How to get into a festival for free

By Miles Hardman

Back in the day it was common practice for many punters to jump the fence bordering a festival and enjoy the music for free, whilst other less-adventurous visitors bowed to their conscience and shelled out for a ticket. These days, with most of the independent events being gobbled up by the corporate machine, the walls seem much higher and the security much tighter.

But if you’re a bit of a cheapskate, don’t despair! There are still a few ways (legitimate even!) to get into a festival and enjoy it without paying a penny – or at least in most cases. Some of them are even more rewarding then paying for entry, which is surely an added bonus.

Become a volunteer…

This one’s ideal for those of you who are bored on your summer breaks from college or university. Volunteering at a festival is not only a cheeky way of getting to see some of your favourite bands; it’s also a great social experience and even looks good on your CV.

Some organisers will timetable working hours for you, outside of which you are free to explore the site at your own free will. Whether you’re flipping burgers, working in a mini-market or just walking round the campsite in a fluorescent jacket, making friends as a volunteer is inevitable, as is learning a new skill and having a blast!

Win tickets…

It doesn’t matter which festival you’re looking to attend, each one has tickets up for grabs somewhere. Be it via your local radio station or a competition on the event’s website, there’s usually some sort of promotional offer going on. This might involve you sharing an announcement with your Facebook friends or beating an opponent in a quick-fire round of questions.

Either way, keep your eyes peeled for opportunities locally or on the various social networking sites for opportunities to win big!

Start a band, rock the world… or enough people to get a festival slot…

Alright, this one takes a little more effort and time than some of the other methods, but it’s something a lot of people overlook.

If there’s anyone who gets free privileges at a festival, it’s the bands that are performing. Not only do they get to experience the event as a fan, they get backstage access and their own cabin!

And if you’re thinking that this is something that will never happen, think again. Some of the smaller festivals (such as Nozstock, 2000 Trees or Latitude) will allow up-and-coming bands to apply to perform, giving them all the VIP luxuries.

What’s more, if you’re not made for being in a band, you could become a roadie for a group with a festival slot. These positions are in abundance with smaller bands, so it’s worth a shot.

Start your own festival…

This one’s a bit overblown, but if you’ve got a rich relative with lots of space somewhere then you could give it a go.

Starting your own festival is an obvious way of experiencing the music for free, albeit with a lot of hard work. Make sure you don’t dream too big just yet, though; start off by booking smaller bands and add a few relatively popular bill-toppers for good measure.

As well as this, most festivals nowadays have some sort of unique selling point to set them apart from the competition in these times of economic need. Whether you like Reading and Leeds’s “UK exclusive” headliner, or fancy going a bit wacky like Glastonbury, make sure that there’s something there to attract paying customers and to keep your free festival experience going over the years.

Regardless of your monetary standpoint, there’s still a few viable ways into even the biggest festivals for free. And if the above methods don’t suit your fancy, well, you could always work for Peppermint bars and serve some of the festival goers.

Who knows, maybe Mick Jagger will roll up for a beer sometime…


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