My husband and I love to attend music festivals. Although tickets to these events can be expensive, we actually find it to be a very economical way to see lots of artists. Instead of paying $50-$150 for one concert ticket to see one artist, at a music fest you can see 20-40 artists over 3-4 days for $150-$450. You do the math, that’s a huge cost saving that allows us to see way more artists than we could otherwise. Depending on where you live, you may also have to purchase a hotel room or AirBnb to stay in after one single concert, which considerably increases the cost of each individual event.
Almost all music festivals (certainly the big ones) have a tier-style arrangement for purchasing tickets. Basically, the earlier that you purchase tickets, the cheaper they will be. If you purchase pre-sale or tier 1 tickets you can save a lot of money, but this is because they are sold generally before the artist lineup is released, so you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting, although you can get a pretty good idea by looking at the festivals previous years lineups. If you wait to purchase tickets, the cost can increase significantly. Purchasing day-passes for fests is also an option, but again, these normally cost around $100/day, when you could enjoy all 3-4 days for a couple hundred dollars instead.
Many music festivals offer camping passes for around $100, or you can purchase a hotel near the event. Not all music fests offer camping passes, and this largely depends upon the available space at the venue. We love camping at music festivals because you never have to leave the grounds, you can wake up and walk to the stage and have an entire day full of music, beer, friendly faces and (hopefully) lots of sunshine, without worrying about traffic or crowds.
The first music festival that I ever attended was the Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was the weekend of my 22nd birthday and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Peach Fest is located on Montage Mountain, which is a ski slope in winter and the attendees of Peach Fest camp on the slopes, go down to the valley to watch bands perform on 3 different stages, and enjoy a ton of great food and beer. The best part is that this fest takes place in August, and there is a free water park that you can cool off in, in-between your favorite sets! We spent the weekend camping, laughing with new and old friends, playing in the water park (there’s a wave pool right next to one of the stages that you can hang out in while you listen to sets. AMAZING.) making memories and oh…avoiding the elements.
If you are going to camp at a music festival, I advise you to be prepared for any type of weather. The first night at Peach fest there was a ton of rain overnight, which resulted in our old tent (which had a tiny hole in the bottom) getting destroyed. We finally gave up trying to salvage our tent around 3 in the morning, wandered around the campgrounds (some people stay awake all night, it’s basically an endless party), and then we bought and pitched a new, smaller 2-person tent at 5 am when the camp store opened. To some, this sounds like a wildly fun adventure, to others it may sound like a nightmare. I personally loved it. We noticed that a few campers took down their tents Friday morning (day 2) and left, either for the comforts of a hotel or to go home. It also rained like crazy on Saturday night, the final evening of the festival, but this was also a huge, fun adventure and we ended up getting into VIP because of it! I still advise camping over getting a hotel room simply because you miss our on adventure and the “full experience” when you leave the grounds to go to your hotel at night, and you may miss a few sets in the morning or evening because you have to commute back and forth.
Since that first festival, we’ve attended a few more fests on the east coast and we’re really into the whole music festival scene. Since they are expensive, we normally only attend 1-3 fests per summer. In addition to the cost of the tickets, you have to factor in the cost of camping passes or hotel rooms, any food and alcohol that you want to buy or bring, and also the cost of transport to and from the festival. We’ve spent $500 (for both of us, all costs included) for the smaller festivals, and up to $1500 for the largest fest that we went to. This is a small list of past festivals that we loved, and future fests that we really want to make it to that are located on the east coast.
Governors Ball – Randall’s Island, New York
Governors Ball is an example of a music fest that doesn’t offer camping because of their location. Since the artists play on Randall’s Island, there is no space for attendees to camp. We had to stay in Manhattan and take a ferry to the island at the beginning and end of the festival every day. This was slightly inconvenient, but I will say that we had a great time exploring Manhattan after the festival closed every night, and we avoided waiting in long lines for the ferry by leaving early every morning, and leaving the Island every night before the final sets were finished in order to avoid the long line to get back on the ferry. Gov Ball was an incredible event that I would definitely recommend to anyone who is interested in a mainstream music fest. You aren’t allowed to bring in your own alcohol (a rule that only large festivals enforce), and there was a hardly-enforced no smoking policy (many people lit up various things to smoke in the crowd, security really couldn’t do anything about it and they didn’t seem to care), so take care what you bring with you (or take care to hide it well) unless you want it to get confiscated at security getting into the festival. Gov Ball has 4 stages so you would be well off to look at the lineup and plan which artists you want to see the most, so that you can get a good spot in the crowd at your favorite sets.
Tickets for Gov Ball 2018 cost $245 for pre-sale General Admission 3-day passes and $275 final price. 3-day GA passes are sold out for 2018, but there are still day-passes available for $115. 3-day ferry passes cost $45 and 1-day ferry passes are $18.
Camp Bisco – Scranton, Pennsylvania
Camp Bisco is held on Montage Mountain, just like Peach Fest. Camp Bisco takes place in July and is more of a mainstream/EDM festival, while Peach Fest hosts Jam Bands and Bluegrass/Folk artists. Just like Peach Fest, you camp on the mountain and have access to the water park, which is included with general admission tickets. There’s nothing like camping on Montage mountain. Although the slopes make it harder to camp and hike back up to your tent, the views from the campsite are incredible, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Early Bird passes are still available for 2018 Bisco, starting at $170 for the festival only, and $209 GA with camping (so worth it). Prices will go up to $220 fest only and $270 with camping, so if you want to attend this year, get your passes now!
Firefly Music Festival – Dover, Delaware
We have never attended Firefly Fest, but that is going to change this summer! We bought general admission passes with camping for Firefly this June. The 2018 lineup is one of the best music festival lineups that I’ve ever seen, although of course it depends on your music and artist preferences. Firefly has 8 main stages and 2 smaller stages in the campgrounds (another reason to camp instead of stay outside the festival), which means that we’re going to have to plan carefully so that we don’t miss our favorite artists. Some of our favorite artists going include Logic, Arctic Monkeys, Kendrick Lamar, The Killers, Alt-J, SZA, Eminem (YES REALLY), Odesza, Little Wayne and Chromeo. There are so many more smaller artists who will also be there and I’m sure that we will discover some amazing new musicians, which is another great part about attending music festivals!
General Admission passes started at $269 this year, but those are sold out, as are the second-tier passes for $299. GA passes are now listed at $329 and will soon increase to $349, so again, if you want to attend, purchase your passes now! It looks as if camping passes are sold out, unless you want to splurge on a VIP pass, which I would not recommend, but you can still find a hotel or Airbnb in the area.
JibberJazz Festivals – Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania
Jibberjazz is a company that hosts multiple music festivals in PA every summer. These are inexpensive, small-scale festivals that primarily have jam bands, bluegrass and folk music. There is an unlimited amount of camping room, so camping passes never sell out. There is Some Kind Of Jam (SKOJ) in April, Meeting Of The Minds in September, MadSummer Meltdown in June, and Boogie In The Bungalow in December. Tickets are on sale now for SKOJ. $80 presale tickets ended in February, but 3-day general admission with camping included are still available for only $85 until the end of April. After this, it will cost $100 at the gate, there will be no more pre-sale. Fortunately, even $100 is a great value for 3 days of live music and entertainment! These tickets never sell out, so there’s no rush unless you want to take advantage of the pre-sale prices. Small music festivals like Jibberjazz fests are generally much more relaxed and laid-back, with lax security checks and all kinds of interesting artists.
If you’re wary of the massive crowds and prices that go along with music festivals, a small-scale fest is a great place to start your festival journey. Any music festival is bound to be an experience that you’ll never forget.
Here are some great resources to use for music festival planning:
Use this website to find music fests that meet your interests instead of relying on hearsay or our friends favorites. Every music fest has a different vibe, and what’s right for your friends might not be ideal for you. Explore and find your favorites!
Check out this website to make sure that you aren’t missing any smaller festivals in your area! Another great festival finder resource.
While many call this app the “Tinder for music fests”, and it is true that it’s a bit provocative and people use it to find “Fest Baes”, it’s a great resource that we use to organize music festivals that we’re going to and interested in going to. It has an amazing community of both experienced and new fest-goers who can answer many of your questions about specific festivals, and the best part is that you can find people to meet up with at fests if none of your friends are going. You can even meet people here to purchase group camping passes with, which can reduce the cost of camping passes for the larger music festivals! I think it’s an awesome resource that any festival-goer should check out.
What was the best music festival that you ever attended? Do you prefer small jam-band fests, or big-name headliners? Share with me in the comments, and let me know your favorite resources you use to plan and organize your music festival experiences!