11 Ways to Survive Music Festivals on a Budget
Let's face it: Arizona isn't exactly prime real estate for music festivals. Yes, we have the party-hard atmosphere of Country Thunder and the locally beloved McDowell Mountain Music Fest, the EDM-drenched Soundwave and some killer jazz fests. But our fair desert doesn't yet have the appeal or pull of such festivals as Lollapalooza, Orion, Coachella, South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, Electric Daisy, Bonnaroo, Outside Lands--the list goes on.
Oliver Scherillo The cheapest way to sleep at Coachella.
For the avid music fan on a tight budget and unforgiving economy, deciding which festivals (if any) to travel to can be a frustrating experience. I myself encountered this same conundrum for 2013. Which music festivals was I going to budget for? How many days would I forgo the grocery store and live off canned soup and well whiskey? And sometimes, even if you do budget well for a festival, it's difficult to take into account unforeseen costs once you are already there: Cabs and rental cars, food, drinks, even water on-site.
Take SXSW, for example. The difficult-to-book flights to Austin, hundreds of dollars a night hotel rooms (even for the dinky ones), and days' worth of food and drinks. Ditto for Coachella and Lollapalooza. Thus I decided to compile some tips and tricks to survive festivals on a budget for all you other awesome music lovers out there--so read on and then book away.
This past weekend I hit up my first out-of-town music festival of the season, Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio. The sold-out festival's lineup included more than 50 bands at the Columbus Crew Stadium: Soundgarden, Cheap Trick, Alice in Chains, Bush, Smashing Pumpkins, Korn (reunited with Brian "Head" Welch), Oleander, Buckcherry, Ghost, Red Line Chemistry, Sevendust, Volbeat, Ghost B.C., In This Moment, Lamb of God, and Steel Panther, just to name few. Clearly it was a good pick for a hard rock fan and metalhead.
As a music journalist, I can usually bypass the bulk of costs for traveling to festivals, via press passes and writing off plane tickets and hotel costs. Then again, as a music journalist, I still must pay the immediate costs for travel, food, hotels and drinks, since the tax write-offs for that work aren't seen until a year later. Which sucks, since, most writers are usually broke b*tches.
Here, then, are 11 ways to stay less broke:
1. Decide which artists you want to see the most at a festival, and see when they are coming to a town near you next. For example: Want to see Metallica at Orion Fest in Detroit? Well, if you're on the west coast, you could've seen Metallica (including Stone Sour, Rob Zombie, Halestorm, Misfits, Anthrax and more) perform a more intimate show at the Golden Gods Awards in Los Angeles for a mere $100. Chances are the headliner you want to see most at the festival is coming to your town sometime in the next year; if that's the main reason you wish to go, just be patient.
2. Play around with your travel options. You can save a ton on airfare by flying into a nearby city and catching a Greyhound or Megabus. Also, splitting a rental car with friends for a weekend can really lower your costs.
3. Remember that you're there for the music, not the accommodations... and likely not a good night's sleep. Traveling in groups that range from 4-8 people can help cut your hotel and camping costs way down. If your group is large enough you can rent a nearby house and end up paying as little as $50 for your accommodations.
Hard mode: Cramming into a hotel room and sleeping on a couch or floor for a couple nights, where you can walk to the festival, or renting bicycles from a local shop if there's a place to lock them up at the venue. If you can camp on-site and don't mind roughing it, make a list of the supplies you need (sleeping bag, tent, water and bulk snacks), and purchase them as a group when you get into town--bonus if you hunt down a local army surplus store where such supplies are super cheap. Avoid the big name sporting goods stores. If camping isn't available at the festival, check into the options for a nearby campground.