I always raise an eyebrow when a concert promoter tells you that they are 'nearly sold out'.
Is this a strategy to shift a few tickets because they've still got 30,000 left and have spent the morning crying?
Anyway, we can say with confidence that the Isle of Wight Festival 2023 really has sold out. Well, there are a few day tickets left for Friday but all the weekend tickets have gone so you will need to try your luck with the resale market.
This is quite an achievement during a cost of living crisis. It's also excellent news as it should increase the chance of the Isle of Wight Festival continuing to come back year after year, unlike many other UK Festivals.
As an aside, let's not take for granted that the Isle of Wight Festival will go on forever. Anyone want to reminiscence about V Festival, T in the Park or the Island's Bestival? Please consider these extinct festivals next time you complain about the line-up being too: similar to six years ago/full of people you haven't heard of because you aren't 17/full of people you haven't heard of because you aren't 56/full of people you have heard of but don't like.
Here is my theory as to why the Isle of Wight Festival 2023 has sold out:
1. Bargain entry for ISlanders
I've made this argument before, but if you a) live on the Isle of Wight and b) pull your finger out then the Isle of Wight Festival is extraordinarily good value.
If you bought early bird Islander tickets for the Isle of Wight Festival 2023 you would have paid about £145 for the weekend including booking fees. Anyone who doesn't consider that a bargain for four days of music and camping needs to have a quick check on Ticketmaster. Gigs don't cost £5 anymore, Grandad.
Some campsites cost more than £145 for four nights.
An adult ticket to see Robbie Williams in Norfolk in August will cost you £85 plus booking fees. A ticket to see Pulp in Sheffield is £106 plus fees. I admit that the latter is the 'resale' value on Ticketmaster but it's the cheapest ticket I could find. Keep in mind that neither of those include camping which piles on the cost for the promoter.
If you live on the Isle of Wight and waited for the lineup to come out then you would still only pay about £170 for a weekend ticket.
We waffled on about this in a blog post back in 2019.
2. Keeping general admission prices down
The Isle of Wight Festival organisers seem to have taken the strategy of not significantly raising ticket prices over the last 12 years.
Way back in 2011, the weekend price was £175 whilst in 2023 it had increased to £215. I can't honestly remember if the 2011 price was including booking fees but it's still a very modest increase over 12 years.
Meanwhile, Download Festival was £170 in 2011 but had increased to £315 in 2023.
That puts the Isle of Wight Festival a full £100 cheaper.
I've simplified the argument a bit here by not including early bird deals and so on, but you get my point.
Red Funnel have also been doing some very reasonable ferry fares for the Isle of Wight festival. Foot passengers can get a £17 return deal, which is about half what you would normally pay. They also did some early bird deals for those bringing car which were around £100 return.
This is particularly good when you consider that the Isle of Wight ferries usually increase fares during busy times. My hunch is that this 'investment' of not emptying everyone's pockets at the first opportunity means people are more likely to come back to the Isle of Wight for a holiday at a later date.
3. Letting kids in for next to nothing
Sorry to obsess over pricing but it's also worth saying that the Isle of Wight Festival organisers have made the decision not to rinse parents who want to bring children.
I bought a kids' weekend ticket this year for £11 which is slightly more than a trip to the cinema for us.
Organisers have obviously realised that the festival's audience from the early 2000s is still keen to attend but now has the glorious blessing of parental responsibility. If you start charging adult prices for kids tickets then it will get out of reach for many people.
4. Plenty of pop in the lineup
Don't get me wrong, I'm one of the cool kids.
As a child, I shunned Power FM and recorded the late night rock show on Radio 1 onto a cassette. I passed around Pixies albums in high school and had heard of Wet Leg before they even existed.
However, I do think that including several pop acts is a wise move as it drags in a wider audience than you will get if you just stick with guitar bands.
Mrs Guru wouldn't enjoy Pulp, The Courteeners or Manic Street Preachers but she would happily watch Robbie Williams, Sugababes, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Mika, Gabrielle and Sam Ryder.
Some will complain that there's too many pop acts but I can guarantee you that there'll be plenty of guitar bands thrashing out an almighty noise.
On a related note, I do think the Isle of Wight Festival would benefit from a female headliner in the next few years. In the last 20 years I can only think of Fleetwood Mac as being main stage headliners with a female singer.
Florence + The Machine have performed and so did Pink, but neither headlined. Amy Winehouse joined the Rolling Stones on stage but only as a guest.
I wouldn't mind a big name female pop act performing, even though it's not what I sing in the shower. If the Festival can have Robbie Williams in 2023, why not have Kylie Minogue in 2024?
5. The sun always shines on the Isle of Wight
This may not make a big difference as to whether a festival sells out, but good weather makes a difference as to whether people come back.
I always quote the statistic that the Isle of Wight gets 500 hours more sunshine each year than London (I found that on a Met Office comparison about five years ago). You'll find claims that the Isle of Wight is the sunniest place in England, but it really depends how you measure sunshine. I won't bore you with the details (Ed: you usually do...).
Anyway, I went to a couple of very wet Glastonbury festivals back in the day. It didn't completely ruin the weekend but it came close. Walking barefoot to find a toilet at 3am was a low point, as was getting back into my sleeping bag afterwards.
The modern day Isle of Wight Festival has only had one really wet year out of 20. It was 2012, when Tom Petty, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen were in the lineup. The cruel twist is that it was the year that they changed the date of the festival to avoid clashing with the Jubilee.
Other than that, the weather has been pretty decent which makes standing in a field for days on end much more pleasant.
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog