4 Budget-Friendly Music Festivals That Won't Break the Bank

by  Tommy Burson | Mar 17, 2014
Fans at a concert
Fans at a concert / Marcus Millo/iStock

It’s March and music festival season is upon us: thousands are gathering in Austin this week for SXSW, and the upcoming Bonnaroo-Lollapalooza-Coachella trifecta continue to sell-out at record speeds. Understandably, though, spending $300 to camp with a crowd of sweaty students just to catch a glimpse of Tom Petty's wavy mane over a hot June weekend doesn't appeal to everyone. Instead of splurging on just any old music festival this summer, consider these low-key alternatives that offer the same great entertainment at nearly a third of the cost:

NXNE: Think of Toronto’s North by Northeast (June 13-22) as the cheaper, indie-focused little brother of SXSW. Although the latter receives international acclaim for its esteemed speakers (Edward Snowden) and musicians (ahem, Jay-Z), NXNE shares similar clout but on a smaller, cheaper, less-crowded scale. Seriously, just try to navigate SXSW on any basic pass. It's impossible. This year’s festival features over 800 bands and headliners like comedian Marc Maron and David Byrne-collaborator St. Vincent.

How you'll save: A Platinum Badge (This covers the music, film, comedy, art, interactive, and networking events) at NXNE costs $400, whereas the exact pass at SXSW costs a hefty $1295. Digging deeper, for those only dancing around the music festival, NXNE costs $99 for the week, while SXSW flexes a $795 tag.

Northside Festival: Where's Brooklyn at? Northside Festival (June 12-19) placates to the budget-seeking Brooklyn crowd and offers a cheap alternative for awesome music options. Unlike similar NYC festivals like CMJ ($375), Governor’s Ball ($250), and Electric Daisy ($200) which feature a mix of world-famous rockstars and DJs, Northside caters to those seeking to discover the best up-and-coming talent in the artsy borough.

How you'll save: Music Badges cost a mere $65, which affords access to see over 400 performing bands. A Premium Badge, which covers the music, film, and interactive festivals, costs $275. Compare these prices with NYC’s Governor’s Ball ($250), only a three-day festival, and you have sublime summer savings.

Bumbershoot: Seattle's festival for broke-asses — Bumbershoot (August 30 - September 1) is an easy alternative to the hippie-fueled Sasquatch! festival, and it's probably the region's best option for seeing big-name bands on a budget. At a weekend price of $112, music junkies can see acts that typically charge upwards of $100 per show. Although its 2014 lineup has yet to be released, last year’s festival featured popular names like Death Cab for Cutie mingling with ‘60s favorites The Zombies and up-and-comer ZZ Ward.

How you'll save: While the expanded two-weekend Sasquatch! Festival in Seattle costs $325 per weekend, Bumbershoot, offering a similar selection, is over two-hundred dollars cheaper at $112 for the weekend.

Movement Electronic Music Festival: Detroit's Movement (May 24-26) may not showcase electronic superstars to glazed-eyed college students like neighboring Electric Forest, but the festival has made a name for itself by returning the genre to its Detroit roots. DJs on the lineup, including famed French-Canadian Tiga, Baauer (from “Harlem Shake” Fame), and local favorites Konkrete Jungle Detroit, are just a few examples of underground artists who push the boundaries of today’s electronic scene.

How you'll save: Three-day passes start at $110, which, compared to Electric Forest’s $265 price tag (not including travel costs to middle-of-nowhere Rothbury, Michigan), is hardly a dent in the wallet.

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