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The New Bosses 2022: Maciej Korczak, Follow The Step

Continuing a series of interviews with the 2022 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Maciej Korczak, co-founder at Follow The Step (PL)

By IQ on 01 Nov 2022

Maciej Korczak, Follow The Step

Maciej Korczak, Follow The Step


The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Lewis Wilde, head of music partnerships at DICE. The series continues with Maciej Korczak, co-founder at Follow The Step in Poland.

In 2015, at the age of 23, he opened concert agency called Follow The Step (FTS) with his business partner Marcin Szymanowski. The first concerts organised by the agency included Post Malone, The Internet, Anderson .Paak, Mount Kimbie, Rhye, and Autechre.

In 2016, FTS opened a club called Smolna, which quickly became the most popular techno club in Poland, hosting DJ’s such as Tale of Us, Kiasmos, Jeff Mills, Amelie Lens, Dubfire, Charlotte de Witte, Laurent Garnier, Miss Kittin, Sam Paganini, Fatboy Slim, and many more.

Nowadays, FTS owns two music venues – Smolna and Praga Centrum – and seven festivals (World Wide Warsaw, Made in WWA, Summer Contrast, FEST Festival, On Air Festival, and Undercity). Artists such as Jorja Smith, Tame Impala, Jamie XX, The Chainsmokers, and Stromae have headlined at FTS’s events in 2022.

FTS also organises over 100 international headline shows per year, including Louis Tomlinson, Alan Walker, Avril Lavigne, Melody Gardot, Hardwell, Robert Glasper, Boris Brejcha, Rise Against, Denzel Curry, and is constantly growing and developing.

 


Your career, so far, has been pretty remarkable. Tell us a bit about how you managed to book Steve Aoki and Kygo while you were still a teenager?
Determination is the key! At the age of 19, I’d already organised plenty of high-school events. I’ve booked overseas electronic artists for them like cyberpunkers or Tiga. My goal back then was to work for one of the most popular venues in Warsaw at the time, and I was told by the manager of the venue that in order to do that I have to bring them a big overseas act, so that’s what I did – three weeks later, we’d done the Steve Aoki show thanks to my booking, and it was a sold-out event.

“We decided to open a techno club there called Smolna…we like to call it a Polish Berghain”

There were already some big promoters in Poland when you launched Follow The Step. What was your strategy to make the business a success?
Passion! The whole Follow The Step team honestly love what we’re doing and we are always hungry for more. Our company doesn’t have a certain strategy, we’re just simply doing the best we can, and we’re always up for new challenges.

Follow The Step was officially launched in 2017 as a booking agency for international DJs for Polish venues and clubs. From the very start, I wanted to focus on the booking, so I was lucky that I met co-owner of the company – Marcin Szymanowski – who is focusing on the business side of our company.

At first, we wanted to book club nights and then we became interested in small gigs. After a while, we started looking for a place for our office and this way we’ve found a dumpy basement in the centre of Warsaw, which we restored and [then] decided to open a techno club there called Smolna. We like to call it a Polish Berghain, and it was our springboard to establishing a concert agency in Poland, talking to agents, and networking.

Nowadays, being at IFF [the International Festival Forum] I’m talking to agents about artists that could easily fill up Polish arenas but also we’re entering new markets like Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

“I’d make [the industry] more gender balanced as I think it’s still something that the industry must work on”

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
It was definitely organising a charity concert to support Ukraine when the war started, together with television station TVN, in less than two weeks. We sold out the show for 10,000 people and raised over $2m (€2m).

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
I’d make it more gender balanced as I think it’s still something that the industry must work on. That’s why in Follow The Step most of the employees are women, and we very much believe that they can work within every sector of music industry from production and sponsoring to media and marketing.

For a young company, the pandemic must have been tough. Can you tell us a bit about your Covid experience?
It was a tough time for sure and full of uncertainty about what was going to happen next, but we’ve used this time the best way we could. We were doing everything we could to maintain the company, and our main goal was not to fire a single person as our employees are the most important to us; we know that we can’t do anything without our team. We were lucky that we got support from our government, so it also allowed us to do that.

We were also the first agency in Poland that managed to do gigs and a festival during Covid and managed to give people some entertainment in a safe way. We also decided to take a risk and organise FEST Festival for 30,000 vaccinated people, as one of very few festivals in Europe in 2021.

“I never thought that I’ll end up having seven festivals, headline shows, and events, or over 70 people in our agency”

Setting up seven festivals in less than six years is very impressive. What tips would you give to other people who are looking to launch new events?
Try and don’t give up! Also don’t be scared to dream. When I was first starting, I never thought that I’ll end up having seven festivals, headline shows, and events, or over 70 people in our agency. But If you’re passionate enough and [you don’t mind sacrificing] most of your personal life, then it’s definitely something worth trying. But please remember that music and festivals are addictive, so you have to remember your [loved ones] and don’t give all of your time to work, as it’s easy to forget when you’re always hungry for more.

Having a good bond with agents and artist managers is crucial. How did you maintain contact with people during the pandemic, and do you feel that the working relationship between agents and promoters has changed over the past couple of years?
We’ve been in touch with agents and artist managers mainly through Zoom meetings. I think that what has changed during the pandemic is that people in the music industry started to be nicer to each other and actually care how the other person is feeling and checking on each other – I guess this time showed us that we’re all just humans at the end of the day.

“I see Follow The Step being one of the leading concert agencies in Eastern Europe”

What one thing would you like artists to learn about coming to perform in Poland?
That every single person that came to their concert is there for a reason. We have one of the most dedicated music audiences in Poland. And probably the craziest.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see [myself and also] Follow The Step being one of the leading concert agencies in Eastern Europe. I really want us to expand to other markets. It would be perfect to be able to offer artists a whole tour in this part of Europe and not just Poland. This is our goal now!

IQ 114 is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.

 


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