Glastonbury has sold out - again. Having pushed back the on-sale date by two weeks to tackle issues with pre-registration for tickets, the festival sold out within an hour of bookings opening at 9am on Sunday, shifting nearly £50 million worth of tickets at £355 each - plus, of course, a £5 booking fee - an increase of £20 from tickets for the 2023 event.
As lots of people have pointed out, £355 is quite a lot of money. If two people want to go together, that’s £710 - plus a £10 booking fee. That’s before you get to the event and certainly before you spend any money while you’re there. For many people that’s a significant financial commitment. But how has this changed over time?
With apparently as many 2.5 million people applying for 138,000 tickets, criticism that the festival’s prices are too high don’t seem to have dented demand - and with the price of everything going up, a jump of 6% against last year’s ticket price doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable.
Comparing Glastonbury ticket prices to other stuff...
The Office For National Statistics maintains a bunch of useful data - “price indexes” - which show how the price of various things changes over time. The most often quoted of these are the Consumer Price Index and Retail Price Index - but there’s also a beer price index and a coffee price index, and even a “Cultural Services” price index.
Glastonbury tickets are not (yet) considered worthy of their own ONS price index - so CMU has made one. Handily enough, Glastonbury keeps quite a detailed archive online, which includes ticket prices over the years.
If we put this data alongside other data - the beer price index and the coffee price index - we can draw some interesting insights into what a pair of Glastonbury tickets actually costs today.
Tickets for the 1989 edition of Glastonbury were just £28 - twelve times less than 2024 tickets. “What about inflation!” cry the economists. What about inflation indeed?
Over the same period, CPI normalised to 1988 (so a baseline of 100 in 1988) has increased to 266.8 in 2023 - so basically things today, on average, cost nearly 2.7 times what they did in 1988. We’ve not made a Freddo price index, but most people in their 30s (which handily enough is probably the average age of a Glastonbury punter) will agree that everything is a lot more expensive than it used to be.
Glastonbury vs beer
In fact, back in October 1988 a pint of beer was just 90p. In October 2023, that same pint would cost you £3.89 (if you know where the ONS are buying their pints, do let us know), so around 4.3 times more than the 1988 price.
Put that a different way: to buy two tickets for Glastonbury’s 1989 edition you’d need to forgo 62 pints of beer between mid-November and mid-June - relatively moderate drinking for your average couple. Fast forward to 2023 and you’d need to give up a more “problematic drinker” 182 pints (and a cheeky half) over the same period - basically a pint a day.
So Glastonbury 2024 tickets - priced in beer - are actually just three times more expensive than Glastonbury 1989 tickets - and will probably save your liver too. A bargain.
ONS don’t give such specific data for the price of coffee - however, we’ve created a coffee price index with 1988 as the baseline year. That index starts at 100 in 1988 and by 2023 was 210.7 - if you make a “beer index” for the same period, starting at 100 in 1988, 2023’s number is 436.4. In the same period, the Glastonbury ticket price index would have increased to 1395.8
Perhaps more relevant is what Glastonbury tickets cost compared to average earnings. In 1988, says ONS data, average weekly earnings were £168.70 - or £8772.40 a year - meaning that someone on average earnings who wanted to buy two tickets for Glastonbury’s 1989 edition would need to work 1.7 days to pay for two tickets - or 12.4 hours of work, if you’re working a standard 37.5 hour week.
Jump forward to today, and buying two Glastonbury tickets on current ONS average weekly earnings of £673 (or £34,996 a year) would require 42.2 hours of work - more than a full week.
For someone on the London Living Wage buying two Glastonbury tickets would require a full 54 hours of dedicated slog.
Flip this round another way and if we increase the London Living Wage so that two tickets only takes 12.4 hours of work you’d be making £57.26 an hour - or £111,657 a year.
However, on that sort of money you’d be well placed to splash out on a £4799 Yurt.