The summer before his first year of college, Sean Backs spent countless hours working for a moving company to earn some cash. He envisioned himself spending his money on food and going out with friends throughout his first year at UF. However, his bank account took a turn for the worse when Backs’ friends from high school convinced him to spend his savings on attending his first music festival: Electric Daisy Carnival in Orlando.
His first festival experience sparked an obsession. Two years later, Backs, a 20-year-old UF sports management junior, has attended Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and EDC Orlando two years in a row. Backs took on a paid internship and a job at Southwest Recreation & Fitness Center this summer so he could save up to attend Suwannee Hulaween festival, EDC, Bonnaroo and Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival this school year.
Backs’ festival craze is not uncommon. He, among others, spends thousands of dollars each year to take part in what they say is the great atmosphere and happiness created by live music.
“You get this feeling when you listen to music at a festival that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Philip Mylet, a 19-year-old UF computer science sophomore. “Seeing an artist perform live makes you connect with them more.”
Ironically, costly festivals attract college students, one of the most financially irresponsible demographics. Unlike Woodstock’s $18 three-day festival tickets in 1969, paying to attend a music festival today can be quite a financial burden, sometimes costing upward of $1,000 a ticket.
While most student festival goers save up for long periods of time or make gradual payments to afford the tickets for such festivals, 19-year-old UF psychology sophomore Jazz Edwards, obtains her ticket for Tortuga in an unconventional way.
“I’ve been working for Tortuga for two years now,” Edwards said. “The first time I attended the festival, one of the photographers took a photo of me and wanted to use it for their website. They sent me a photo release form and offered me a promoter job. I did it, and then this past year they let me work as a production/stage assistant, and I attended for free.”
A lot of festivals also offer payment plans for attendees. For example, EDC Orlando is held in November but offers a payment plan in which attendees can deposit $25 in the summer and make three monthly payments of $70 up until the festival.
Nicole Farr, a 19-year old UF interior design sophomore, has been saving up since last fall for her ticket to Lollapalooza, a festival in Chicago with over hundreds of thousands of attendees.
“Lollapalooza is going to be the first big festival I attend,” Farr said. “The flight is pretty expensive, but I’m staying at one of my friend’s houses in Chicago, which is going to save me a lot of money I would’ve spent on a hotel.”
Farr worked at a dog daycare throughout her freshman fall semester to save up for her ticket. Due to her busy work schedule, Farr said she missed almost every football game and she hopes the festival will be worth the cost.
“It was really difficult missing out on most of the football season my freshman year,” Farr said, “but I’m super excited to attend Lollapalooza, which is something most people don’t get a chance to do. I can’t wait to see some of my favorite performers like Ariana Grande and Tame Impala.”
This summer, Daryl Sutherland, a 19-year-old UF business sophomore, drove over seven hours to attend Bonnaroo. Sutherland said he camped on the festival grounds rather than staying in a hotel. He recommended camping to other potential festival attendees because he said there’s always something going on at the festival someone may otherwise miss out on. It’s also cheaper than a hotel and alleviates transportation costs. However, it isn’t the most glamorous option, he added.
“I camped at Bonnaroo this year and didn’t shower for three days, but the camping was still one of the best parts because I got to listen to good music and hang out with my friends in a different environment,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland explained students looking to save up for their first festival should attend smaller festivals first to get an idea of the atmosphere then select a bigger festival they feel they’ll enjoy the most based on the artists performing, location, cost and crowd.
“I felt super unprepared at my first festival,” Backs said. “Each festival I go to gets better and better because I know how to prepare myself.”
Sean Backs enjoys his first EDC music festival in 2017.