Image copyright: The Edge
The world’s largest outdoor festival is upon us. 300 cows have been relocated from the fields on Worthy Farm, Pilton, to a safe location in order to make room for the iconic Pyramid Stage, acres of campsite and around 5,000 portable toilets. Once you take into account security, electricity, paying the acts and all the other things that make the festival tick, the total bill comes to £22 million a year. But the festival is worth £82 million per year. To put that in perspective, if you had that much money in Pound coins it would weigh about the same as the record crowd that gathered to watch Lionel Ritchie perform last year.
If you found that little titbit interesting, there are plenty more quirky numbers to come out of Glastonbury. Here’s a look at some of most interesting money facts regarding the world’s largest music festival.
George Osborne has introduced plenty of austerity measures and spending reviews in his quest to reduce the UK’s national debts. Michael Eavis, Glastonbury founder, might have a suggestion for him; start a festival. The initial Glastonbury was launched, in part at least, due to Eavis being in debt. When asked during a BBC interview if the intention of the festival was to bring in ‘hard cash’, Eavis replied; ‘I think I’m just an average sort of fella – I’m not all that cunning. I do enjoy it, but obviously I’ve got an overdraft and I’ve got to try and clear it.’
Before Osborne gets on the phone to The Who or Coldplay, however, Eavis’ plan wasn’t initially a success. He had hoped for around 5,000 attendees, but the first Glastonbury festival drew a crowd of just 1,500. Eavis made a small loss on the event, but enjoyed the positive response so much that he vowed to do it again. By 1979 the festival had flourished into a three-day event and Eavis had to raise a bank loan against the deeds to his farm in order to fund the event. From a financial point of view, the festival was not a success and as a result there was no Glastonbury in 1980. When the festival returned in 1981, it did so with ‘proper management’.
On the face of it, Glastonbury may seem like it has gotten significantly more expensive compared to when it first emerged. Tickets to the inaugural festival cost £1 – about £15 in today’s money and equivalent to 1/128 of the average monthly wage. Today’s ticket price of £223 (which includes a £5 booking fee) is around 1/10 of the average UK salary. Also, tickets for the initial festival included free milk from the farm. To give each attendee a pint of semi-skimmed today would cost £78,750 from the average supermarket.
Regardless of a lack of lactose-based perks, Glastonbury tickets offer tremendous value for money. The first festival had at least eight performers; the main 11 stages at the 2015 festival had around 300 acts on the bill. 2010’s line-up included 2,200 performers in total. On a price-per-act basis, the first Glastonbury represented a cost of £1.87 per act in today’s money, while 2010’s festival’s tickets represented costs of £0.77 per act, compared to £1.39 per act for Coachella and £1.43 for Tomorrowland, the world’s two biggest annual festivals . So while ticket prices may have risen 223%, the number of acts you’re paying to see has increased 275%.
The ticket represents particularly good value for money if, like one volunteer in 2007 who received a free ticket in exchange for his help tidying away the aftermath of the festival, you find £6,000 in cash during the course of the clean-up. That’s a pretty good return on investment for a £233 ticket he didn’t even buy – if he’d put the money in a savings account it would take until 2668 (that’s 652 years) for his money to generate the same return, assuming today’s interest rates remain flat. Which is even weirder than these unusual personal investments opportunities.
Lots of festival goers lament the end of Glastonbury, but what would it look like if it continued all year long? The hypothetical country of Glastonbury would have a population of around 175,000 inhabiting a space of 900 acres, or 1.4 square miles. That would make it the most densely populated nation on Earth by quite some way, with nearly four times as many people per square mile than the most crowded country in the world, Macau.
In terms of finances, Glastonbury Festival would have a GDP of nearly £6billion, which would rank it 150th on the global league tables, behind Guinea and above Somalia. Based upon 2015’s small profit of £86,000, the country of Glastonbury would have run a budget surplus of £6.3 million last year. Festival goers to Glastonbury spend an average of £293.24 during their visit, which works out as £21,406.52 on an annual basis. That’s not adjusting for spending patterns, inflation or how all these people would still manage to earn money. Although, on a statistical basis at least, around 0.06% could be employed, as the festival is calculated to have created at least 1,100 jobs in Somerset.
It’s also likely to have a thriving property market, as there is plenty more than just your average two-man tent on site. Take the Hospitality Camping area, for example. Tickets start at £420, although prices go right up to £8,995. These premium camping spots afford you a tent with four double bedrooms, three bathrooms and even your own butler.
Glastonbury has grown into a world-renowned event, celebrating the finest that global art and music has to offer. Every year it takes a gargantuan effort and a huge sum of money to organise the festival, an effort that often remains visible to the attendees and those listening to or watching the media coverage. The size of the crowds, the reputation of the acts and the expanse of the site is breath-taking, and the money behind it all just as impressive.
If you’re going to Glastonbury this year, take in the acts and enjoy the atmosphere, but spare a thought for all the number crunching behind the event.
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