being there as in the office.
Go to a smaller summer festival and the mood is different. You’re not doing the same old things and listening to the same old songs. Instead you’re exploring festivals like Festival No. 6 in Wales that offer something unique and different to other events – you can actually eat at a real restaurant here! Therefore, you get more value for money – as a famous credit card ad used to highlight, many experiences are simply priceless and those are often only available at smaller festivals these days.
Guest Blog by Karl Tippins of Bough Digital