What Festivals Offer the Best Value?
Looking to make a last-minute festival decision or trying to plan ahead for next year? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve taken the country’s most popular festivals and analyzed them by lineup, price and artist value to determine which ones provide the most bang for their buck. Whether you want to catch the most in-demand artists all in one place, or are looking for an affordable ticket close to home, we’ve got it covered. Check out the method to our madness and find out who reigned supreme below!
Best Value by Lineup
Festivals are a great way to see lots of popular artists under one roof without shelling out hundreds for each individual performer. For this first category we’ve taken a look at the top 25 artists playing at the year’s 10 biggest fests and calculated how much it would cost to see them all separately. This tells us which event provides the most value based solely on lineup.
# 1. Coachella
With headliners like Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga and Radiohead, unsurprisingly Coachella reigned supreme in this category. With the aforementioned performers averaging over $200 on the secondary market, it’s no wonder that this event sells out in minutes every year.
#2. The Meadows
Representing for the East Coast is The Meadows, which ranks number two on the list for best value. The lineup for the relatively new Queens-based festival is one of the more diverse of the season, with Jay Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gorillaz leading the pack. All three groups are back in the spotlight after taking a break from touring, thus their average ticket prices range from a hefty $160 – $190 on the secondary market.
Honorable Mentions: BottleRock (3rd), Lollapalooza (4th), Austin City Limits (5th)
Best Value Based on Ticket Price
Even if a festival isn’t stacked with your favorite bands, a weekend filled with live music, good food and fun is still an amazing experience. Because of that, attendees may look for the cheapest ticket price rather than the hottest lineup when mulling over festivals this year. That’s why we’ve also included best ticket price as a factor. Out of all the major festivals, these are the ones that’ll cost you the least.
#1. Boston Calling
If you’re interested in comedy, film and a ton of delicious new food options, consider Boston Calling. Held over Memorial Day Weekend at the Harvard Athletic Complex, this three-day affair boasts Chance the Rapper, Tool and Mumford & Sons for $306 (including fees). Single-day tickets are also available for $126 all-in.
Another affordable fest (especially if you’re a West Coaster) is BottleRock Napa Valley. Featuring 80+ bands and tons of gourmet food and drink, this immersive Wine Country experience is only $349 for a 3-day ticket, and $149 for single-day. Headliners this year include Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Maroon 5.
Honorable Mentions: Governors Ball (3rd), Austin City Limits (4th), Panorama (5th)
Best Lineup Depth
Though big-name artists get the best real estate atop the festival posters, part of the beauty of a multiple-day experience is the chance to catch more than just a few acts. Top-heavy lineups may draw in the casual fan, but true weekend warriors will be interested in the range of artists across lineups, knowing they can squeeze in twenty or more acts if planning efficiently. Lineup depth accounts for ticket demand driven by performers individually, and then ranks each festival by the artists’ median ticket price.
Lollapalooza has a lineup so large and diverse it’s no surprise that it tops this category. Only at this festival are bands like The XX and Lorde second-tier headliners, and even 11 lines down into their massive roster familiar names like Capital Cities and Royal Blood can be seen. Hosted annually at Grant Park in Chicago, this event has been active for 20 years and will take place this year from August 3-6.
With the “see and be seen” mentality surrounding Coachella, of course it would boast a lineup densely packed with popular musicians. Though if you were to poll most Coachella attendees, we’d venture to guess they’d be hard-pressed to name them. But for true music lovers, especially those living on the West Coast, this festival is a great option.
Honorable Mentions: The Meadows (3rd), BottleRock (4th), Hangout Fest (5th)
Overall Best Bang-for-Your-Buck
For our last category, we took each lineup value and divided it by the festival’s ticket price to figure out the event with the overall best value. These bang-for-your-buck selections offer both a solid lineup and affordable tickets–the best of both worlds.
#1. Boston Calling
Already noted above for its affordable ticket prices, Boston Calling is also the overall best value festival when factoring both ticket price and lineup value. Its convenient location in the heart of Cambridge also allows for very cheap transportation to the event, plus a wide offering of hotels and AirBnbs in and outside of the city. For most East Coast residents, you’re just a bus ride (or a flight into Logan) away.
Another repeat on the list, BottleRock ranks number two in terms of overall best festival value. Even more attractive than the reasonable cost and unique lineup? The breathtaking options for camping–something Boston Calling does not have. In addition to plentiful hotel and rental options, just two miles from the main event is CampCarneros at Skyline Wilderness Park which offers both RV and tent camping.
Honorable Mentions: Austin City Limits (3rd), Governors Ball (4th), Hangout Fest (5th)
(Image courtesy Dan Levy via Flickr.)