Glastonbury festival: charting a history of inflation

This article was first published at on Friday, 24 June 2011

Spare a thought this weekend for those intrepid revelers who have made the journey down to Pilton this weekend for Glastonbury Festival. Not because it looks set to be yet another mud bath, not because man can not live off doughnuts and Stella alone and not even because U2 are headlining on Friday. No, spare a thought because of the cost.

This year for the ‘privilege’ of camping in a muddy field, getting soaked to the core basking in a typical English summer’s day whilst listening to one of the worst lineups in living memory, has set people back a staggering £205 (including booking fee and postage) and this is before the £20 car-parking fee.

It wasn’t always the case where you have to re-mortgage the house just to goto an English festival. In fact the very first Glastonbury in 1970, where you could listen to Marc Bolan, he of T.Rex fame, cost the princely some of £1. Oh, and of course all the milk you could drink was free from the farm.

In today’s money, according to the BoE’s ‘under’-inflation calculator, that’s the equivalent of about £12.

1981 marked the first Glastonbury that would be recognizable today and is widely seen as the first Glastonbury proper. Michael Eavis was at the helm and the Pyramid Stage was made a permanent fixture. New Order headlined and judging from the pictures it looked like it rained that year too. The cost for the 18,000 or so in attendance who didn’t ‘jump the fence’? £8 – that’s about £23 in today’s money.

Interestingly the 1981 festival was put on in support of CND and £20,000 of the money raised from the festival when to help their campaign – how times change.

By 1986 the Cure and Madness were playing and this time £130,000 was raised by the 60,000 or so in attendance for CND and local charities. The price of admission in ’86 was £17 – or about £40 in today’s money.

1993 saw the £50 ticket barrier broken for the first time coming in at £58. Although with The Orb, Velvet Underground and Rolf Harris on stage some might say it was worth it. This time £250,000 was raised for Greenpeace and other charities. In today’s money the ticket would have set you back some £95.

By the time 2003 rolled around 150,000 were paying over £100 to see the likes of De la Soul, Flaming Lips, Jimmy Cliff, Moby, Radiohead, REM and the The Darkness. In today’s money that is about £125.

Over the next 9 years we can see inflation really start to bite with the cost of a ticket rising some 100% by 2011. That’s about a 10% annual inflation rate – so much for the BoE’s 3% they claim over the same period.

Glastonbury price chart Glastonbury Festival: Charting a history of inflation

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In the past 9 years alone the price has more than doubled. But what happens when we price Glastonbury tickets in a currency that isn’t being printed into oblivion?

Screen shot 2011 06 24 at 15.40.52 Glastonbury Festival: Charting a history of inflation

(click for sharper image)

Back in 2002 it would cost you about 1/2 an ounce of gold to goto Glastonbury. Today it would take just over 1/5 of an ounce. Or to put it another way, whilst the price of a ticket in pounds has doubled in 9 years, in gold terms the price has more than halved.

In fact, when priced in gold, the cost of a ticket is the same price as one back in 1992 when the likes of Primal Scream and The Levellers were taking to the stage.

Curiously the price decline of the festival over the past 9 years in gold seems to directly correspond with the fall in the quality of music over the same time period. Go figure.

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