The muddy fields, endless tents and hedonistic revellers of Worthy Farm are about as far from Whitehall as you can get. But when Ed Miliband talks about the ‘cost of living crisis’, should he also think about including festival ticket prices?
Around 6.5 million people attended a UK music festival in 2012, spending an estimated £2.2 billion in the process, according to Visit Britain. It’s no surprise, then, that ticket prices are rising. The daddy of them all, Glastonbury, originally charged just £1 for a weekend of music on Worthy Farm back in 1970 - the equivalent of just £12 in today’s money. Actually intended to be completely free, the £1 ticket price was simply to cover the cost of milk for all who attended.
1981 was the year that Glastonbury became more like the one we know and love today: Michael Eavis took the helm, the Pyramid stage was built, it rained a lot, and New Order headlined. The cost of a ticket was just £8 - or £23 in today’s money. The average wage for a UK adult in 1981 was £7,000 - in 2014 it is now more than £26,500. A pint of beer cost an average 50p (now more than £2.80); a pint of milk was just 20p (now over 48p); and the cost of a loaf of bread has risen from 39p to over £1.10 today.
So, what would the world look like if other things had risen at Glastonbury-style levels of inflation since 2003?For another idea of how festival ticket prices have rocketed, a 1981 Glastonbury ticket costing £8 was roughly six times the price of an average paperback book. In 2011, a ticket cost almost £200 - that’s approximately 20 times the price of a new paperback. The greatest rise in the inflation of Glastonbury ticket prices has come over the last nine years, rising 100% between 2003 and 2011 - roughly a 10% annual inflation, compared to the Bank of England’s approximate 3% year on year inflation over that period.
How much would a loaf of bread cost?
The rate of ‘Glastonbury inflation’ from 2003 (when tickets costed £105) to 2014 is just shy of 105%. In 2003, a 800g sliced white loaf cost an average 60p. Today, the same costs £1.22, according to the Office for National Statistics. If the price of the same loaf had risen at Glastonbury inflation, it would now cost £1.23. In other words, although festival prices are hugely inflated, the price of bread has kept pace over the last ten years.
What about wages?
The average UK annual salary has risen from £20,000 in 2003 to £26,500 in 2014 (again, according to the ONS). At a Glastonbury rate of inflation a 2014 wage would be around £41,000 - that would make a huge difference to an average payslip.
And house prices?
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A house cost an average of £125,000 in 2003 - this has risen to £250,000 according to the ONS, although some mortgage lenders suggest it is closer to £179,000. At Glastonbury inflation, an average house would cost £256,250 - not dissimilar to the ONS’ average UK house price for the first quarter of this year. Although the hike in festival prices has got critics complaining, house prices, despite the economic crisis, have followed a similar trend. Take these figures with a pinch of salt, however, as the inflation rate for London homes remains much higher than the rest of the country, pushing the average house price up considerably.
More importantly, what about cinema tickets?
We’re a nation of film-lovers who, despite the rise in on-demand subscriptions and new digital releases, continue to visit our local big screens; in 2010 over 169 million cinema tickets were sold in the UK alone. According to the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, the average price of a cinema ticket in 2003 was just £4.40. Today, that’s risen to over £7. At Glastonbury inflation, a cinema ticket today would cost just over £9.
In reverse: what would a Glastonbury ticket cost if it had followed the CPI?
The CPI - the most common indicator of inflation - has risen at an average of 3% per year, in contrast to the 9.5% average rise for Glastonbury tickets. At an annual 3% rise, a 2014 Glastonbury ticket would cost just under £140 (over £75 less than the £215 this year’s crowd are stumping up).
Regardless of the inflation rate, is Glastonbury good value for money?
This weekend revellers will have paid at least £215 to party in Pilton - and some estimates suggest the average Glastonbury festival goer will pay £560 in total over the course of three or four days (that’s an average of £112 a day, including the hugely inflated cost of festival food and drink). That’s not to say that Glastonbury (or any other major festival) represents bad value: that’s a matter of opinion based on how much you love the atmosphere, sheer variety, hippie founding ethos and scale of it. And over 200,000 people are indeed happy to pay more than £200 for it.