The Great Sausage Roll Swindle

SDE Editor Paul Sinclair reflects on how a day watching music with the family in a public park is engineered by organisers (“Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park”) to extract as much cash as possible from fans.

On Saturday 8 July,  I had a day out with the family at British Summer Time Hyde Park which featured The Killers as the headline act, with support from Tears For Fears and Elbow.

Given that this is hosted in a Royal Park in London, we thought it should be a great family day out and planned to bring a picnic while we chilled out in the sun watching the various acts.

With sandwiches made and sausage rolls and crisps packed, just before we left I checked the official website to double check where the entrance was and was stunned to see that the message that “No food or drink is permitted to be brought into BST Hyde Park (with the exception of water in unopened plastic containers of up to 500ml)”

I was gobsmacked. Call me naive (admittedly I’m not a festival regular) but having paid £220 for four tickets for my wife and two daughters (aged 9 and 14) to watch music IN A PARK I never thought for one minute that we wouldn’t be able to bring our own picnic. Even that most commercial of enterprises, Disney World in Florida, let visitors bring in their own food, as does Wimbledon, if you go to watch some tennis.

But despite a sell-out crowd of 65,000, it seems the organisation are not happy with whatever profit they make from – at the very minimum – £3.25m worth of ticket sales (this is for one day, based on the cheapest ticket price of £50 ex VAT). Such is the greed and commercialisation of this and similar events, that they FORCE you to pay inflated prices and stand in hideously long queues for often very average food.

Because we’d already made our picnic, my wife suggested we just take it anyway, and “see what happens”. To be fair, at the gate with some emotional blackmail (“not even for the children!?”, we cried) and a chat with ‘a supervisor’ we did manage to bring in a few sandwiches, but clearly that’s the exception, not the rule. Also, to highlight the expense of such an event, even having brought in food, we still managed to spend £50 on extra food and drink – £14 for two hotdogs, £30 for five pints of lager (between two of us over 7 hours – qualifying us for almost teetotal status at these events) and a couple of coffees.

But the point remains, why should we not have a choice? If the food on-site is so great and such good value, then surely we might be tempted, regardless. British Summer Time clearly don’t have such confidence and thus give you no choice. That’s not just good enough. Presumably, they sell sites to vendors at a much higher premium when they can guarantee that customers will be forced to use them. Corporate greed rules over putting the customer first. If they let you bring in food, they’d still make a fortune with the £6-a-pint prices for alcohol. But they want to squeeze even more profit from music fans.

Given that British Summer Time don’t mind exercising control over the ticket-buying public, they don’t extend that control to their vendors, happily letting them charge high prices for food. Some of the markup would be laughable if it wasn’t so obscene. £4 for ‘small’ chips. £7 for a bratwurst German sausage that I paid €3 for when in Berlin recently. £10 for a ‘kids meal’ of nuggets, fries and a drink. Why not at least control the prices on-site to give a fairer deal to your customers? e.g. A hot dog can’t be more than £5, a bag of chips no more than £2.50 etc. Surely there’s enough profit there? The event wouldn’t exist without the fans, after all, so why treat them so shoddily?

I tweeted about this on Saturday and from some of your responses it is clear that this practise is now all too common and you are similarly unhappy. The O2 Arena in London doesn’t allow you to bring in food, and other venues and festivals are similar, it’s not just BST Hyde Park.

What’s really annoying is that these organisations make up these ‘rules’ and we just accept them. Time to vote with our wallets and not buy tickets to events that have this restrictive policy. I’m not going to accept it and I’m not going to attend another BST event for this very reason. Same with the O2 (which I loathe, anyway).

Have you had similar experiences? Would you forego seeing a favourite band on this point of principle? I’d be particularly interested to hear from those in Europe and US to see whether this is a global phenomenon, or just ‘rip-off Britain’.

This post was first published on yesterday’s weekly SDE newsletter. Thanks to many of you have emailed me with your thoughts. Below are some of your responses. Incidentally, I contacted British Summer Time’s representatives for a response but no one got back to me!

Kenny: “Good to bring this up. My concern is that no account is made for disabled people or for health and safety issues. These promoters are issued with safety certificates, our councils should be ensuring that provision is made to protect the vulnerable. What would’ve happened if it had been 28c all day?”

Keith: “Thank God it’s not just me. The music biz is now just one BIG rip off TICKETS, FOOD, MERCHANDISE. Never EVER buy beer at a festival I have kids to feed, cannot justify price. Never EVER go to these park concerts just a money maker for the organisers. Sorry to rant, but it’s ruined the whole festival experience.”

Rod: “Issues like this have troubled me for quite a while now. I am an insulin-dependant diabetic and my blood sugar levels are often ‘thrown’ by the anticipation and excitement of a concert. I therefore need food supplies with me at a concert and that means appropriate food which certainly isn’t anything that the venues have to offer. I recently went to see ELO at Wembley Stadium and was asked to bring a letter from my Doctor confirming that I really was diabetic, hence allowing me to bring in a small quantity of the right sort of food. It’s a concert for goodness sake!”

Chris: “There is no sense of family value or inclusion, they just want to maximise profit to an obscene level. It’s horrible really. As for the price of refreshments, I am not shocked you were ripped off by crazy prices, but they know they have control and can do what they want. It all makes me very angry!”

David: “I used to have the same gripes as you about festival prices until I got told what the vendors themselves get charged to sell on the day / weekend by the promoters. It’s an astronomical price tariff and they aren’t going to recoup the costs involved , let alone make a profit if their prices were “High-Street-reasonable” that we are used to paying and become our benchmark.”

Ed: “We had the same at Cornbury, I had to trudge back to the car with our stuff, we’d only bought some nice beers and a few snacks as the food is generally good and not too pricey but I was mightily pissed off at not being able to have a choice.”

David: “I’m from western Canada and recently went on a trip to follow Depeche Mode around Europe, which we do every tour. In Canada, it’s much the same as in London. Insanely inflated food and drinks. $8-$9 for a cup of beer and the food prices, can’t even begin to talk about that nonsense. Having been to the O2 and the Olympic Stadium in London to see Depeche on the past 2 tours, the prices weren’t a shock to me as this is how it is in my home city of Edmonton, Alberta. However I found it different in other cities like Prague, Zagreb, Budapest and even Berlin. I found drink prices and food much more reasonable. Also ticket prices by the way are inflated in North America and London specifically compared to other countries.”

Tito: “This weekend I attended Mad Cool in Madrid with foo fighters etc.This festival allows children but it is not prepared for them. I went by myself. All food and drinks are forbidden except water bottles without cup. Here were a bunch of foodtrucks, hamburgers at 8 euros, hot dogs were like 7, french fries 4 or so..the usual for those events. BBK live in Bilbao is the same, nothing allowed. Your event looks slightly different as it was during the day wasnt it? Here festivals are hardly oriented for families.I think the Vida festival has some stuff for kids. But for example DCODE , in September in Madrid, I remember last year I brought some sandwiches and so without problems.It had an area for children.”

Paul: “I am with you 100%. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any enterprise which still puts customer satisfaction above aggressive profiteering.”

Jim: “I bet you were allowed to bring your own food and drink to Hyde Park when King Crimson and the Stones played there in ’69”

Cindy: “I’ve never been to a show in NYC where they would allow you to bring in food or drinks. It’s just a given in NYC that you’re never allowed to bring food and drinks into any venue because they want you to buy what’s sold on site. I think for Central Park Summerstage you are allowed to bring in a sealed water bottle but not sure about food. All that said, I think in your situation where there were no seats, it was a public park, and you brought your kids, you should have been allowed to bring in food with no problems.”


Carl: “Unfortunately this is not new. I recall going to Milton Keynes Bowl to see Bruce Springsteen back in the early/mid 1990s. At Milton Keynes there was one alcoholic drink available: Miller Lite. Not just warm and disgusting but it also had to be bought in multiples of two. There were three of us, so if we wanted a round we had to buy four cups. Then they ran out before the main event. What brilliant planning.”

Andrew: “The big outdoor venue over here in the Capital District of New York State is a place called Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). Tickets are overpriced and (that’s right folks!) you can’t bring in any drink, any food, any fun and anything. Go thru security at the gate and then stand in huge lines for your overpriced drink, your overpriced food and your eventual visit to the restroom. Consequently, my friends and I do not go to SPAC.”

Micheal: “Similar situation with summer festivals in Montreal, and also at the hockey arena where most major acts play their local gigs. Not only do they ban all personal food & drink (including water), but the food options are dismal, limited to the usual range of overpriced and not-so-tasty junk food. Small water bottles are CAN$5. The price gauging for (not-that-good) beer (CAN$14) is such that I rarely bother, preferring to spend those dollars at the merch stand instead. On the flip side, earlier this summer I went with my wife and two kids (12 and 8 years old) to a local family friendly punk rock fest where you could bring a picnic and lounge around in a laid back atmosphere, with premium beers and a variety of food truck options at very reasonable prices. Everything was family-friendly and reasonably priced and the whole family had a great time. Here’s to the DIY ethic over corporate greed!”

Matthew: “Absolutely agree re what you’re saying. Prices totally shocking but to have no choice makes it 10 times worse. I avoid big events so it doesn’t really affect me but would happily sign up to any lobbying! We went to Cambridge folk festival a couple of times and it was great that they allowed you to bring in both food AND drink! What this did was helped us – we had younger kids so would take a packed lunch and pay for our tea from a vendor. Also reduced the number of pints we bought onsite but at least we bought a few.”

Richard: “I’ve just returned from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (excellent show) and want to highlight an ever bigger swindle. I tend to pay for food and drink at these events as it’s easier than lugging a packed lunch around, but was staggered to find that this year you have to upgrade your tickets to get anywhere near the front – an extra £60 for the “Gold Circle” and a staggering extra £190 for the “Diamond Circle” nearest the stage, and this on top of £70+ for the ticket! In previous years they handed out first come, first served wristbands for the front area free of charge. This is blatant profiteering and simply means that those with money to burn (and no real love for the bands) can wander in and out from the bars as they please, rather than having to “bag” a good spot. It certainly soured what was otherwise a well-organised and enjoyable event.”

Simon: “I’ve just got back from seeing U2 at Twickenham tonight – £12.50 for a (stone cold) burger, fries and a bottle of Pepsi. Wouldn’t have been worth half that. Unfortunately those prices seem to be the going rate at many entertainment/sports events. I’ve paid similar at the Formula 1 at Silverstone, although they do allow you to take your own food and drink which helps keep the expense down somewhat.

Steven: “This has been common practice across most if not all Australian festivals for years, including the high mark ups. I attended the Phil Collins BST this year (and have only just got back to Oz) and didn’t bring food or drink of any kind because I have become so used to it and so I guess I now see it as normal (sadly)”

David: “Neil Young played at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne several years back during a heat wave. It was 48 CELCIUS, and the security firm was confiscating bottles of water at the gate, actually emptying them onto the lawn, so we would be forced to purchase inflated bottle water. It was actually in breach of O.H.&S regulations, but they got away with it. I have never seen so many heat stressed people in one place.”

Dave: “I totally agree with you regarding the ban on bringing your own food into a park gig, or a festival. It seems to be all about the profit, and not about the customers. I imagine that the organisers are on a percentage deal from the food/drink vendors, so the more they sell, the higher their percentage. It absolutely stinks!! My most recent gig was to see Elbow at Cannock Chase as part of the Forest Live tour (Friday 7th July). I did check beforehand, and picnics were allowed. Most people bought some food and drink (no glass or cans allowed on site – fair enough), and the food vendors were still doing a roaring trade, as some people didn’t want to bring their own food. The bars also seemed to be busy. The atmosphere was great. Everyone there had a great time, enjoying the surroundings and the band were very entertaining. A great gig all round, and everyone was happy.
There is no need to subject the public to rip off prices and crap quality.”

Roy: “I think that were rather naive to expect to be allowed to take in food or drink. These events are a total rip-off in Western Europe. I have just returned from the Exit Festival in Novi Sad Serbia – we don’t get charged booking fees for tickets here, either! How readily the British public fell for that one! Tickets were €50 for four days, you can’t take food or drink in but there is a great selection of food for all tastes at superb prices –
drinks range from €1.50 for beer to €2 for wine. I agree with your idea of boycotting this nonsense – the only way they will change is if profit falls.”

Dan: “Interesting what you say Paul. I’ve just been to Bilbao BBK festival in Northern Spain to see The Killers (amongst others). I thought I was the only one who thought that prices were a rip-off. Unlike you, I refuse to give the organisers a penny more than they’ve got from me already for the entry ticket. I spent ZERO, but I was only there for about 3½ hours. Not a terribly long time to avoid placing food & drink in my mouth.”

Peter: “It’s not just ‘rip of Britain’, over here in the Netherlands it’s the same. As a regular concert visitor the venues like Amsterdam Arena, Ziggo Dome, AFAS live Music Hall, etc. etc. all handle sky high prices on food and beverages. You are not allowed to bring any of your own. Some of these venues let you pay with their own tokens you have to buy, and at the end of the evening the left over tokens are useless. Only Ziggo dome buys them back from you. Prices are sky high, a small drink €3 a large €5. Chips €4, hamburger €6,50, chocolate chip cookie (small size) €4….”

Steven: “I couldn’t agree more with you on this, and I’m sure many other SDE readers will feel the same. It’s become yet another area of naked profiteering – and even ‘respectable’ venues such at the Royal Albert Hall have a shameful mark-up on bar prices. I accept vendors need to make a living, but the price points for food and drink at music festivals and venues is too often cynical and exploitative. Compounded by the ever-rising cost of tickets it has, for me, relegated experiencing live music from the regular pleasure it was a decade ago to an occasional treat.”

Richard: “I was at BST yesterday watching Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I have been a regular concert/festival goer for years now and have seen rip-off practices escalating year after year. First I remember them taking drinks off you at V festival Chelmsford at the gate throwing them into bin bags because virgin cola bought the rights for all cola on site and Carling bought beer rights, because they did it, most events followed. One of the biggest rip offs for me is the ticket prices, when I first started going you had a choice either stand or sit down general admission (so if you wanted to get to front you would have to work your way through the crowds over course of day or get there early and not move). Now they invented the gold circle section in between two barriers where you pay double or sometimes triple for the pleasure (general admission only gets you middle of crowd now).”

Rob: “Was reading your musings on way back from Tom Petty at Hyde Park and have a few comments:
1) It’s a clear rip-off forced to make you spend the money at the vendors. Now, I suspect this is a vicious circle. The greedy organisers (greedy for money) rip off the vendors for slots –> who have to charge exorbitant prices to us to recover those costs –> in turn the organisers promise a prison audience to ensure a profit”

Derek: “On the food/drink thing a good example is the O2 Arena – for several years for the ATP Tennis finals they allowed food and drink in (not cans or glass bottles – fair enough). The last time I went they used the old favourite “security” to deem my cheese role and crisps a “security threat” and forced me (and others) to throw good food into a bin (I won’t be going to the tennis again)”

Nigel: “This is something that has been annoying me for years! You cannot take anything in and then they fob you off with crap food with limited options (you don’t always want a burger but some nice sarnies) and beer that is tasteless all at an extortionate price”.

Tony: “Unfortunately here in the USA, what you experienced has been the rule for a number of years. Organizers and sporting venues charge you outrageous prices to purchase tickets to the event itself which include ridiculous tack on fees and then charge 3x to 4x the price you would expect to pay for food and drink. Things have gotten so insane, that the new sports stadiums being built have smaller seating capacities, but are full of luxury restaurants. Now there’s an idea that makes sense; let’s spend a king’s ransom to get into the venue and then go into a way overpriced restaurant and watch the game on TV. The bottom line is as long as people continue to patronize the system, things will remain the same.”

Paul: “You mention the O2, and they are the worst in my opinion, since not only do they ban food, but also water. They used to simply take the tops off, but about a year ago, they changed it to a ban – and banning water seems the most outrageous, almost like preventing a basic human right (without wanting to sound too high-handed about it!). They say it is available free at the bars, but carrying a bottle, and not having to queue, doesn’t seem unreasonable when you are there for several hours.”

Paul: “Yes, you are absolutely right about all of this.  But nothing will change whilst we continue to attend these events – it’s all about market forces, isn’t it? Just don’t go to them is my philosophy here.  Find other events to attend where the deal is more acceptable and then maybe the promoters of over priced “ransom” events like this will have to change their ways when we all vote with our feet.”

Frank: “The same goes for festivals in Belgium. No food or drinks (even water) allowed. Everything needs to be bought on site, that is bad/junk food for very high prices. Totally unacceptable.”

Ken: “That’s what music is all about these days. Money from music sales just isn’t enough. It starts when  purchasing tickets at say £80 with booking fees, postage at £3:50 and whatever a facility fee is. Then you have the overcharging for drinks , ice creams, sweets etc. You’ve probably paid over the odds to park as well. A nice souvenir sweater at £40 or rubbish programme at £15 to round it all off. Music is all about exploitation these days. Everyone trying to get as much as they can from fans.”

Paul: “My family had exactly the same scenario at Madness: House of Common last summer. We had gone to great effort to make a family picnic that we planned to consume in one of the billed ‘family areas’. Unfortunately they absolutely refused to let us in with food even though we had two relatively young children. Fortunately it was a sunny day and we were able to enjoy our picnic on Clapham Common but it did leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Later in the evening when hungry again we were totally ripped off for what was, as you say, very average food.”

Suzanne: “All venues I’ve been to tell you No food and drink allowed even before security was stepped up this year it’s less for them to check and allows people quicker entry to the venue, there’s nothing worse than one queue going ahead of the other when someone brings food and beverages in and bottles are deemed to be missiles that someone would chuck at the artists that’s why in arenas you have to pour it in a cup (the few spoiled it for the many unfortunately) I totally get what you mean about prices of food and drinks I agree it’s overinflated there should be regulations over price but it is London where everything is expensive. The alternative is to roll up a good few hours before and have the picnic before you go in u eat my food before the gates open. I’ve been to hundreds of shows over 25years and it’s always about making money from the punters from the merch to the food sadly.”

Jamie: “A great article there Paul. I know your pain on this, i feel more and more strongly about this these days. Not sure if its from getting older a grumpier, or if its more about standing up for what’s fair and right. I know its called the music “Business” but these events that are on what i call an “Industrial scale” feel so soulless.You are herded in and out like sheep (and then queuing for the expensive awful food).(My mind always turns to my big locals, the Manchester Arena, and Ethiad Stadium)

I guess they and a lot of people would say you do have a choice to go or not, but i feel that’s a cop-out. This is how i presently sum it up…..Their approach is fully based on profit for the few, rather than doing business that’s based on our values. We need to somehow keep this debate alive.”

What are you’re thoughts on this issue? Please leave a comment!

117 responses to The Great Sausage Roll Swindle

  1. gill pearson says:

    I am getting ready to go and see Paul Simon in Hyde Park this coming Sunday and am dismayed by what I am reading. This looks so restrictive that it is marring what should be a great experience. Apart from the food rip-off prices, its annoying that fold up chairs wont be allowed – I have been to many open air concerts and festivals over the years and fold up chairs were always allowed there. Also its Paul Simon – most of the crowd will be drawing their pensions – we need to sit down for chrissakes! I just hope they let me take some painkillers in…

  2. Rob says:

    I have to say I just attended the amazing Green River Festival here in Greenfield, MA. They do allow small coolers, have filtered water refill stations (FREE!) ample good food (reasonably priced) and make sure everything is accessible. I have never been to such a family friendly fest with such reasonable policies. Its a shame more festival cant follow their lead. Of course you need a hippie community and 20,000 people willing to do the right thing to make it work.

  3. Andy says:

    I think it’s a similar situation here in Australia. I kind of understand it in an Arena, like O2, but I work in the Film industry and we have crazy situations where we want to film in an arena (no performance is on, no public, the venue is otherwise closed) just to use the space and we are not allowed to bring in our own catering trucks for the crew. We are supposed to use the in-house catering, but we end up setting up our trucks in a nearby park and shuttling crew back and forth. The music in the park thing baffles me as to why you can’t bring your own food in, it’s a public space!

  4. Kenneth says:

    Sadly, most of the people I’d be willing to pay money to see are passing on or just don’t want to tour anymore. So I won’t be doing this sort of thing much longer. My wife enjoys the ballet and they’re not shy about fleecing folks either. But the ticket prices are better than a normal rock concert.

  5. Wes says:

    I agree with you Paul– in the end all you/we want is the choice– but ironically that is also the constant refrain you hear from the rabid capitalists when they argue for the endless prioritization of the public commons. Tiered pricing at large outdoor events allows promoters to keep the well-to-do separated from the hoi polloi while maintaining or even increasing their profits… and yes, they need to make money… but there’s more to it than that. The “privileged” do not want to be troubled by having to mix with “the public” (read as “underclass”) while attending large public events. Surly you Brits see this being played out as your government seeks to deconstruct the social supports you all paid for in order to part them out and sell them off to, wait for it…

    TWO CLASS SOCIETY– as George Carlin once said, “and you ain’t invited”. Get it? This won’t end well. Nor should it. Time to start telling the greedy piggy types to F$ck Off. Your vote isn’t the only means of democratic expression, your money also has a voice. Sometimes you have to vote with your wallet… in fact these days, it is absolutely essential.

  6. Paolo Fiori says:

    It’s interesting – and I haven’t read all the comments so apologies if I missed it – that no-one blames the bands.

    ‘Green field sites’ are expensive to set-up and costly to run. I don’t think BST or its predecessor ‘Hard Rock/Hyde Park Calling’ made money for the promoters in the first few years.

    Everyone I’ve seen blames the organisers, the corporations or whoever but balancing the books includes making money from concessions/food & beverage as well as ticket fees. At any event of this type one of the biggest costs is the talent.

  7. Carl says:

    Just another example of greedy fat cat executives piggishly making decisions to line their pockets at the expense of the common people. All they care about is the bottom line – Im sure that they sit in their ivory towers and calculate the absolute maximum thst they can rip people off. Bottled water prices are unconscionable and the quality of the outrageously priced food options is terrible!! Unfortunately it’s only going to get worse. I wish there was something that common people could do about it but other than not to buy food & drink or go to shows its impossible to fight (and at the end of the day people are going to keep going and buying). It’s truly a shame. I HATE CORPORATE GREED!!!!

  8. Gildas Opitz says:

    @Joachim: I mean that drink that they pass as beer in Cologne ;)

  9. Joachim says:

    @Nick Well, something can be a public place because an owner/community gives anyone this right. That doesn’t mean that the owner/community can’t grant someone exclusive right for a particular period of time. The tenant not the owner of the flat makes the rules for guests unless the owner gave rules to the tenant… In Germany I suspect that poor communties prefer merciless money-making organizers because it’s a way to get higher rents.

    @Gildas Beer in Cologne? (sorry, for the german insider joke)

  10. Nick says:

    I’m not sure how the organisers of BST can stop you taking your own food……

    It’s a public place and surely illegal for them to try and stop you….. any lawyers on here????
    Sat here typing in my Tom Petty Hyde park T shirt….. would have loved to have gone being a lifelong fan but couldn’t due to a recent Heart Attack….. ☹️

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Sorry to hear about the heart attack, hope you’re recovering. It’s probably in the contract with the Royal Parks, although if they had any gumption they’d insist that BST still allow people to bring in food. In the PR for this event they actually have the gall to say that the concerts are essential for the preservations of the royal parks! Yeah, right.

    • Ralph says:

      By printing conditions of entry on the ticket they can prevent you taking your own food in. Same way they prevent you entering a “public place” without a ticket. Don’t think we need a lawyer for that one

  11. Gildas Opitz says:

    In Germany it is the same: Went to Cologne a cpuple of weeks ago to see Aerosmith and you have to pay 6 Euros for a pint of beer without gas. But that´s nothing new. The venues want to increase their profit and this won´t change. So i don´t really see the point of this discussion.
    When i go to my local multiplex to see the latest blockbuster i have the choice to buy a coke for 4 Euros plus a small popcorn for another 4-5 Euros. But there are no controls, so its easier to bring your own food supply.
    What bothers me even more are the damn smartphones blocking my sight at every concert. Ban those already. People can do without vertigo-inducing Youtube viedos.

  12. Andrew M says:

    Strangely I actually really really like the O2.

  13. Klaus says:

    I noticed at the BST-site that you’re not allowed to leave the festival ground after entering. Is that common practice in Britain? Because in Germany there are lots of concerts AND festivals where you either get a wrist band when entering the first time or a stamp on the back of your hand and can leave and re-enter the ground as often as you like afterwards. I know depending on how far off from other possibilities to drink or eat the ground is that this won’t help in every case but i went to some concerts and even festivals and got out between artists and ate and drank something from a vendor or a shop outside the concert site.

    • Ade says:

      You can certainly come and go at the festivals I go to in the UK…get in your car and go to the shops if you like. Go for a walk across the hills….I think that’s true of most family festivals, certainly the independent ones, of which there are many in the UK.

  14. Julian Hancock says:

    The key point seems to be that a large number of people appear willing and able to pay enormous sums, either from the promoter or the resale sites. Also worth noting that music events don’t exist in a bubble. This weekend tens of thousands people will pay £300 to watch the Grand Prix. No food or drink allowed in there either.

    All of this will only change if and when punters vote with their feet and wallets. Of course, this may mean that promoters simply opt to put on events in countries where people remain willing or able to stump up.

    In as mush as it matters, I opt not to go concerts where I think the costs are exploitative, or where I just don’t think it is good value given I would be watching something on a screen a long way away..

  15. Kenneth says:

    Only £2 for a bottle of water? Just saw Roger Waters in Houston & they were charging $6 per bottle. In all seriousness, we’re all getting fleeced. They made my wife throw out a perfectly fine lemonade for a watered down soda!

  16. TRACY says:

    I have not read all the replies yet, but Paul why do you loathe the O2?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      It’s too big and horribly, horribly commercialised. Went we my 14-year old daughter and her friend last year to see some young band and they wouldn’t even let us take in a packet of crisps.

  17. Ralph MacGillivray says:

    For the Killers gig one of the staff checked with his mate regarding my pain au raisin, his mate confirmed that biscuits were fine! At Tom Petty the next day I was advised I couldn’t take in a nectarine and a raisin brunch bar! It seemed to be a lot more crowded on the Saturday than on the Sunday. I was however very chuffed to be upgraded from Gold Circle to Platinum Circle for the Tom Petty show. I had a fabulous day out

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      How much had the Gold Circle tickets cost you?

      • Ralph says:

        Gold Circle was £129.50. My pal is on the small side had never seen them and it was his birthday weekend so it seemed worth the extra outlay. We ended up about ten people back from centre of the stage and had a fabulous day. I do think the current set up is not as good as the previous Hard Rock Calling setup with the two stage back to back in the centre and easier access to an outer ring of vendors and loos. First one I went to The Who/Roger Waters you got discount on buying tickets for both shows. At the start of the day we sat in deckchairs by the bandstand as a brass band played the hits of The Who!

  18. Julian H says:

    I hate it that you’re often not even allowed to take a small drink of something with you! If it’s a long concert and the catering is awful (which it always is), you risk dehydrating…

  19. Alexander says:

    Ever since the music industry realized they could earn lots of money with concerts instead of decreasing record sales they started to do so.
    I’m not a festival guy but all concert prices went through the ceiling during the last 20 years or so.
    The Rolling Stones are going to play the Hamburg Stadtpark in september. Ticket prices started around 100€ and end around 700€ for a front row standing ticket. That is so sick. All 80000 tickets sold within 3 days…

    I prefer to see small bands in small clubs. OK prices and satisfying, nothing to worry about.

  20. Terry G says:

    It’s not just the ticket prices and refreshment fees that have skyrocketed-how about the merch prices? I went to a recent concert where the band was selling t-shirts for $60! They were hawking their CDs at $20 per, and vinyl at $40 per!
    It all adds up- the ticket to get in, a beer or two, a burger or chicken sandwich, parking fee, souvenirs, it’s not a cheap night out for anyone. And that makes some people have to make choices- to go or not, to eat out or not, to buy merch or not. And it may be part of the explanation for the explosion in popularity in “tailgating” at major events, where people camp out in parking lots, grilling and drinking to excess before shows/games. When you can purchase a six pack at the supermarket for the same price as one beer costs inside the venue, something is wacky. I think a boycott only hurts the fans most, plus hurts the low-paid workers hired to man the concessions, while delivering a message that is lost on corporate entities. Max profit is their mantra, and they will find a way to squeeze it out any way possible. I knew this the day I used a port-a-potty at a festival, and there was a corporate logo advertising an energy drink right over the urinal, so I got a birds eye view of it. And then I looked down, and there was another logo, on the urinal “cake” inside the urinal. And there were logos on the toilet paper too. And when I was finished, I turned around to exit, and there was yet another logo on the inside of the door of the port-a-potty. Eventually, they will charge us to USE the port-a-potty, and we will have no choice, will we?

  21. Ade Swatridge says:

    While I agree the Hyde Park experience was no good, we need to get some perspective here. There are many UK independent festivals where you CAN take food and alcohol into the campsite and also into the festival site itself. End of the Road is a highly regarded alt music family-friendly festival for example where food and drink are fine to bring, there is a little ‘campsite’ shop for selling essentials and you can take your alcohol in to watch the bands – only glass is a no-no so you simply decant your gin/scotch/beer/whatever into plastic bottles before you go. Also, the food and drinks are sensibly priced (£4 a pint, £7-9 for a main meal) and the selection is excellent. So let’s not just diss all festivals…many are run extremely well – it’s the corporate sponsored ones to avoid.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Good. I want to hear about the decent ones!

      • Anthony says:

        Bluedot festival is family friendly and disability accessible. Proper camping so you can take your own food and alcohol into the campsite. Food from the vans was very reasonable and alcohol was under the £5 mark with a good range of craft beer. In its third year and early birds have just gone on sale with the option to pay by instalments. Never thought I’d find such a cool UK festival but here it is.

  22. Tom of FIN says:

    Obviously you had not visited big festivals located in growth centers for a long time.

    BST was like that already in 2014, when Soundgarden with news songs for twenty years was around live with one Motörhead warming up and Black Sabbath as finish.

    7 pounds for hotdog sounds anyways very inflated prices. Maybe very middle-class targeted line-up has also something to do with this.

    Anyways in Nordic festivals that has been the price range for 5-10 years easily considerin year to year inflation, and GDP and living standard is about the same. Even higher in Norway than in the UK, Norway being the richest and most expensive country up north for foreigners.

  23. Andrew M says:

    I’m kind of mixed between angry and ambivalent about this. And I wouldn’t restrict myself to the price of food either. The price of tickets are insane as well. I’m really pleased you could take your family to this event, Paul, but I do believe that you have to be pretty well off to attend gigs as families these days…..

    An example. My nephew is 12 and has got heavily in to Queen. He has never been to a big gig, so we promised him we’d take him to the O2 to see them. Then the ticket prices were announced. At almost £90 a ticket it would have cost us £270 for the tickets plus the car parking, petrol, hotel etc etc. You would have been looking at £500 just for one night’s entertainment. It’s insane and not restricted to gigs. Theatres as well. We paid £80 to see Blood Brothers at a local provincial theatre for my partner’s birthday.

    But the reality is, and this is the cynic in me, people will pay it and if they pay it then the rest of us sufffer :(. I read an article the other day – it was about theatre ticket prices but it would apply to gigs if used too. In America they use algorithms on the ticket site that constantly work out how much people are paying on the scalper market, how many people are on the site at that moment in time, and how many tickets they’ve sold and how quickly and adjust the price accordingly. Official ticket prices on Broadway, apparently, have reacher $1000 for some shows! It’s hard to argue that they’re overcharging when people pay the kind of prices we see on the reseller market.

    So on the subject of food I guess it’s just an extension of this. People seem to have the money these days and are happy to pay for it. As much as I admire and praise your stand Paul – I just despair of it making any difference :(

    Theatre and gigs and live art of any kind is becoming the preserve of the rich and it makes me sad. The 16 year old me was at Knebworth seeing Queen in 1986. In my teen years, I saw BB King, Eric Clapton, The Shadows, Queen, Dire Straits and many many many others. My 12 year old nephew has seen no-one.

    It just makes me desperately sad.

    Sorry for the long post.

  24. Frenchy Eric says:

    Here in Paris in most of indoor venues you get a pint of lager for 8 euros with a nice designed rigid plastic glass you can choose to give back (refund of 1 euro) or keep…
    You cannot generaly bring in drinks but food is ok.
    I don’t go to outdoor venues since 2000 therefore i cannot tell…

  25. Albert Tatlock says:

    Absolutely outrageous… When I went to the Stone Roses gig at Heaton Park the band insisted on reasonable catering prices (this was because of the fiasco that was Spike Island: when food was overpriced and sandwiches were confiscated by security. Which the band weren’t told about). But anyway, I went into Armstrong’s chippy near the park and I ate before I went in.

    7 quid for a pork and apple sauce roll?! That should be a criminal offence. A superb chicken stuffing and apple sauce barm from Bury’s indoor market is only 1.99…

  26. Mr. Ska '57 says:

    In Syracuse, NY food and drinks are not allowed at a ‘new’ (2016) amphitheater because the county gets a cut of the vendors’ take. US $4 for a bottle of water is just unconscionable when your home water costs US 1.5 cents per gallon. Also ‘variable parking costs’ depending on the popularity of the performer(s).

  27. Daniel says:

    Totally agree. Here in the US, I go to a lot of events…even the cinema…where they want $5 for bottled water, $7 for soda, and upwards for food. I refuse. I don’t eat or drink at these venues. I have been encouraged that the last 2 years at Shaky Knees Fest Atlanta they allowed 2 sealed bottles of water or empties/camel packs and free water filling stations (though they did make me trash my granola bars/snacks). That was a life saver. There were no freebies at Coachella in the early years and the desert heat was upwards of 100 deg F!

  28. Joachim says:

    Looking at the prices and sales at the band merch shops at gigs and festivals let all my hopes go that we punters will end this rip-off by boycott. T-Shirts for 45 Euros, regular albums 15 Euro atop of retailers prices were sold like hot cakes (last seen on the Steve Hackett tour).

  29. ed says:

    whilst its a good point, Its the norm im afraid and I have gone to enough gigs over the years to know that I wouldn’t bring my own food with me.

  30. andrew r says:

    This is the logical end of 35 years+ of promotion of the “free” capitalist market state
    Everything for sale all the time ,”if” you have the money .Access to the lounge/gold area/
    special pop up restaurant/ way through all the shit that everyone endures . A two speed
    economy where the mass is ripped off for the enrichment of the top 10% (i am including you Bono and your monkey boy Noel!) The thing is the youth of today put up with it and often encourage it . They need to stand together boycott Glastonbury and a few hyde park gigs
    and see if the organisers and the increasingly cocooned “stars” get the message. Or you can behave like lambs . We all know what happens to lambs. To the barricades brothers and sisters!

  31. Oh Get Real says:

    I get all the comments and agree with inflated pricing is not fair to the consumer….however, why are people moaning about bringing food to a 2 hour concert in the evening?? I was at a show recently and had to sit beside some woman eating a half chicken which she brought in which smelt like a wet dog……I go to enjoy the show, can eat before or after it….I don’t buy beer in the venue either, usually a coke or something…then go to a bar after the concert……
    All day festivals I can understand, especially with bringing kids or people with medical conditions….but the clean up after these events is enormous, people are not mannerly when they finish eating and clearing up, they toss it on the ground and leave it to be walked over. I was at a festival last year in London and watched a woman throw a soiled nappy changed from her baby on the ground and walk on. So when people complain about vendors being charged high prices….these costs cover the clean up also….
    Why should the establishment allow food in then, as I pointed out and we all know, some (many) people are thankless and have no disregard with trash, they might as well make us pay for the mess that many many people cause.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I don’t have an issue with 2-hour concerts in the evening. I’d actually support a total ban on food for that (and in cinemas!!). But all-day festivals, in a park, with the family. That’s a totally different thing. Also, it doesn’t cost more to clean up a crisp packet that has been brought from home than one in bought on-site, so that’s not really a relevant issue. However, I agree people can be very disgusting and lazy and not clean up after themselves.

  32. Richard Cosgrove says:

    Completely agree with you, Paul. I wouldn’t even mind paying the premium prices for a decent pint of beer (I’m a ale man) but the swill on offer is usually borderline undrinkable!

    As for the practice of Gold, Platinum etc circle seating, we were going to attend Tom Petty but to get the kind of view close to the front that I wanted meant we would have been looking at three or four times the ‘regular’ admission price so we decided not to, so I’m just hoping now that Stevie Nicks will be with Fleetwood Mac when they tour next year,

  33. Paul Murphy says:

    Great title for the article! I’d add …. ‘(Positively Hyde Park)’.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thanks! I had a second stab at it after calling it “The Great Food and Drink Swindle” on the newsletter :)

  34. Marcel (Rotterdam, Netherlands) says:

    Dutch festivals like Lowlands or Pinkpop prohibit you from bringing in your own food and drinks, but at least they offer varied, healthy and not excessively priced food. Also, at Pinkpop everyone can get free (tap)water.

  35. Will says:

    I love that you bring these subjects up Paul. They sorely need to be addressed. I think boycott is a good idea. What if we all refused to pay the ludicrous cost of an average concert ticket? Wouldn’t that be cool!? $280 (over the counter price) for a U2 ticket. When the fuck did we all agree to that? It’s fuckin’ ridiculous. The consumer is getting fucked on a regular basis, so much so that we’re “desensitized” to it, it’s just business as usual. If no one bought those tickets, things would change awfully quick.

  36. Dean says:

    I understand the issues in the article, but it fails to start at he beginning: £60 a ticket for a concert in a park?!?!?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      £60 isn’t actually too bad because if you got there at 1pm you would have seen six or seven bands. However I do have an issue with this new segregation. More or less impossible to get anyway near the front unless you pay extra. £190 extra for ‘Diamond View’ apparently!!

  37. StevieB says:

    “£30 for five pints of lager (between two of us over 7 hours”

    I guess you’re going to have to tell your kids to stick to soft drinks next time

  38. Jonathan says:

    Was in London for the Depeche Mode gig in June, and had the WORST fish ‘n chips EVER in my life!!!!
    Am from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, flew all the way to dear old Blighty with my gf to see the boys from Basildon! Wasn’t sure if they were coming to this side of the globe as the last few tours they didn’t include S.E. Asia, so decided to go catch them in london this time round.

    After the gig, I was hungry so bought the 1st thjng I saw on the way out.
    It said ‘cod fish’ on the side of the truck, and i coughed up think was around 13 or 15 sterling for the fish n chips.
    It sure didnt taste like cod! It was tough on the bite (cod?).
    Was tasteless, and bland.
    Had not been skinned as well, (tried to see if it was cod but it had been fried in oil so i couldn’t determine if it was cod as the skin was all black and dark. Couldn’t see the fish ‘scales’.)
    I’ve had better back here in KL! And i mean SOOOOO much better. LOL

    At least the awesome gig by Dave and gang made up for the tasteless ‘cod’ !
    Was not so much about the pricing, but at least make sure the food is decent enough for the customers!
    The hot dogs i had earlier before the gig from one of the food trucks was superb i have to say. And was much cheaper around £6 or £7.

  39. PaulM says:

    I have seen almost everyone that I have wanted to see , and usually when they really meant something , had a new album out and at a good ticket price. I have never done the O2, Twickenham, Hyde Park, or Glastonbury, and will probably never do so, yet I still do 20 plus good size gigs a year.
    I would rather check out interesting bands at small venues [ I saw Ride at the fantastic Village underground recently]. Support small venues, and the bands that still play them. you will probably get 2 or 3 great nights out for the same money, and will keep the live music scene healthier, rather than line the pockets of the many middle men [and women], who seem to infest the concert / event circuit these days.

  40. Daniel says:

    In a way it’s nice to see it’s not just in Australia that stadiums and events such as this gouge the living suitcase out of people for food. But it’s also a shame. I make a point of not buying food or drink at these events – I either smuggle something in or just tough it out. When you’re looking down the barrel of paying upwards of $5.00+ for a 50gram bag of crisps, well, nope.

    The attitude appears to be that you’re a captive audience, thus you’ll just suck it up and pay as much as you’re told to. The licensing fees for food and drink vans are horrendous here, which, we’re all told, explains the high prices. It doesn’t explain the high prices in stadiums when the stadium owns the food venues though…

  41. noyoucmon says:

    I thought it was common knowledge that most festivals bar you from bringing in your own food and drink. I live in Chicago and numerous well known fests take place in public parks here–Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, etc.–and at the most you can bring in a bottle or two of sealed water. I don’t love it, particularly as a vegetarian for whom the offerings are usually inadequate, but the model is no more surprising to me than 1000% markups on popcorn at the cinema.

  42. I fully respect your post Paul. As a dad I understand the cost of taking a family anywhere. It’s one of the reasons I rarely go to events such as this anymore. Unfortunately there are still many people prepared to pay these rediculous prices reluctantly. So the practice will continue.

    It’s not just concerts, airlines now refuse you to take water or food on board. One particular airline called ‘Scoot’ did not provide water at all for free, not even a cup of water was allowed. You had to pay $SG4 for a bottle. The food was incredibly expensive and worse than a frozen TV dinner.

    We no longer get what we pay for any longer, I just prefer to enjoy things that are free and fun these days.

    • Oh Get Real says:

      bring your own water on board…….people today are too damn entitled!! Its a business and they have to cover their costs also…the water doesn’t just appear on the plane, they have transport costs also, if you don’t like it, then next time, go to WH Smith and buy a cheaper bottle before you board!

  43. Andrew says:

    Spot on Paul!

    I echo your comments totally.

    One thing to add from a personal point of view-my wife and son have severe food allergies, so eating out is hard at the best of times and so have to take packed lunches etc for them even if we wanted to not do so.

    I have had to argue at several places-and airlines-to allow our food in, basically saying that they had better phone 999 now as they will need an ambulance as soon as they eat.

    Easy to see the ££ which thesecpromoters are just after now, rather than giving an experience and pleasure.

  44. Julian Hancock says:

    AEG, the company that runs this and other events made a net profit of approx £1.4m on turnover of just under £30m, and a return on capital of just under £6%, according to their most recent accounts . Not an enormous profit margin, so perhaps these things are just fiendishly expensive to stage.

    • Perhaps the salary for the people who ran it was high! Hence the low profits?

      • Julian Hancock says:

        Quite possibly, F.O.B.. And am sure that all the readers of this site are constantly lobbying their employers to pay them as little as possible in order that their customers can benefit.

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          Those figures can’t be accurate. I estimated minimum £3.25m turnover for ONE DAY of the 7-day festival, and that was based on all 65,000 people paying £60 (I’m excluding the £10 VAT). When in actually fact loads of corporate clients would have paid £250 a ticket for ‘Diamond View’. I reckon there income for just BST Hyde Park would be £30m and that’s just one week of activities. What about the other 51 weeks of the year?

          • Julian Hancock says:

            They are the figures published in their audited accounts. If you suspect wrong doing then best report it to the relevant authorities.

          • Paul Sinclair says:

            I don’t actually care.

    • Oh Get Real says:

      As I mentioned also, the clean up after these events is huge. They don’t just through stuff into a wheel bin and leave it out for the next bin collection- did anyone see the pictures of the Glastonbury clean up, tonnes of waste and huge fees to have the waste collected and disposed off

  45. Mr. Stick says:

    Paul: Like the others here, I truly sympathize with your plight. I suppose next time you’ll take your kids to the aquarium and play Tears For Fears in their headphones on the tube.

    Here in the states, most of the big-name shows are at sports arenas, of course, and those places have expectedly inflated prices for food and beer, because US football or hoops fans lost their minds 30 years ago. A $10 ask for a brew (or 2o bucks for a pizza or 8 bucks for trichnosis on a soggy bun) doesn’t seem to slow anybody down once that hideous devil-on-your-shoulder stadium mindset kicks in. But here’s the difference between a baseball game and a concert in the same stadium: The ball game ticket is very often a bargain, at least compared to face value. Unless the team is just nailing it every night, a fan can get a good ticket for a few bucks on the street, and my team (which sucks to high heaven) is regularly doing “flash sales” that get you in the door for a major league game for six to ten bucks. That makes it a little easier to spend $20 on two beers, or 12 bones on a quote-sandwich-unquote.

    But that ain’t the case with concerts. If you want any kind of seat for, say, Tom Petty, you’re coughing up a hundred and ten smackers at least, and then you’re asked to swallow your economic good sense (again) if you want a pint (which everyone does). And what really gets me is that people still do it, and in spades, and at the expense of actually hearing the music they paid to witness. When I saw Petty a month ago, the couple next to me nudged me out of my seat four times in two hours to fill their guts with lousy beer at primo prices. They saw 50% of that show, tops. Seriously, man? I like beer, but c’mon.

    These days, I always leave large venue shows with a taste of regret. The very notion of a big festival show is now inconceivable to me. More sweaty clubs, please.

    Thanks for the chance to spout off, and welcome to the suckers club.

    • PaulM says:

      I totally agree, I support a lower league football team, and they often do 2 for 1 offers on tickets.My post further down echoes your point about small venues.
      I reckon you nailed it there, I also had a similar experience to your Tom Petty one a few years ago at Steely Dan

  46. Simonf says:

    My last festival was the disastrous Deep Purple bash at Knebworth in 1985. Horrible wet weather, even more horrible music; we left before Purple came on stage, cold, wet, tired and fed up with the whole bloody affair (me and our kid that is, not DP!). It still haunts me to this day. Do I miss festivals or any live music events? Not at all, and I just find it incredible the amount of festivals these days with utter rubbish line up’s. There are far too many with far too few decent bands to go round and that includes the likes of Glastonbury; same tired old names going through the same tired old routines. Save your money, and then you can buy more records. Simples!!

  47. James Giraffe says:

    My comment isn’t about food and drink, but about confiscating items. And how inefficiently they do this.

    I went to Field Day festival in London. They confiscated my deodorant and suncream, plus my friend’s perfume. The security man took the items off us during the search at the entrance and put them on the table behind him. I protested very politely, but realised that no way was he going to let me in with them. So I accepted my fate, walked through the security gate…

    …and then discreetly took said confiscated items off the table and put them back in my bag when he was too busy stealing some other punter’s possessions to notice!

  48. Ern says:

    My brother-in-law chatted with one of the servers selling bottled beer and even they thought the price was steep.

  49. RJS says:

    I’ve been to see about one major artist in the past 10 years and have only been to a couple of all day festivals back in the nineties. The rest of the time it’s local gigs and tribute acts. No messing about in queues, a fiver a pint (£6 for a pint doesn’t seem too unreasonable considering most pubs around where I live charge £5-£5.50) and a great view. To be honest I’m surprised that the author is so surprised about how commercial and money grabbing live music has become over the past 20 years!

  50. Steve says:

    I’m nor particularly bothered about it at a stadium gig. It’s an evening, I’m more worried about the gig than I would be the food. But for an all dayer, if it’s a festival or a ‘day in the park’ style event, I would expect to be able to take something to eat as well. That said, I have a dietary requirement and I wouldn’t expect any of the catering places at BST (for example) to cater for this.

  51. Doug says:

    My guess is that the most significant change would occur if the artists took some interest in the terms and conditions of entry into these venues (particularly all day gigs and festivals). I suspect most don’t and wouldn’t consider refusing to play over this issue. Yes, punters can refuse to attend but I’m not sure whether they are made aware of restrictions about food and drink before reaching the entrance gate.
    Personally I think a venue should only be allowed to charge for entrance to the gig with no restrictions other than obvious safety ones, but I doubt this would ever be made law.

  52. Dean T says:

    If you can remember you weren’t really there…
    You should have gone to Stonehenge…no fences to jump and a honesty to the vendors the like of which will never be seen again….try a huge plate off fresh veg curry and rice for 50p …and I mean about as much as a hungry and wet 19 year old could eat …I do remember being asked on several occasions how hungry I was and being served accordingly…I don’t think the kids know what a festival is nowadays..

  53. Daran says:

    Gone to dozens if ‘big’ gigs over last 4 or so years, for rip off food prices Paul insert ticket prices, booking fees, merchandise (£20 for a programme?), ticket postage cost…. But food prices, and beer in particular are crazy. I read what someone says about the vendors being charged a lot for their pitches, but what about in-house like at o2? A night out in cheap seats has cost me over £120 before with food, ticket and programme not even including my train fare! It’s a scandal. But they have us where it hurts, as you want to see the artist so you just have to pay up what they are asking. And they know it too…..

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I’m definitely boycotting ‘big’ gigs. I didn’t go to see Jeff Lynne because it was at Wembley, I refuse to see anyone at the O2 (except I do have a standing commitment with Steely Dan, but for them I’ll make an exception). I didn’t go to U2 because I didn’t want to trek Twickenham and don’t like that venue. Best gigs this year have been FINDLAY at the Moth Club in Hackney (great band and free), THE HANDSOME FAMILY at Union Chapel (lovely and intimate), and ARCADE FIRE at York Hall (speaks for itself). A good tip is to find a small favourite local venue (Islington Assembly Halls and Union Chapel come to mind for me) and take a few risks and go to see new bands or stuff you’re curious about. Normally it’s cheap enough that you don’t mind. I should add the proviso that I know I’m spoilt living in London and not everyone has decent music venues nearby.

      • Daran says:

        Well I trek down to London (55 mins from Peterborough on the East Coast Main Line). Who would have thought that I think that Mr Bransons return railway ticket cost for me is a pukka bargain @ £23 compared to the rest of the gig costs! But I agree about smaller venues pricing being better, although I still see ‘name’ artists at them. OMD @ The Roundhouse, Ultravox @ Hammersmith (night Mr Ure got a custard pie in the face :) ) and Sophie Bextor both at Union Chapel and a few months back at Koko have all been better value tickets etc. But, sometimes you just have too bite the bullet. I mean I really wanted to see Mr Gilmour before he (or I) died (or he was too old to play the Comfortably Numb guitar solo anymore). He only plays at the Albert Hall @ £80+ all-in for the ticket. Like I say, what can you do Paul. You want that experience if you’ve never had it before so you either pay up or just wear out your concert DVD’s of him.

        • EW99 says:

          Totally agree with ignoring the big gigs. Went to the O2 once and never again. Been to Heaven to see Joan As Police Woman, Islington Assembly Hall to see Robert Forster, and some tiny cellar off Oxford Street to see Jane Weaver in the past year or so and all been amazingly good. Also the Royal Albert Hall to see Kraftwerk and Pet Shop Boys – that’s big enough for me.

          I do have tickets for Bestival in September as doing a proper 3 day festival has been on my bucket list for some years now. Not sure what their rules are going to be on food and drink but I guess I’d better find out. Thanks for the warning.

      • seikotsi says:

        Findlay are great! I saw them in the 100 club. I have no idea why they are not one of the UK top indie bands.

  54. Simon Taylor says:

    My recent experience of the 02 was enough to put me off the big gigs. Taking my drink away at the door then making you buy a bottle of water for £3????? And they take the lid off, i asked why and they said “for security.” I did get told later if you ask at information stall you can ask where tap water is available as they need to allow this. Apparently at the food stalls in the 02 but havent yet tried. I ended up spilling my £3 bottle of water………………as there was no lid. Grrrrrrrrrrr :(

    But back to the outdoor gig. I’m a type 1 diabetic. I always keep food and a bottle of orange juice or water with me. Now you’re telling me that i have to remove my “comfort blanket” and have to queue up to get a sugary drink if i need in an emergency?? Just seems so wrong, money making gone mad. I dont agree and no way will i do outdoor gigs in this way. Total rubbish, leaves a very bad feeling in the stomach and wallet.

  55. Alan says:

    Completely agree. Last one I went to I decided not to buy much there, in protest. As you say, when you spend so much on tickets to start with, why should you have to buy food and drink at extortionate prices?

  56. Tim-meh says:

    Remember when you could jump the fence at Glastonbury and have a three day bender on scrumy bought off a crusty in the helaling field… Bygone days. Now its £6 for a Twix.

  57. tom says:

    Surely, ultimately it goes back to the headline artist. We can blame the vendors, site owners and management but in reality the artists are in a bubble and can’t remember what its like to have to think carefully about what you buy.

  58. Brian Scott says:

    It’s exactly this approach that has kept me from going to the bigger venues of late. The Cannock Chase forest gigs are brilliant, you can take your chairs and picnics and drinks and I do think that adds the the really good feel to these concerts. Quick shout out to the smaller venues too, especially De Montfort Hall in Leicester where the bar and kiosk prices are pitched at sensible levels. No surprise that these are the types of venues I keep going back to over and over again and I avoid the rest. Just a shame the big acts only use the big venues . Perhaps we need to lobby government to introduce a ‘no ripoff’ policy at gigs but let’s not hold our breath!!

  59. Wazza says:

    It’s the same over here in New Zealand , they don’t let you take in any food or drink and then charge like a wounded bull because they’ve got you by the balls , luckily they don’t have many festivals that interest me so for a normal concert I just make sure I have a good feed before hand. It’s also the same for all sporting events. Eden park is the absolute worst

  60. Edward D says:

    Access to free water fountains should be mandatory in the summer season. Everyone should be able to bring the equivalent of one portion of food as well. These should be legally-enforced entitlements. Especially at what otherwise is a public park.

    Do they still have classical music recitals at Crystal Palace Park? Everyone brought their picnic basket there when I went to one in the early 90s.

    Now, whether these reforms are deemed important enough for federal governments to implement or not? There’s the rub.

  61. Mark Lavallee says:

    30 pounds for 5 pints of lager? That’s practically giving it away. Here in Los Angeles 30 dollars may not be enough to get you 2 beers at a concert.

    Bad enough ticket prices are extortionate already, not to mention getting decent seats is nearly impossible, to then be robbed by actually wanting something to drink is the ultimate insult.

    Just saw Iron Maiden in Las Vegas, they have a ‘no air conditioning’ in the venue policy, well, when it’s 117F outside what do you think it feels like inside with 12,000 fans? Absolute misery, but you could always fork out 16 dollars for a warm beer to cool you off for 2 minutes…

  62. Graham says:

    I was down the road at Twickenham at Saturdays U2 gig and although the ticket said no food or drink I was expecting uneaten items to be refused but was allowed. At the O2 for U2 a couple of years ago the steward allowed me to keep hold of food as I told him it was breakfast for the night journey back to Devon

  63. Gisabun says:

    They have concert goers by the b?lls. Whether there or elsewhere, they way overcharge for everything. A 500ml bottle of water is 40 times more expensive than buying it in a case at a food store or 3-4 times more expensive if you bought one at a local store.
    Unlike other items, nothing is prepared – no cooking.

  64. Alan B says:

    It is not just music that all this nonsense has crept in. I’ve been attending cricket test matches for years and you used to be allowed to bring your own food and alcohol in. First they introduced a limit on the alcohol you could bing in (4 cans of beer) and now it is zero alcohol.
    At least you can still bring your food in. They have also tightened up on water. I brought an opened bottle of water and had to throw it away because it was opened. If it was sealed I would have been okay. My friend who went through a different security steward had the same but he was allowed through with his bottle. I guess I got the jobsworth.

    • Anthony says:

      It’s an ICC rule that you can’t bring your own drink into international games. The only exception is Lord’s (where you can bring 4 cans or a bottle of wine) but that’s because the MCC have some kind of special exemption…

  65. Mark H says:

    As a vegetarian I find these policies give me a big restriction in choice. It all means you have to budget for food & drink on top if your already high ticket price plus the abominable booking fees. Many sports events are going the same way. We are going to Latitude this weekend which allows food but no drink (except unopened mineral water 500ml) into the arena. CarFest is the same. The best is of course Glastonbury which allows anything & as much you like as long as there’s no glass. I guess the prices are determined by the charges the promotor levies on the stallh0lders – which ultimately means the bands are fleecing you twice. It will need a mass reduction in attendance to change things which sadly I think is unlikely to happen in these days of increasing numbers of well attended festivals & live music events. Same with the constant vinyl “remastered” re-issues. Put it in coloured vinyl & we all rush to buy – myself included. It’s a gravy train that won’t be stopping soon. Our choice is to accept it & play the game or carry on listening to poor quality MP3 with no physical product or live experience. I suspect there are few musicians who have any involvement in ticketing, merchandise or food & drink.

  66. gary oliver says:

    to be fair, the burger comes in a strictly limited – edition box , and the first 1000 sausages have replicas of the original ketchup and sauce sachets included

  67. Not Available says:

    As in the US, this is a problem with a Democratic and capitalist society. If you have an exclusive, or nearly exclusive product or service, there is no reason for the provider to not charge whatever he wants. If the general public think they want or need that product or service, they will pay the price. A comparable situation happened last August in the US, when “…. America was in shock when a drug called Daraprim that’s used by some AIDS and transplant patients skyrocketed overnight from $13.50 to $750 a pill.” (
    There are no built-in regulations for this kind of system or situation. If you don’t like the rules and regulations of the concert venue, don’t go. Its that simple.

    • Gisabun says:

      I will assume you meant “democratic” and not “Democratic” as that would associate with the party.
      That company in question regarding Daraprim got hit with a huge backlash.
      The closest you can do for concert goers is not to buy anything at the food stalls unless desperate.

  68. Greg says:

    Not just gigs either. I went to Hampton Court flower show this week (yeh I know…) and it was so hot we ended up buying Pimms. Two pints of pre-mixed Pimms…just over £26.00…I’m still getting over it.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Ouch!. The Pimms at Wimbledon are expense £8 each, but fairly big and delicious. And since they let you take in your own food (which I did) you don’t mind splashing out a bit on over-priced booze. I was going to get a Pimms at BST actually… before I paid I asked if they served it properly.. mint, fruit, ice etc. and the guy looked at me as if I was talking a foreign language. He said ‘no, we just give you the can” (of pre-mixed Pimms and Lemonade)!! Unbelieveable. Overcharge for a drink and then not even care how you serve it. Ignorant and pathetic!!

  69. Eric says:

    They tried it once over here (Melbourne, Australia) when Gun’n’Roses played to 75,ooo, on a 40 degree C. day, back in 1993. Fortunately, I’m not a G’n’R fan and didn’t go, but was told by friends that the queue for outrageously priced food and drink was over an hour. A Government enquiry followed. It really hasn’t been tried since.
    I’m on a very strict low sodium diet, which is near impossible to buy from a fast food outlet. I wonder how that would work if I couldn’t take my own food to one of your festivals?

  70. Paul Kent says:

    Part of me secretly hopes that you made this all up just so you could use that headline!

    On topic, though, I can’t say it has ever bothered me. I don’t, and never will, frequent festivals, so will never find myself in this position. But, I don’t ever let myself get ripped off – gigs, cinemas, theatres, motorway service stations, all of them piss in the same pot. Food is always the furthest thing from my mind at gigs, anyway, but I do limit what I drink and tend to avoid merch these days save exceptional circumstances. To be honest, festivals aside, I don’t really understand the concept of taking food to a gig, anyway.

    The foundation of any good sit-com is to trap the protagonists in an inescapable environment and watch them flounder as they try, over and over, to break the cycle that keeps them captive. Sounds familiar, just not in the least bit funny.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I wouldn’t want to take food to a ‘normal’ gig where is starts at 8.30 and finished at 10.15 either. The point is really about these all day festivals…

  71. Enrique says:

    The safety of everyone in the show area can be compromised if rucksacks are left with food and drinks.
    This, reinforce your point that the prices inside the enclosure must be “normal” and not speculative as today they are

  72. rob davies says:

    I never go to festivals or large venues anymore .I got fed up of the rip offs years ago. I’ve seen more “big bands” than most but saw them as they were getting bigger for example Radiohead. Now wouldn’t give it the time of day.My final large gig was Sabbath in Birmingham which was my first in years but that really was “The End ” !

  73. Stephen says:

    Really interesting thread, and can appreciate all the perspectives.

    In the 35 years or so as a regular gig and festival goer, what a change – gigs were there to promote the album and to give you an intoxicating, much anticipated glimpse of your favourite act on stage, in the wild; now it seems to be the other way round, and seeing you favourite band on stage is a dial up on-line instant pleasure…….. Holding up lighters during the big ballad versus holding up phones for EVERY song…..Finding the record shop that sold the tickets, and making a pilgrimage to get them, was part of the ritual, versus waiting for 0900 hours on the day of sale and clicking like crazy along with the rest of the world to see them all sold in 90 seconds and then resold at twice the price ten minutes later………… A ticket for a gig cost about the price of an album – now, well………pick your choice of multiples; Early festivals, you were queuing all day for the one burger van and the one beer tent – now the choice is vast – and expensive. And as for sitting in front of one stage all day and seeing all the bands versus tearing around a mega site, mutli stage event and missing half the acts you love and paid to see because of the dreaded ‘band clash’…..

    Maybe the answer is – save your cash, spend it on some nice super deluxe box sets; put a lovely bit of vinyl on, close your eyes in the comfort of your own room, pint in hand, food of choice prepared in your own kitchen…….create your own environment……..mmmmm, nice…….or perhaps I’m just getting old……… :-)

  74. Matt says:

    Completely agree with the views presented in your article Paul, after I attended BST on Thursday to see Kings of Leon – the very same thoughts crossed my mind! Terrible from BST. To combat the policy (I had seen the policy prior to attending), me and my fiancée attended an Ask Italian (thank you Tesco club card vouchers!) and so paid only for a bottle of water in the venue. Point is that we shouldn’t have to do this though!

  75. Nick Hartley-Smith says:

    I got back yesterday from 2000trees festival in Cheltenham. This is a festival that doesn’t mind you bringing in your own drink or food (even disposable BBQ’s) and also provides hand picked street-food type vendors who are encouraged to charge reasonable rates for their wares. Everyone is happy, there are always queues for the many food stalls, the bar is always buzzing and people are happy. This is how it should be at events like this. I will quite happily spend £6-7 on a top of the range gourmet burger from one of their stands as that is what you pay on the high street, likewise a pint of beer is about £4.50 from the bar. They can only do this by being reasonable on the rent they charge the vendors. Compare this to Wychwood festival (also in Cheltenham) that allows food and drink in the campsite but not into the main arena. Their food offering was abysmal (£7.50 for noodles, £8 for a burrito that was mostly rice) and with a sponser who’s a brewery makes their intentions very clear. The main difference I found was that every year at Wychwood you see different vendors as it appears they struggle to make a profit, at 2000trees you see the same vendors year in, year out. I for one stay well away from larger events such as BST as I know they do nothing but rip-off the fans at every level from ticket prices to food prices. It’s a shame as I’ve been an active gig goer for over 30 years now but I’d rather go and see 10 local gigs for the same price as one mega all-dayer as I might just discover the next BST headliner supporting the main band

  76. 2wicky says:

    Hi Paul, I agree with your feelings yet things are similar over here in Germany.
    Restrictions are even getting worse with every concert – how would you feel with restrictions on umbrellas and any kind of bags and food and drinks?
    These were all prohibited at the recent stadium concerts by Coldplay and Depeche Mode each.
    I was lucky and had a sunny day (night) however my colleague got wet the day after at the 2nd Coldplay gig.
    Reasons for the extreme prohibitive restrictions were given as tight security measures after the recent terrorist attacks – there is no real argument against it I guess.
    If you were in the shoes of the concert promoter then you’d have to be prepared for any event. If any terrorist attack happened you’d have to prove that you had installed appropriate security measures.

    • hamicle says:

      Given the lack of personal space afforded at a lot of big shows I’d rather not have to contend with a multitude of umbrellas!

  77. adam shaw says:

    I understand your frustration.
    I’ve been going to gigs for a lifetime and have seen this problem get worse .
    Years ago if you went to Wembley stadium of a festival they would open the gates , you would show your ticket and then run , with your food , drink an recording equipment !
    But by the time there where more security concerns it all changed . And then they started going through everyone’s bags and slowly over the years they twigged about food as well giving the security line .
    And now we all get ripped off , I must say though at the O2 in Greenwich you can eat at places around the venue before you go in , I know it’s still not cheap but there is more choice .

  78. Jonathan says:

    Dear Paul,
    since you asked how’s the situation even here in “continental” Europe, i want to bring to your attention the situation of the city where live, Rome: we have a (now becoming famous) festival called “Postepay Rock In Roma”, which allows you to bring your own food.
    The only bringed beverage allowed is water, in opened bottles.
    Beer (heineken, if i recall!) and other beverages are also sold inside the premises, and if you use a particular kind of pre paid debit card, you can have a 15% discount on both food and beverages.

  79. Steve Joyce says:

    I can only whole heartedly agree with you Paul. The whole music and entertainment business now just rips off those that support it. If it’s not inflated ticket prices with obscene handling and credit card fees it’s overly inflated prices for food and drink extorted from a captive audience. There’s only one way to beat them and that’s to boycott these events. Personally I prefer the smaller more intimate venues where you can actually see the Act and generally, not everyone is roaring drunk.

  80. Rodolfo Martin says:

    Paul, I do understand the frustration but I do not understand your surprise. Event managers have to make money and the food suppliers too. The show managers have to guaranty food supplies that the place is going to be full of people in need to eat and drink. There is a lot or managers sharing profits and they act as if every concert it is the last concert of the world and this is the last opportunity to make a difference. They organize under no risk. They cannot risk that, in the case you are thirsty, you drink your own water. They want you to pay in order to satisfied your thirst. Potable water in portable water fountains should be mandatory by law as it is for chemical restrooms (which are always gross but that is another story). They want you to continues spending your money inside. This also happens in sport events in the USA, and even in the movie theaters. You have to spend for expensive snacks if you are hungry. This is not going to stop until bands and artists oppose to the abuse, as they fought against Ticketmaster and others. Once you are inside the event venue ( a theater, and arena, a park, etc.) you are not treated as a client (unless you are a VIP guess and in that case the ticket was for free). Music must be the greatest pleasure for many of us but it is only business for those behind the stage.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I don’t mind them making profits in a free market economy, where consumers have the freedom of choice. It’s the restriction of choice – our food is so shit and so expensive that we have to force people to buy it – that I object to.

  81. don cooper says:

    I felt for those people being food-fleeced on Kate Bush’s British Tour in 2014.
    Night after night in Venues around the-
    Hang on…

    (could not resist) ;-)

  82. Ben Williams says:

    Hi Paul – I totally agree with what you’re saying! Been to so many concerts over the last decade, and have always felt ripped off with food and drink. I try and eat before I go to a concert but these tend to be in the evening. With these all day things like British Summer Time, and it being in a park, you’d expect to be able to take your own food. I mean, you should be able to take food anywhere, we’re all humans that need to eat and drink over the space of 5 or 6 hours, especially outside, especially in the warm summer.
    And considering the prices of tickets nowadays (Rolling Stones, Phil Collins to name two) are very expensive. When you buy even 1 ticket, you’re talking £100 (with a booking fee, a venue fee, a postage fee, a fee fee…) and you have to travel there, you might like a program or t-shirt (though of course, they are optional – they’ve gone up in price in the last decade!) and if you’re a fan you have already probably bought the artists albums or two (or in Bob Dylan’s case, 50 of them)
    I actually would go as far as to say it was A BREACH OF HUMAN RIGHTS to deny someone bottles of water they have brought along to a show they have already paid a lot for.
    I love concerts and will always go to them but it sticks in my throat that they jack -up the prices for these captive audiences. It’s like an airport though there I sort of understand the banning of liquids/packages of food etc.
    Yet as long as we still all go and buy a glass (or plastic cup or bottle with no top) of coke or cider or whatever, then the prices will only go up. Until we all say no more – but that would be a very boring life for a music lover….

  83. Daryl says:

    Paul, I read your article last night in the newsletter email. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. I am 34 and have been going to gigs since I was about 14 (The Stones at Wembley was my first). The prices have skyrocketed in recent years, but they have always been atrocious. To answer the question in your article, I wouldn’t boycott seeing my favourite bands because of it, but I would certainly boycott buying food and drink at these venues (and do). It is a shame though, as live music and a pint seem to go together like coffee and cream.
    Thank you for writing the article though and highlighting what we all as music fans have felt for some time. I feel as though the weight you carry along with your great website could affect the situation in some way, somehow (or at least be acknowledged).
    I think there is a lot to be said for ‘pre-drinks’ however, and I may or may not have smuggled food and drink in on one or more occasions, though obviously I can neither confirm nor deny this ;)

    • Joanne Cartwright says:

      I agree totally. I don’t buy food or drink at gigs these days as it is a rip off. Saying that, the Forest Live gigs run by the Forestry Commission allow you to take your own food and drink in – yes including alcohol! All they say is no glass, metal or cans and limit you to 2 litres of liquid per person. Whilst the food and drink inside isn’t cheap it is by no means the most expensive I’ve seen and you can get some decent local street food as well. A great late afternoon/evening event worth looking out for.

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