Top 10 largest music festivals in the UK

16 June 2017 5 min. read

Music festivals attract roughly 14 million visitors to the UK every year, alongside the most popular artists from around the globe. The most popular festival remains the world-renowned Glastonbury, while the best value for money in terms of cost per-day or per weekend are offered by mid-level competitors like Boomtown and Wireless.

Music festivals blend the joy of individual performances with a collective  atmosphere of a cross-section of different fans. Many music festivals offer a unique theme and a genre which allows for people of all music tastes to come together and see their favourite acts live. 

According to data gathered by UK Music, the British live music industry as a whole attracts just under 30 million music fans, with overseas music tourism growing by 16% since last year. The outstanding concert halls and venues generate nearly £1 billion in revenue. While over the past decade, it emerged that 40% of music venues in London alone were closed, the live music still boasts massive potential then, and the UK government finds itself increasingly called upon to invest into one of the UK’s strongest sectors. As things stand though, the future of British music rests in the hands of the emerging talents, both in the music industry and in the business aspect.

The 10 largest festivals in the UK

Largest Festivals

The world renowned Glastonbury unsurprisingly continues to top the charts in attendance and profitability, and is ranked amongst the best music festivals in the world. Since the first festival in 1970, Glastonbury has generated £325 million from ticket sales alone. During that time, the price of one ticket has risen from £1 to £243 today, but the festival still remains the most popular in the UK. The total amount of people who have attended Glastonbury stands at 2.8 million, with the festival’s ticket capacity of 120,000 selling out within 25 minutes last year. 

Download Festival stands at second place holding the position as UK’s top rock event with a capacity of 110,000, with V festival sitting third. V festival is associated with the more popular bands and artists, and boasts a capacity of 90,000, while the growing popularity of Electronic Dance Music means Creamfields has risen onto the major festival scene with 70,000. Boomtown has also benefitted from the growth of less mainstream music, with the music and arts festival now hosting 50,000 attendees each year who look to access its greater variety of genres, including drum and bass, ‘old school’ jungle and UK garage. 

Another UK favourite was T in the Park, with a capacity of 85,000, which was often referred to as Scotland’s own version of Leeds and Reading festival. However, for the first time since 1994, the event took a hiatus after 2016, due in part to the presence of a rare osprey nest in the park, as well as three drug related deaths, an alleged rape, and the circulation of green designer drugs containing PMA at last year’s weekend. Head organisers have revealed that T in the Park may return at a new location next year, at which point it will likely become an 18+ event to try and curb the recent wave of troubles at the event.

The number of festivals in the UK continues to grow at a rapid pace, a development that fits well with the growing demand for a UK-based experience. It therefore comes as no surprise that a staggering £1.1 billion out of a £42.3 billion events sector comes from festivals and culture events as 3.7 million festivals attendances can be accredited to the UK. Weekend festival tickets cost approximately £200 or is most instances more, which excludes transport, food, tents and beverages one would normally invest in when attending a festival. 15% of festival-goers spent £250, which comes as no surprise considering a pint of beer costs £4.50 to £4.80 at Glastonbury. The difference in pricing was also present in ticket costs, which Glastonbury also topped.

Ticket prices of the largest UK festivals

Value for money

While popularity and capacity undoubtedly had some bearing on the value of ticket price, other factors also played a role. Weekend ticket prices for the major UK music fests also varied to some extent due to event length – with Bestival seemingly charging disproportionately for a festival of its size without considering that it runs for four days, rather than the standard three, while the most expensive weekend pass of £243 Glastonbury pays for five days. Meanwhile Boomtown looks to provide the best value for money in terms of ticket price and length, selling tickets spanning the four day event for £126.25. 

Prestige pricing may well also have impacted on this, with Boomtown charging a proportionally low amount for what is largely seen as a more fringe-event, while established mainstream V Festival and Reading and Leeds charged considerably more for a day less of music.

In terms of single-day value meanwhile, analysing the cost of each event’s Saturday day tickets – the most expensive as they are generally the centre-piece day – further demonstrates the weight prestige can add to a price-tag. Glastonbury and Download, as the largest festivals with access to the most popular acts, each charge £85 for a Saturday ticket. Latitude meanwhile present the largest anomaly, with the largest proportional gap between capacity (35,000), and daily cost, charging just 50p less than Glastonbury at £84.50.