Save money at music festivals

Just the ticket: Music festivals don?t have to cost the earth this summer

Thursday June 09 2011

For many music fans, the two biggest Irish open-air summer festivals, Oxegen and Electric Picnic, are not to be missed — at any cost.

But what a cost. When you factor in the cost of the ticket, drink, food, tent, transport, sleeping bag and various other essential items, most people camping out for the full duration of either Oxegen (July 7-10) or the Electric Picnic (Sept 2-4) could easily end up €500 out of pocket.

The biggest expense will be tickets and camping passes.

A three-day ticket plus camping at Oxegen (including booking fee) costs €230.85 each (a four-day one costs €251.85). A three-day no camping ticket will cost €205.85 and a day ticket is €105.85.

The Electric Picnic charges €246.35 for a weekend camping ticket, which is a good €30 cheaper than last year, while a day ticket (Sunday only) costs €105.35.

Of course, the total outlay can rise if you go for the plethora of luxury camping and accommodation options available.

For instance, you could spend up to €1,000 alone to hire a ready-pitched, full-sized and fully equipped tent, tipi or yurt package, which may or may not include sleeping bags and other equipment.

(That’s hiring by the way; you can’t even take the tents home with you.)

But serious music fans will tell you that such options are for softies anyway. Bringing your own tent and enduring the usual struggle to set it up is part of the deal at any decent open-air music festival — or at least it should be.

Of course, the key to saving money at these events but still have a good time is almost exclusively down to one thing: preparation.

1 Is it possible to find cheap or discounted tickets?

At the moment, you might be able to find discounted tickets for Oxegen or Electric Picnic by searching online-auction site eBay or other online classified sites, usually from fans who bought tickets or got them free but can’t go, for whatever reason.

For instance, one punter was selling an Oxegen four-day camping ticket on Dublin classifieds website for €150, a saving of €100, while another punter on was selling two, three-day camping tickets to the same festival for €380, a saving of €40 per ticket. Also on €400 for a pair of two EP weekend camping tickets, a saving of €40 each.

Potential saving: Up to €100 per ticket

2 Those prices are still a bit steep. What about other festivals?

Yes, indeed, there are a number of other local weekend music festivals, such as Sligo’s Temple House Festival this weekend, where a three-day ticket with free camping access costs just €120. The line-up tends to focus on local and independent artists, but headliners this year include Ash, a reformed Stereo MCs, Lisa Hannigan and Declan O’Rourke.

Another one is Sea Sessions in the seaside town of Bundoran, Co Donegal, (June 22-24), a festival clearly aimed at surfing dudes with acts such as Bell X1, Ziggy Marley, Villagers, Ham Sandwich, O Emperor and Gemma Hayes. A weekend ticket costs €84.45, with the camping option €20 extra.

Saving: Over €100

3 Sounds alright, but I really, really want to see Arcade Fire at the EP, but I can’t afford it.

The good news is that, at the moment, the Electric Picnic is offering music fans the option to volunteer at the event in exchange for free entry. This includes access to the camping area and time out to enjoy the show.

In return, you’ll be working for a total of 24 hours over the course of the three-day event. Check out its website ( for more details.

Any festival takes a huge amount of organisation and many are willing to offer tickets and other perks to those willing to lend a hand.

Unfortunately, Oxegen isn’t taking any volunteers as it farms out stewards or bar work to outside firms. It won’t tell you who those companies are, so a bit of detective work may be required if you’re determined to work there.

Saving: Up to €246.35, but you’ll have to work for it

4 Okay, so I’m going to bring my own tent. But I don’t have one. How much do they cost now, anyway?

Prices start from next to nothing: Dublin camping specialists Capel Camping offers a two-person dome tent for as little as €40.

Mind you, it’s clearly aimed at cash-strapped music festival kids for whom quality is far less important than cheap beer. What’s more, its clear many regard them as disposable items, as evidenced by the many dome tents left abandoned at Oxegen or Electric Picnic when the music’s over.

If you pitch your budget even a little higher, Halfords has a four-person tent ‘pack’, including some camping equipment, that used to retail at over €300 but which is now on sale from its website for just €160.

Of course, you could always borrow one from a friend or family member who might have one, saving a bundle.

Saving: At least €40

5 What’s the cheapest way to get there?

If you have the time, the cheapest way to get to the Electric Picnic this year is by bicycle. No, seriously. The ‘Tour de Picnic’ is an 80km organised cycling challenge from Dublin to Stradbally on the Friday of the EP to raise money for Temple Street Children’s University Hospital. Over 1,000 cyclists took part last year and all those who successfully completed the run got a free weekend ticket.

Besides the bicycle, there are several public and private buses available for both Oxegen and Electric Picnic starting at about €20 return.

If you’re determined to use the car, though, be sure to team up with friends and family to share the petrol costs.

Car park passes for Oxegen cost €20, but a group of four Oxygen festival goers each with weekend camping tickets can claim a free car park pass.

Car parking is free for EP, but bear in mind the greater potential for damage to be inflicted on your car by drunk and carefree festival goers, not to mention heavy traffic in and out of the venue.

Saving: Up to €300 (if you do the Tour de Picnic)

6 How can I save on food and drink?

How little or how much you spend on food or drink really depends on your own appetite for either, and how much of your own you bring with you. So it’s a hard one to quantify, really.

There’s obviously lots of alcohol involved at music festivals, but TJ Sheils, founder of music management firm Vox Pop Media, offered this thought:

“While there’s ways to bring your own booze, I’d recommend drinking less as a sure way to save money. Having worked at Oxegen and many other festivals in Ireland I can assure you that drinking less will not result in you having less fun.

“At least you’ll be saving money and you’ll remember which band you went to see and you’ll most likely enjoy the music much more. And the music is what you’re paying for.”

We also asked some fans on Twitter for some tips and got some useful ones:

“Never eat at Oxegen itself!”, said Patrick Kelly. “We got a bus into Naas in the morning and had a huge feed. Full for the day! Saves loads of money.”

“Been to many festivals,” said Cian Corbett. “95pc of money is spent on food and drink so smart packing is key. Sandwiches, beer and raingear.”

“Learn to play an instrument & play at the late-night sessions,” said ‘Crank Dub’. “People give you drink, especially drunk people.”

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent

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