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!

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gill pearson

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…


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.


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!


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.


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.

Paolo Fiori

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.


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!!!!

Gildas Opitz

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


@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)


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….. ☹️


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

Gildas Opitz

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.

Andrew M

Strangely I actually really really like the O2.


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.


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.

Julian Hancock

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..


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!


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

Ralph MacGillivray

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


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!

Julian H

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…


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.

Terry G

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?

Ade Swatridge

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.


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.

Tom of FIN

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.

Andrew M

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.

Frenchy Eric

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…

Albert Tatlock

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…

Mr. Ska '57

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).


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!


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).


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.

andrew r

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!

Oh Get Real

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.

Richard Cosgrove

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,

Paul Murphy

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

Marcel (Rotterdam, Netherlands)

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.


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.


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


“£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


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.


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.


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…


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.

Fat old bloke

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

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!


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.

Julian Hancock

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.

Fat old bloke

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

Julian Hancock

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.

Julian Hancock

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

Oh Get Real

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

Mr. Stick

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.


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


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!!

James Giraffe

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!


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


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!


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.