Lollapalooza and the Myth of the Good Deal

Hey all. This is my first blog post. And the idea for this post came from a friendly Twitter-based argument I recently had with a friend. The friend tweeted something along the lines of “least amount of people I know going to lolla this year…what gives?” And I told him I thought it was a ripoff and he told me it was an incredible deal and I thought about it for awhile and then I decided that no, it’s not a good deal. It appears to be a good deal on the face of it. But it’s really kind of a crappy deal. So for this post, I’m going to try and debunk the myth of Lollapalooza as a “good deal.”

$215 for three days. That’s the standard price for admission. Just for the ticket alone. That does not include the superinflated price for food and bottled water and beer that you’re essentially required to pay because, as I last checked, once you leave the festival grounds you are denied re-admittance. So let’s say, conservatively, that food and drink amounts to an additional $30 a day. That means we’re really looking at around $300 dollars for the weekend. Now I think that’s way too much. And the most common response to my complaint is “but dude, that’s for like 100 bands, so you’re only paying $3 per show, which is a great deal!” Yes, that would be a good deal. But it’s not really like $3 per show. So it’s not really a good deal. At any point in the afternoon, there’s about six bands playing during the same time slot. By the end of the day, there’s about four bands playing during the same time slot. Obviously, you can’t see more than one band perform at a time. So if we split the difference and accept the premise that, of the entire 100 band lineup, for any given time slot there will be five bands playing at the same time, you can really only see 20 bands play their full set. So now we’re up to about $15 dollars a show. Which is still a pretty good deal. HOWEVER, the majority of the bands (aside from the headliners) only get 45 minutes to play. And that full 45 minutes only happens if the band before them finished their set on time and there are no sound or stage setup issues. Since a regular club or theater show usually lasts around an hour and a half (on the short end, and if you’re talking bands like My Morning Jacket or Coldplay, you’d probably get anywhere from two to three hour shows), you’re really only getting half of a show from each band at Lolla at best. So you’re really paying a little over $15 for half a show. And with an average full-length performance at club or theater show costing around $25 (and a majority of these acts are club or theater-sized acts to begin with), it turns out half a show for more half the price isn’t really “a deal” at all. And this is just a breakdown of the pricing, not even touching on the bands you get to see, the bleeding of sound from neighboring stages, the repetition of mid-tier acts from year to year, the size of the crowd (anywhere from five to ten times larger than the band would normally attract at a headlining show) or the inescapable remorse you feel over the bands you don’t get to see.

I’m not saying Lollapalooza isn’t a good festival (although I have my suspicions) or that you’re a sucker for buying tickets (I’ve been to Lolla four times, three in it’s current permanent iteration and once while it was still a touring fest) or that it’s not worth going (I’m sure I’ll go again). But when you buy your next ticket, be cognizant of what kind of “deal” you’re really getting.

4 responses to “Lollapalooza and the Myth of the Good Deal”

  1. This is a great blog post, Chris. I very much relate to your point. Here in Austin, we have Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL), which I always attend. And it is around $300 or more for the entire 3 days. As much as I love music, I often ask myself “why am I here, fighting these crowds?” It makes more sense to avoid the large music festivals altogether. Because most of the bands come back throughout the year, especially in a great music city like Austin. And I’d much prefer to see my favorite bands in a more intimate club setting, for less money, cheaper drink prices, and a full set. I feel like I go to these outdoor music festivals more for the experience and less for the actual music.

  2. Ashley Devick says:

    Lolla this year let three-day ticket holders leave/re-enter the festival and waters were $2. But all in all, when you have to walk literally a mile between stages in some cases, it’s hard to maximize the time spent seeing your preferred bands. But what I love about Lolla (typing now through blurry eyes from three days of madness), when the laziness ensues and I decide to stay on my comfortable blanket in the grass rather than trecking across the festival to see a band I only sort of want to see, I usually end up witnessing a cool show of a band I was previously unfamiliar with, right in front of my comfy spot on the ground. So the exposure for up and coming bands is pretty cool. But like most things, it would be a whole lot cooler if it was free!

  3. Chris says:

    You’re totally right. And that’s my favorite part of festivals like 80/35. A little less crowded, a little more space, a lot more chance for those lazy chance encounters where beautiful weather meets beautiful sound. And it definitely sounds like Lolla has made some changes to the way it runs. I was watching a few bands on the Lolla youtube channel and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a bit of longing to be out there.

  4. Chris says:

    I’m totally with you. I have a friend who helps put together 80/35 festival in Des Moines, Iowa. And while the fest is only two days with less buzz bands and smaller headliners, I’ve found it an infinitely more enjoyable experience. Maybe because it’s lest “pressure.” I don’t know. Sometimes I feel the pressure to get as much music out of Lolla as I can and that might be what drives me to think it’s not a great deal. Maybe I should look more towards the festival as a musical “experience” than a bundle of concerts.

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