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A Guide to Music Festival VIP Experiences: Which Ones Are Worth the Price of Admission?

on December 27, 2016, 12:00pm
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Information on the wristbands pictured above can be found at Arnett Security Credentials.

For years, Consequence of Sound has been attending and reviewing festivals. It’s long been our goal to change the way that festivals are discussed; that’s why we have tools like our Festival Outlook and spend so many of our hours traveling the world to bring firsthand reports on the best sets, the best scenes, and the best experiences.

But one of the hardest questions to answer is whether a festival is worth it. Money means such different things to different people, and basically when you don’t have a lot of it, the demand for what a festival should deliver becomes a lot more important. This is especially true as fests continue to cater to the VIP experience, a special wristband that sets its owners apart from the crowd. Who doesn’t want to visit exclusive viewing areas or drink free beer or enter the grounds from a private entrance?

These VIP passes can cost anywhere from two to 10 times the price of normal festival admission. Our reviews, however, generally discuss the aspects of the festival that are available to everyone. So this year, when we were reviewing the major music festivals of the world, we were also taking notes on the VIP experiences in order to bring you this definitive guide. Hopefully, this helps festivalgoers make tough decisions on how to spend their money in 2017 and beyond.

Click ahead to see our VIP guide.

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Coachella

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Photo by Philip Cosores

Location: Indio, California

The Cost: Three-Day GA: $399-$459; Three-Day VIP: $899

What You Get: Because of its price tag (getting a hotel at Coachella can easily run you more than $1,000), the kind of audience it attracts, and resort-like ambiance, just attending Coachella can make anyone feel like a VIP. But for more than twice the cost, the actual haul of a VIP pass isn’t that staggering. There are two VIP areas, one next to the main Coachella stage and the gorgeous rose garden located next to the Sahara. Within the VIP areas are seating, shade, exclusive vendors, nice bathrooms, and temporary leave from some of the riffraff that populates the main grounds. There is also a separate VIP entrance.

Worth It?: If you can afford it, yes. That VIP entrance saves you a mile of walking each way, which can be a lifesaver after a hot day in the sun. As for the actual VIP areas, the bathrooms don’t make a huge difference now that Coachella has installed permanent restroom facilities, and prime stage viewing is reserved for people who can score the elusive “guest” passes. It’s definitely a luxury, but if you’re already forking over hundreds of dollars for an epic weekend, why not just go all in? It particularly makes sense for older Coachella attendees, who prefer to be surrounded by a more mature group and can use temporary breaks on the VIP couches and picnic tables. –Philip Cosores
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Shaky Knees

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Photo by Philip Cosores

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

The Cost: Three-Day GA: $155-$185; VIP: $425-$525

What You Get: Four years old with four different locations, Shaky Knees still feels very grassroots and humble to attend. That said, their VIP experience still features all the amenities you’d expect. There’s a private entrance, free beer and grub, shaded viewing, and flush toilets. Only the main stage’s section really feels fancy, but the VIP section on the other end of the footprint still gets the job done and provides an elevated experience for fans to move throughout the fest.

Worth It?: Oh, hell yes. You won’t find more bang for your buck in the VIP world than at Shaky Knees. Thank its location in Atlanta for that, as the market is far more laid-back than Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles. What is billed as “free snacks” are actually legit southern meals, making it one of the only VIP areas that actually gives attendees more than is promised. Better yet, the VIP areas are remarkably spacious, giving off the feeling of luxury even when the fest isn’t geared to that sort of impression. As long as Shaky Knees can keep booking solid lineups, their VIP package will remain the biggest steal in the festival world. –Philip Cosores
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Boston Calling

Boston Calling 2016 // Photo by Philip Cosores

Photo by Philip Cosores

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

The Cost: GA: $185; VIP: $375

What You Get: A festival as small as Boston Calling comes with equally small amenities, but that doesn’t make them trivial. VIP includes an exclusive entrance, which is worth it for people who never show up on time. The VIP ticket also gives you special viewing areas from City Hall and a raised platform between the Red and Blue main stages. A VIP lounge exists with specialized food options, a considerably less crowded bar, and unlimited Polar seltzer. Lastly, the bathrooms are a ring of private porta-potties, but they’re cleaned frequently, and the lines move quicker compared to GA bathrooms.

Worth It?: If you’re lazy, yes. VIP at Boston Calling is catered towards business executives who want to hear music but don’t care about being part of the festival. It minimizes time wasted standing in lines: trying to enter the festival at 5 p.m. because you were getting buzzed at an Irish bar across the street, waiting for a cup of Sam Adams in a five-person VIP line instead of a 30-person GA line, or trying to pee between Kendrick Lamar’s songs in under five minutes. The VIP food is yummy, but not incredible. The viewing areas help if you want to see the stage setup but not the facial expressions of whoever’s performing. All in all, it’s worth it to save time waiting in lines if you’re impatient. That said, the festival is changing locations next year by relocating to Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston, MA, so don’t be surprised if they shake up VIP entirely in 2017, so there’s more bang for your non-business bro buck. –Nina Corcoran

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Sasquatch!

MainstageEricSasquatch2014

Photo by Eric Tra

Location: George, Washington

The Cost: GA: $295 (plus camping) VIP: $999 (per person) – $4,999 (per two guests)

What You Get: Sasquatch offers varying levels of the VIP treatment. The base level, VIP Supertickets, grants you access to elevated viewing areas for each of the five stages as well as the hospitality tents stocked with complimentary food, beer, and other beverages. You’ll also be able to enter the Cliff House – a club and bar that overlooks the Columbia River and gives you a picturesque view of the majestic Gorge. The Cliff House is also air conditioned, which can feel like a godsend in the east Washington heat. VIP ticket holders also have access to a side entrance to the venue that puts you right in the action.

The other two tiers build off of this basic package. The next level up runs $1,119 and includes box seats with full waiting service. Going above this, there is also the VIP “Glamping”, which includes furnished tents, breakfast, and – hallelujah – hot showers. Glampers are greeted with coffee and breakfast in the morning, concierge service, and a shuttle from the camping grounds to the venue. They also receive all the benefits of the two lower VIP tiers.

Worth It?: While the glamping area is decadent and may sound tempting after a few days of cold showers and sweaty weather, festivalgoers looking for a posher experience would be better served saving money by going to a nearby hotel and driving in each day. The elevated viewing areas are varying in value. Platforms by the smaller stages give little in perspective that you couldn’t get from standing on one of the side hills. The main stage platform is on the side of the stage, giving a view from nearly a story up. It puts ticket holders in the middle of the action but is not guaranteed for all acts. The perks offer mild conveniences, but guests can get just as much value with a little extra planning and staking out strategic spots in the GA pit. –Dusty Henry

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Primavera Sound

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Photo by Amanda Koellner

Location: Barcelona, Spain

The Cost: 200 € for a full VIP festival ticket for the first 1,000 purchasers, 300 € thereafter; for general admission tickets, price varies based on date of purchase, ranging from 145 € to 215 €

What You Get: If the chance to hang out by the sea in Barcelona isn’t enough, Primavera is undoubtedly a cut above most of the world’s music festivals: apart from the huge lineup, it doesn’t feel massively overfilled; crowd-defying joy is in plentiful supply. That said, the VIP option offers the ability to take that a step further — many steps, in fact, up the stairs to the raised viewing areas next to the festival’s main stages. If you’re more the “up close and personal type,” VIP access also includes the “golden circle” space directly in front of those main stages. Also included are access to exclusive bars and food options in the VIP area, clean and ultra-mod restrooms, a separate bracelet pickup and entrance, preferential access to limited capacity events (like those in the Auditori-Rockdelux), and a welcome pack with the coolest bag you’ll get all summer. Shorter lines for vermouth are nice, but you’re here for those VIP viewing perks.

Worth It?: Even if you stood in one spot at Parc Del Forum, you’d get the gist of the entire year’s musical profile – with six medium to large stages and a bunch of smaller ones. As you might expect for such an all-encompassing, dream-like festival experience, that means that the fans come out in droves. The few days become an exercise in levitation control and the sustenance of thirsty souls wanting to split themselves into a gazillion shards of human matter — imagine, music from a stage in one ear and out the other ear, which is listening to another band at another stage. And you can make it through the entire festival with an even stronger will to live after sobbing on every and all the festivalgoers around you at the sheer beauty — with your VIP wristband glistening in the laser lights. The earth-shaking sing-alongs and memorable setlists make for a VIP experience on their own, but if buying a VIP ticket means the ability to get within feet of the stage for the likes of Radiohead and Sigur Ros last year, or Arcade Fire and Aphex Twin this year, it’s definitely worth the extra price of admission. –Lior Phillips
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Governors Ball

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Location: New York City, New York

The Cost: Three-Day GA: $305; VIP: $700; Super or Platinum: $2,000

What You Get: It’s hard to feel like a VIP when getting to Randall’s Island is such a slog, but the amenities that await the VIP crowd once they get into the festival are pretty standard. This means a fast-lane entrance, shaded viewing areas at both main stages, fancy bathrooms, and exclusive bars and dining options. But the regular VIP pales in comparison to its next tier up, which gets you literally on stage with the artists and free booze and food. This is how you’ll rub elbows with HAIM’s parents or DJ Khaled’s extensive guest list. In both areas, there are handfuls of branded freebies, but we didn’t really think complimentary Kind bars would pump you up too much.

Worth It?: The standard VIP isn’t really that neat, especially since you aren’t saving money on food or drink. The lines at Gov Ball aren’t unmanageable, and there’s plenty of space to spread out on the grounds, making the need for fenced-off exclusivity a perk that’s hardly necessary. That said, if you’ve got a couple grand to drop down, the Platinum pass is pretty dope, and well worth forking over the money. Go big or go home, right? –Philip Cosores

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Bonnaroo

Ben-Kaye-Bonnaroo-Ferris-Wheel

Photo by Ben Kaye

Location: Manchester, Tennessee

The Cost: GA: $274.50 – $349.50 VIP: $1,648.50 (for a two-person package)

What You Get: The two biggest perks of a VIP package are things a lot of first-timers might take for granted: camping and bathrooms. The VIP campsite is located as close as you can get to Centeroo without being in Guest Camping, and there are air-conditioned bathroom trailers that will make you never want to go in a porta-john ever again. There are even nicer shower facilities, which can’t go underrated in the Tennessee heat. VIP lounges are located by the Which Stage and in the campsite, providing shade, comfortable lounging, ice cream, live streams of the performances, games, WiFi, and charging stations. You’ll also get special access and seating all over Centeroo, including VIP-only entrance (typically much quicker than GA), priority access to the Comedy Tent, and VIP viewing areas at the What and Which stages.

Worth It?: It really depends on how much you value easy access to Centeroo. Most VIPers will only have to spend a maximum of 30 minutes getting from their tent into the venue, which could barely cover the walk to wait in line for some GA attendees. Once inside, the perks are less immediately exciting, but still helpful. The Which and What viewing areas don’t provide the greatest view (the hill at the What Stage does give unobstructed sightlines, but it’s pretty far back and to the side). However, your bladder will certainly appreciate having access to those VIP bathrooms. Being able to chill and recharge in the VIP lounge can also be vital in hotter weather. Still, doing Bonnaroo in General Admission camping is sort of a rite of passage, as there’s always a bit more joyous mayhem out there, what with Shakedown Street, the new Grove, and altogether wilder campers. If it’s not your first rodeo, though, and you feel you’ve earned (and can afford) a bit more comfort with your Roo, VIP is certainly worth considering. –Ben Kaye
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Pitchfork

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Photo by Kris Fuentes Cortes

Location: Chicago, IL

The Cost: GA: $165; VIP: Available to press, partners, sponsors (not for sale)

What You Get: Beyond the ability to rub elbows with a who’s who of bloggers, label cognoscenti, and other assorted nerds (literally rubbing elbows, reaching into the icy tin bucket of free water bottles), the VIP area at Pitchfork offers free beer, a few extra food options with much shorter lines, access to steel bleachers that sit off to the side of the stage, and behind-the-scenes quicker routes between stages. Oh, and much cleaner portable toilets. The lines for that free beer (including special collaboration beers between sponsors Goose Island and bands playing the festival) get pretty extreme, but it’s hard to argue with the price point — not to mention the fact that the VIP area is tucked away under some shady trees.

Worth It?: In a vacuum, putting in a decade or so of work writing at music publications, working your way up at organizations that sponsor the festival, or becoming close enough friends with someone who does one of those things all seem pretty steep for a few brews and a seat. But, you know, if you’ve already committed yourself to the lifestyle, it’s pretty nice. –Adam Kivel
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Panorama

Nina Corcoran, Crowd 01

Photo by Nina Corcoran

Location: New York City, New York

The Cost: GA: $369; VIP: $769

What You Get: Coachella organizers go big. Naturally, their sister festival, Panorama, aims to do the same. VIP here includes the usual VIP bumps (expedited gate entry, premium food options, private bars with shorter lines), but Panorama offers several additional treats that explain why VIP costs more than twice the amount of GA. It’s all about private areas. VIP ticket holders get sectioned-off hospitality areas with concessions and several freebies, a photo booth, and seriously comfy lounge chairs — which, after a day of walking around in the sun, feel glorious — as well as lounge areas by each stage. The real bonus are VIP viewing areas at the stage, particularly the main stage. Dying to be front row for Kanye or Arcade Fire? Now you can be. There’s a massive, fenced-off viewing area placed in front of the usual GA standing area where VIP folks can casually walk in, mere minutes before a set, to watch a performance feet away from the act themselves. Not too shabby.

Worth It?: There’s no better way to put Panorama’s VIP amenities to the test like a freak heatwave. In 2016, Panorama fell during NYC’s second hottest weekend of the year, and boy did those air-conditioned restrooms feel like the gates to heaven. The festival wheels in trailer-style bathrooms, complete with proper sinks, that allow guests to clean up, well, cleanly. Lots of VIP options — better food stalls, separated bars, a private lounge area — would be worth it if they were free, but instead it’s like paying just for access to spend even more money. For $100-200 more than GA price, VIP may be worth it, but to most festivalgoers the $400 bump is a needless expense. The real reasons to go for VIP here are guaranteed front-row spots to see your favorite bands or miraculous AC to save you from the hellish claws of summer heatwaves. It’s nice to see a band you love on the far end of the festival, walk back to the main stage to see a band you love even more, and still snag a sweet spot to watch that set without having to camp out for front row all day long. — Nina Corcoran

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Lollapalooza

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Photo by Philip Cosores

Location: Chicago, Illinois

The Cost: GA: $335; VIP: $2,200; Platinum: $4,200

What You Get: Frankly, you get a lot. From a private entrance that forgoes the long lines, it’s possible to experience the festival’s four biggest stages without ever leaving the VIP area. Two elevated viewing areas, the Lolla lounges, overlook vast areas of Grant Park, while within the VIP confines are free food, free drinks, and all sorts of posh activities to keep attendees occupied even if they’re not interested in the band on stage. Golf carts shuttle VIPs from North Lounge to the South Lounge, while spa treatments and air-conditioned bathrooms are present at both ends. At one point a couple years ago, Perry Farrell could be spotted playing piano for a VIP crowd of dozens. You couldn’t make shit like that up.

Worth It?: Listen: I don’t know the people that have thousands of dollars to spend on music festivals. But if you do, fuck yeah, it’s worth it. VIP access at Lollapalooza is about as good as it gets at a fest, and if you can pay double and go for the Platinum experience, you can spend the entire weekend in air conditioning. Have you ever been outside in the Chicago summer? It’s brutal, and the older you get, the harder it is to convince yourself that checking out TV on the Radio is worth the pain. Treat yo self! –Philip Cosores
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Outside Lands

outsidelands2016 day1 davidbrendanhall 01 A Guide to Music Festival VIP Experiences: Which Ones Are Worth the Price of Admission?

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Location: San Francisco, California

The Cost: Three-Day GA: $325-$355; Three-Day VIP: $715-$765

What You Get: San Francisco isn’t known for its abundant summer sunshine, so access to the Exclusive Polo Club — which includes comfortable seating at an indoor lounge — becomes a nice perk in the likely event of rain. The VIP hospitality area also features its own set of bathrooms, which aren’t particularly luxurious but do offer a cleaner, faster option than the porta-johns located throughout the festival grounds. VIP tickets also offer “access to special food concessions,” but these really aren’t much better or different than the concessions available to GA ticket holders.

Worth It?: For fans who envision Outside Lands as a place to drink overpriced wine and maybe take in a little music on the side, the posh lounge and superior bars in the VIP area are probably worth forking over the extra cash. For everyone else, it’s best to check the schedule and set times before making a decision. There’s only one dedicated VIP area, and it can be hard to reach from the Panhandle and Twin Peaks stages, so it might not be worth it if you’re going to be spending a lot of time over in Hellman Hollow. –Collin Brennan
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FYF Fest

FYF-Fest-01-3

Photo by Philip Cosores

Location: Los Angeles, California

The Cost: GA: $199; VIP: $339

What You Get: A VIP ticket grants access to a few beer gardens that aren’t open to GA ticket holders, complete with cocktail waitresses. The bathrooms in these areas are quite nice, but FYF also has the best GA bathrooms of pretty much any festival in North America (pro tip: use the brick-and-mortar bathrooms located on the inner ring of the Coliseum and forego the porta-johns entirely). There’s also a separate VIP viewing area to the side of the main stage, which proves useful if you want to ensure decent sight lines during one of the big headliners.

Worth It?: Not really. FYF takes good care of its GA guests, and there are some awesome beer gardens scattered around the festival grounds that don’t require VIP access. Given the overall bathroom situation and general lack of truly stellar VIP amenities, we recommend going with a GA ticket and spending the money you saved on dessert from Donut Friend. –Collin Brennan
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End of the Road Festival

Nina Corcoran, End of the Road, Crowd 18-6

Photo by Nina Corcoran

Location: Tollard Royal, United Kingdom

The Cost: Adult Weekend FULL PRICE £165.00; Luxury camping spots range from £95.00 ($116) for a two-person “FreeDom Tent” in the Tangerine Fields to a “Raj Tenthouse” at the Pop-Up Hotel at £4995.00 ($6136), which comes complete with three or four fully furnished bedrooms.

What You Get: Wet socks and wet wipes: camping your way through Europe and UK’s biggest music festivals during summer can get pretty shitty weather-wise, but don’t let that rain on your parade. You’re a golden warlock with the powers to repel water — “powers” being the music and its ability to shield you from the cold. While camping is the only option, there are still plenty of choices for “glamping” at End of the Road, at varying ranges of cost and excess. Whether your wallet is smiling and you’ve opted to splurge for a pre-pitched tent or a five-star yurt, the luxury camper gets access to 24-hour security guarding the camping area, a separate food and drink station, which you can visit in your py’jams, water points, a “power/pamper tent” offering hair dryers, comfy couches, mirrors, and plenty of power outlets — and let’s not forget the best loos and hot showers you’ll find in the middle of the English countryside, too. Just don’t forget those wellies.

Worth It?: Is the Queen a royal? The euphoria of powering up that hair dryer and getting rid of some of the constantly lingering dampness of Larmer Tree Gardens should do the trick. Based on the festival alone (minus the glamping), it’s already worth it — so a resounding and hopefully haunting “YES, SIR!” The festival grounds are lush, the stages intimate, the vibe constantly cozy, so don’t worry about finding a “VIP space” near a stage — there just simply isn’t a need, as every single person and moment at End of the Road feels “Very Important.” The space is a little slice of heaven, secluded from the hustle and bustle, with everyone communing out in the fields to camp. But that said, if you’ve got a little bit of extra cash, not having to schlep your own tent out through the field and getting a hot shower with a much shorter wait in line is just absolutely unbeatable. Boutique Camping is also just beyond Family Camping, so while those cute little buggers might be keeping their parents up late at night, you’re far away enough to not hear a peep. Plus, that Popup Hotel with carpeted floors and fresh linens seems like something that would appear as an apparition after a large genie asks you to make a wish. –Lior Phillips
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Austin City Limits

atmosphere 0066 A Guide to Music Festival VIP Experiences: Which Ones Are Worth the Price of Admission?

Photo by Amy Price

Location: Austin, Texas

The Cost: Three-Day GA: $255; VIP: $1,100; Platinum: $3,600

What You Get: The perks that come with a VIP package at ACL have less to do with the overall festival experience than they do with amenities. VIP allows you to go through a faster entrance line, which can come in handy during the daily afternoon rush. From there, you get to utilize a special VIP Grove with free drinks, catered lunch and dinner from local restaurants, and air-conditioned restrooms. If you really want to unwind, there are even mini-spa treatments along with a shaded viewing lounge that has flat screens to watch the sets from. However, VIP doesn’t offer any better access to the actual stages. If you want a closer look without the hassle of waiting in a crowd all day, you need to spring for the Platinum pass, where you get your own special entrance, catered meals, phone charging, free daily valet parking and special shuttle services, and golf cart transportation to and from stages.

Worth It?: In a short answer, no. Sure, VIP gives you free food and drinks, but you’d have to be pounding them constantly to really consume your money’s worth. The air-conditioned restrooms, spa treatments, and lack of lines are nice, but if you’re trying to see the acts at the festival, you still need to brave your way with the rest of the crowds to fight for a good spot during the headliner’s set. From there, the perks are nice, but only if you want to walk all the way across the festival each time you need to use the restroom or get a drink. The number of bars, restrooms, and food stands on site mean you never have to wait in line that long, and even the entrance line never takes more than 20-30 minutes during the peak times. Better is the Platinum pass, which most people reading this can’t afford, as that gives you the true VIP treatment with special viewing areas at each of the main stages and top-notch amenities. If you don’t mind a few lines here or there, it’s much better to get a regular pass and splurge on closer parking than for access to the VIP lounge. –David Sackllah

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