The Best Ways to Get Into a Music Festival Without Paying

Yeah, festivals are fun but not when you have to sell a kidney to buy a ticket. Here are some totally doable, reasonable ways to sneak in.
Yeah, festivals are fun but not when you have to sell a kidney to buy a ticket. Here are some totally doable, reasonable ways to sneak in.
Music festival lineup announcement season is upon us, which means that in a few months, music festival season will be in full swing.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced Dead & Company, Ed Sheeran, Lizzo, Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, Santana, Jon Batiste and Jill Scott as headliners. This should be great news to those of you who were cryogenically frozen in 2012, then greeted with this information while being unfrozen in 2023. (You may have a couple people tell you about this show called Stranger Things. Be prepared for that.)

Lineups of equally prominent and dominant festivals have also dropped in the last few days. Frank Ocean, Bad Bunny, Blackpink, Bjork and Rosalia are playing Coachella. Kendrick Lamar and Odesza are headlining both Bonnaroo and the Governor’s Ball. Yeah Yeah Yeahs and System of a Down are respectively headlining nostalgia novelty festivals Just Like Heaven and Sick New World.

Cruel World in Pasadena boasts of a lineup that includes Siouxsie, Iggy Pop, Billy Idol, Modern English and Echo & the Bunnymen.

The abundance of festivals comes as the middle-class squeeze continues via inflated ticket prices, leaving some of us in a perpetual state of FOMO (do kids still say that?). Desperate times lead to desperate measures, so here are six ways you can weasel your way into music festivals.

Though as we often have to do (sigh), here's a disclaimer: The following suggestions are merely jokes. Don’t break the law and say we sent you. But here are the most Wile E. Coyote ways to sneak into a festival.

1. Actually Work the Event, Even if You Have to Become a Cop
You could become a police officer in the town where the festival is being held and just walk through the gates. Being a police officer doesn’t mean you can trespass, but what will the festival workers say? You’re a cop.

The only caveat to this plan is that police academy training lasts 22 weeks, so if your favorite festival is 5–6 months from now, you have to act now.

More realistically, you could find a way to work the event. You don't need to be a photographer or music journalist (though if you are, hit us up because we're hiring). You could find a seasonal job with the promoter or venue, such as security. You could also find out which vendors will be present on the grounds and get hired, and at least be near the action even if you're selling $30 bottles of water. Listen, it's better than having to train as a police officer just to see Bad Bunny once.

2. Skydive into the Festival Grounds

You may have a hard time finding a company that will let you use its plane and skydiving equipment for this purpose, especially since said company would stand to lose everything by letting someone skydive into a small area with over 400,000 people, but it’s worth a shot.

Security may see you drop 14,000 feet, at which point they will have ample time to chase you down and escort you out. On the other hand, some of them may respect the grind.

If, by some wild miracle, you manage to skydive without attracting the attention of security or law enforcement, you’ll have to carry a huge parachute throughout the festival grounds. But remember: in the festival game, it’s about the destination, not the journey.

3. Try to El Chapo Your Way Inside
If we've learned one thing from cartel mastermind El Chapo, it's that tunnels are still the best way to travel unseen. Bury yourself in the festival grounds days before the big event, then dig yourself out once you hear the bands start playing. This will require some serious commitment, but would you rather pay $900 for a weekend pass or $30 for a shovel?

Eating will be a challenge should you opt for this underground undertaking, but that’s even more money that you’ll save. Plus, you’ll be able to reward yourself with overpriced white-people-made tacos once your self-administered captivity ends.

4. Pole-Vault Past the Festival Gates

The front gate stampedes we saw at Astroworld 2021 and Lollapalooza 2019 are passé. Getting a comically large pole and using it to pole vault past the festival gates is all the rage.

Don’t weigh yourself down and sabotage the plan with thoughts of how the logistics can backfire. Yes, anyone can simply push the pole back and break your stride, but that’s nothing if not a challenge to get an even taller pole so you can attempt the vault from a farther distance.

Any height trick will do, though, really. Show up to the gate wearing stilts and see who dares question that you belong in a festival.

5. Dress Up Like a Construction Worker and Carry a Ladder

According to almost every prank video, the way to get in just about anywhere is to pretend to be fixing something. Everyone wants things to get fixed — except for some politicians. We would tell you to pretend to be an EMT and even be so bold as to bust in with an ambulance, but we would never encourage anyone to pose as a medical worker, even though suburban girls do it every Halloween.

6. For Gingers Only: Pretend You're Ed Sheeran

This is specific to the tiny percentage of people who happen to be red-headed, male and around the age of Ed Sheeran. But the good news is that anyone who meets those requirements is most likely entirely indistinguishable from Ed Sheeran. Sing a few generic love-song lines in his favorite chord progression of "I, IV, V, and vi" and you're in.