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Alter Art: ‘The festival sector is facing a new reality’

The promoter behind major Polish festivals Open'er and Orange Warsaw discusses the challenges characterising the 2023 festival season

By Lisa Henderson on 17 Jul 2023

Mikołaj Ziółkowski, Alter Art

Mikołaj Ziółkowski, Alter Art

Alter Art CEO Mikołaj Ziółkowski has spoken to IQ about the raft of new challenges facing the festival sector in 2023.

The Warsaw-based promoter is behind some of Poland’s biggest and best-known festivals, such as Open’er, Orange Warsaw and Kraków Live – which was recently cancelled.

“2023 is full of challenges for the live music industry in general, but I think the biggest ones concern the festival sector,” says Ziółkowski. “Super high costs of festival setup in all aspects, artists’ rising fees, unstable economical situations and the post-pandemic reality – those are the main factors that create a quite new industry reality. On top of this, we must mention a record number of stadium tours in 2023 in Europe, which became a new factor for the festival market.”

“This year, the live music industry is characterised by high volatility. There is a whole lot of revaluation and new challenges that appear in this space. In general, this is not the best year for the festival industry and we also see this year through the prism of so many spectacular headlining shows – especially global stadium tours. My general feelings are that our industry is changing very quickly and new architecture is on. Looking at all these challenges, all the more we appreciate how great this year’s Open’er edition was.”

The 20th anniversary of Open’er took place between 28 June and 1 July 2023, at its usual home of Gdynia-Kosakowo Airport on Poland’s Baltic coast, with 225,000 tickets sold.

“This year, the live music industry is characterised by high volatility”

This year’s all-star line-up was headlined by Arctic Monkeys, Lizzo, Lil Nas X, SZA and Kendrick Lamar, with support from acts including Labrinth, Caroline Polachek, Rina Sawayama and Queens Of The Stone Age.

“We are very pleased with how this line-up was built: it was up-to-date, diverse and progressive,” says Ziółkowski. “This is a programming challenge and satisfactory results are not always achieved, but we are thrilled with the final line-up. It’s not a coincidence, but a conscious decision and dedicated work. Our goal was to create a lineup that reflects the values ​​of the festival and characterises the event and what it wants to be –open to other cultures, possibilities, horizons and perspectives.”

Another key achievement for Open’er this year was optimising the production and enhancing the visitor experience, according to the Alter Art CEO.

“This year is the first year of regular production processes since the pandemic, so we focused on making all elements at the level they worked before the pandemic or even better,” says Ziółkowski. “Now that the festival has ended, we can say with confidence that the production, organisation, transport and all the bits and pieces turned out very well – our audience appreciated it. We focused on production, site, festival experience improvement and we are very proud that we’ve managed it as a team.”

With successful editions of Open’er and Orange Warsaw behind them, Alter Art’s attention turns to Kraków Live – which will move from its longtime home in 2024 – and Taylor Swift’s 2024 Warsaw dates, which the company will promoter in cooperation with AEG.


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