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Burning Man festival goers stranded in the desert this year had a difficult time sourcing wet weather gear. The art festival in Nevada is a commerce-free zone where barter and gifting is the norm. That does not mean the event is free. Plenty of money changes hands away from the playa. Tickets to attend cost $575, plus $150 for a vehicle pass. Add taxes, fees and RV rental and the nine-day event can cost more than $1,000.
Burning Man began as a small ceremony on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986. By 2010, ticket prices had reached $210. The 174 per cent increase since then far outpaces inflation.
Around the world, festival prices have jumped over the past decade. Live experiences, muddy or not, are highly prized. Festival organisers have made events more professional, attracting an older, wealthier audience. Artists have raised fees. In recent years, organisers have sought to recoup pandemic losses too.
Glastonbury, the largest festival in the UK, lifted ticket prices 20 per cent this year to £335, citing higher running costs. The west country festival began in the 1970s charging £1 for entry — including free milk from the farm. By 2010, visitors were paying £185. Despite prices nearly doubling since then, it is more popular than ever. Attendance has increased from 135,000 to more than 200,000. Still, tickets sell out in minutes.
In the US, desert music festival Coachella has doubled in price over that period, taking tickets to $549 ($1,609 for VIP). An “interactive” badge at the SXSW festival in Austin Texas is $1,595, nearly three times as much as it was in 2010.
Rising costs for cultural events contributed to the UK’s high inflation this year. Music lovers who went to Reading and Leeds festival paid a third more than last year. Next year, another jump is forecast. There is an alternative for those unwilling to pay more. Turn up to the biggest festivals in the world, such as Vienna’s annual Donauinselfest and Montreal Jazz Fest. There you will find plenty of free shows.
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