Follow the Step's festival returned at full capacity with a raft of international acts including Kygo, James Bay and Princess Nokia
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Follow The Step's flagship festival has been faced with a number of financial challenges in its four-year existence
By Lisa Henderson on 07 Aug 2023
Fest Festival, one of the fastest-growing music festivals in eastern Europe, has filed for bankruptcy after selling only 50% of its tickets for the 2023 edition.
The fourth edition of the Follow The Step-promoted event was due to take place this weekend (9–13 August) at Silesia Park in Chorzów, near Katowice, with acts including The Chemical Brothers, Peggy Gou and Kasabian.
Today’s announcement comes two months after the Polish promoter cancelled the second edition of its Warsaw festival, On Air.
In a statement published on Fest Festival‘s website, organisers said today is “the most painful day in the history of Fest Festival”.
“Our festival was in a phase of dynamic growth, with attendance increasing by over 30% each year,” reads the statement. “Such dynamic development led us to believe that this year would be just as successful. However, despite the tremendous support from many of our partners and sponsors, this year’s crisis in the event and entertainment industry significantly reduced ticket sales, making our projections incorrect.
“Despite tremendous support, this year’s crisis in the industry significantly reduced sales, making our projections incorrect”
“In the last few weeks, we have done everything in our power to cope with this new situation. We used all available funds for event organisation and the necessary preparations. Over the past months, we held discussions with public institutions, sponsors, and funds to secure additional funding for this year’s edition. We reduced costs and diversified promotional channels. Unfortunately, none of these actions yielded the expected results or secured the finances for the upcoming event. We fought with all our might until the last moment. ”
The first edition of Fest Festival took place in 2019 and drew 16,000 people each day, placing the festival among the largest music events in Poland. Organisers called it “the most challenging period in our country’s history to launch a new festival initiative”.
“Any new project of this kind requires several years to reach profitability,” continues the statement. “In our case, the previous editions of the festival were funded from ongoing operations, contributions from the owners, and loans from external companies. Despite four years of efforts, the project did not receive sufficient support from public entities, which significantly complicated its organisation.”
In 2020, Follow The Step was forced to cancel the second edition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, Fest Festival was permitted to go ahead at full capacity but under strict Covid-19 rules. With 35,000 festivalgoers over four days, it was the biggest event in Poland in 2021.
The following year was just as challenging due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Poland’s neighbouring country, which saw “a massive hike in inflation and a twofold increase in costs, putting the festival in an exceptionally challenging situation”.
“We are forced to initiate bankruptcy proceedings, which prevents the company from making any payments at the moment”
“We managed to overcome last year’s problems, but 2023 painfully verified our plans – in mid-June, the 30% sales growth trend of tickets reversed, resulting in lower sales compared to the previous edition of Fest. Other issues did not help either – a further significant increase in event organisation costs due to inflation, exceptionally strict “upfront” payment conditions for subcontractors and artists, the international crisis, lack of expected support from the province, and a delay of 5 days in handing over the event site.”
Warsaw-based Follow The Step says Fest Festival 2023 ticketholders will be contacted about the refund process but adds that “in the current situation, we are forced to initiate bankruptcy proceedings, which prevents the company from making any payments at the moment. This is the only way for us to settle the organisation of the festival.”
Other festivals that will not take place in 2023 include Falls Festival (Australia), Rolling Loud (US), Summerburst (Sweden), Hills of Rock (Bulgaria), InMusic (Croatia), Wireless Germany, Hear Hear (Belgium) and Tempelhof Sounds and Tempelhof Sounds Presents (Germany).
Follow The Step was launched in 2015 by Maciej Korczak and Marcin Szymanowski. The agency 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) and organises over 100 international headline shows per year.
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