Talk to anyone old enough to remember the first Jazz Fest in 1970, and they probably have a story about a killer show by the Meters, Bois Sec or maybe Roosevelt Sykes. Odds are they can’t help but mention that tickets were only $3. And then they’ll shake their heads sadly about the $50 gate price for the 2008 fest.
Adjust that original $3 ticket for inflation, though, and it turns out that the first Jazz Fest actually costs $16.32. Is today’s Jazz Fest worth about three times the original?
By 1988, the gate price was $9, which is $16.06 with inflation—or just a little less than the original $3 ticket, and in 1999, a ticket cost $18 or $22.87 with inflation. The biggest increase took place in 2005 when the gate price was raised to $35 ($37.83 when adjusted for inflation).
The current $50 ticket price brings Jazz Fest in line with other major festivals. The Austin City Limits Festival cost $56 a day, Coachella $89 and Bonnaroo between $52 and $61 (Note: other festivals often require the purchase of a multi-day pass). It’s also only slightly more expensive than a number of shows at the House of Blues during Jazz Fest. Buddy Guy (May 2) and Etta James (April 27) tickets cost $45 or more, and Dr. John tickets cost $33.50—67 percent of the price of a Jazz Fest ticket for two bands (Shannon McNally opens).
Perhaps looking back to the past is not how we should measure the worth of Jazz Fest. Who wouldn’t pay $16.32 to hear many of New Orleans greatest musicians in their prime? The question is what it’s worth to you now.