Which summer music festival is the best value?

on May 28, 2013, 6:57pm

acl festival wristband

We love to argue over which music festival offers the best lineup, but what if you went strictly by the value of its ticket? Recently, Nerd Wallet conducted a study to see which summer festival — Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, or Austin City Limits — offers the most bang for your buck.

In order to answer this question, Nerd Wallet formulated the “gross value” of each festival’s three-day ticket based on these three criteria:

  • What bands will a festivalgoer see?  We assumed that you would see bands on a main stage or the biggest side stage – the most popular bands.
  • How many bands can you realistically see in a day?  We assumed you would be in the park from the beginning of the day to the end.
  • How valuable is a band’s festival set? We measured a band’s value with average ticket prices from their most recent headlining tours. We also kept in mind that a festival set is often shorter than a regular club show.

Nerd Wallet goes much further into their methodology here.

After obtaining the gross value, Nerd Wallet subtracted the actual cost of the festival’s ticket in order to find its “net value.” And from there, they concluded that Austin City Limits, and not Lollapalooza or Outside Lands, offers the best ticket value. A three-day pass for ACL is $225.00; however, its net value is $631.36. On the other hand, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands’ net values are $550.87 and $621.94, respectively.

So, you really can’t go wrong with any of the three. However, Nerd Wallet does point to a few statistical quirks in each lineup. For one, Outside Lands’ value is due in large part to Paul McCartney, whose average ticket price alone is $154.33. If you’re not a fan of Macca, the value of the ticket goes down immeasurably. Meanwhile, Steve Aoki is the third most valuable act on the Lollapalooza lineup (his average ticket price is $72.88), while Lionel Richie is the second most at Austin City Limits ($95.54 average ticket price).

Read the full results of Nerd Wallet’s survey.

Photo above via RFID Journal


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June 24, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I’d love to see Sasquatch Festival on here. Although I think it would be hard to quantify the beauty of the Gorge Amphitheater in comparison to the boring venues they hold these other festivals at.

Queefer Sutherland
May 29, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Lots of Bonnaroo complaints on here. I’ll give Roo this: At least it’s not Lollapalooza, which is easily the most overrated music festival I’ve ever attended. Terrible crowd and it ends at 10pm. Lineup is always secondary to the other three big US festivals.

May 29, 2013 at 8:25 am

I don’t know how this isn’t Bonnaroo with their unopposed headliner and latenight sets. Does ACL do either of these? The latenight sets are great even for those that don’t go to them, as they allow all of the other bands to play longer sets during the day. Tent acts get an hour+ in the afternoon, whereas side stage acts at Lollapalooza only get 30-45 mins. All of this allows you to see waaay more bands, in addition to all of the major headliners (if you’ve got enough fuel in the tank to keep going for 14 hours a day).

Patrique Trepp
May 28, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Yeah if they really want to talk about value, they should look at DEMF and Mountain Oasis. I would go to the three mentioned for their earlybird/secret sale prices. But full price for overcrowded shows that end before midnight? No thanks

May 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Wait – so Bonnaroo (June) isn’t in the “summer” but ACL (October) is? Um…

Queefer Sutherland
May 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm

They don’t mention Bonnaroo because it sucks this year. No one wants to watch ZZ Top or Billy Idol at a festival when you can see them for $10 at the local Indian casino.

May 29, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Oh that MUST be it! Two non-headliners are the entire reason! Especially since they share many of the same bands with these festivals (including Outside Lands’ “top” value according to their calculations). You’re so right! Hall and Oates and Lionel Richie are so hip with the kids these days! My entire argument based on the calendar and the use of the word “summer” is completely null and void based on your tremendous intellectual insight! :)

Queefer Sutherland
May 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Hall and Oates are fvcking awesome. YOU TAKE THAT BACK YOU A$$HOLE.

Queefer Sutherland
May 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm

The reason all of these festivals depreciate in value: They are not Coachella.

May 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

the reason Bonnaroo is better value than those three and your Coachella: late night sets

Queefer Sutherland
May 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Late night sets are cool….. Humidity, tons of dust and ridiculously long treks from the campgrounds to the stages are not.

May 28, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Stay home and chow down on some McD’s in your air conditioning Amerifat while the rest of us live life.

Mark Anthony DiSessa
May 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm


Queefer Sutherland
May 29, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I’ve been to more musical festivals in the last 6 months than you have in your entire life you hippy c0cksucker.

Mark Anthony DiSessa
May 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

why dont you cry about it

Queefer Sutherland
May 29, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Cry about what? You’re the Dolphins fan.

Queefer Sutherland
May 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I’m looking at this year’s late night sets. The only ones worth a damn are Animal Collective and Empire of the Sun. I mean, Boys Noize at 2 am is cool if you’re a cracked-out raver that likes generic techno. The rest of the late night sets are uninspiring.


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