EXIT Festival chief salutes spirit of independence
EXIT boss Dušan Kovačević has shared the pros and cons of remaining independent in 2023 – and reflected on the festival’s new spin-off event in Montenegro.
Serbia’s best known festival, the 50,000-cap spectacular pulled in 200,000 punters to the Petrovaradin Fortress in Serbia over four days in July to see acts such as The Prodigy, Wu-Tang Clan, Skrillex, Eric Prydz, Alesso, Chase & Status, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Nina Kraviz. Its next edition is scheduled for 11-14 July 2024.
EXIT starred in IQ‘s recent feature on ten of Europe’s brightest independent festivals, and Kovačević speaks of the struggles of continuing to go it alone.
“The biggest challenge of remaining independent in 2023 is the increasing costs in the festival industry,” he tells IQ. “Corporate-backed festivals often have substantial financial resources, more marketing power, and established connections that allow them to gain needed funding more easily in the moments of crisis.
“We cannot forget the pandemic’s impact on the industry, and a great shift it made when it comes to consumer expectations. We are often required to adapt rapidly to high demands whilst facing financial challenges that we inherited from the pandemic period.”
“Independence allows us to think and grow beyond the financial reports”
Kovačević adds that rising costs such as artist fees, security measures, and logistical expenses, are a further strain on resources.
“Without the backing of major sponsors or investors, it can be challenging to maintain a sustainable business model and deliver a high-quality experience while keeping ticket prices fair,” he adds.
Nevertheless, Kovačević suggests the hard work is well worth to enable organisers to stay true to spirit of the event.
“Independence allows us to think and grow beyond the financial reports. Excel sheets are not the ultimate God of the festival, creativity and artistic expression is,” he says. “This way we get to cultivate the spirit of the festival that made it so magical in the first place. Freedom is undoubtedly the biggest benefit. We take a lot of pride in retaining artistic freedom.
“One of the most important things to us is growing and nurturing the soul of the festival. Even though we face a lot of competition in the region and the world, remaining independent allows us the freedom to express our vision, provide unforgettable experiences, be a part of the positive change in our community, and society as a whole without having to worry about short-term financial influxes that would limit us significantly.”
EXIT events in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, UAE, Netherlands, Turkey, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Slovenia were visited by around half a million people in 2022, making it the largest number in the festival’s history.
“Ada Divine Awakening holds a unique place within our rich festival and event portfolio, as it authentically transforms and uplifts people’s lives”
While it was announced in June that EXIT’s Sea Dance spin-off would be leaving Montenegro, the team debuted the Ada Divine Awakening in the country last month on the island of Ada Bojana. Billed as offering “a powerful festival experience that combines life-force awakening retreat, educational workshops, incredible music & art, mindfulness and much more”, artists included Mose, Murray Kyle, Joseph Pepe Danza, Mushina and Tebra.
With a dedicated emphasis on ecology and environmental conservation, Ada Divine Awakening forged a partnership with the “Every Can Counts” project. In addition, organisers, attendees and volunteers came together to collect nearly two tons of waste from almost a kilometre of untamed beach in collaboration with the City of Ulcinj, Ulcinj Riviera, and DOO Komunalne djelatnosti – Ulcinj, along with the Remedies 20t Challenge initiative.
The intimate 500-cap gathering attracted attendees from more than 40 countries and will return from 13-18 September next year. Kovačević reveals plans are already afoot to expand the concept overseas.
“Ada Divine Awakening holds a unique place within our rich festival and event portfolio, as it authentically transforms and uplifts people’s lives,” says Kovačević. “It quickly grew into one of the leading consciousness and intimacy festivals in the world and we will be partnering with like-minded promoters to cast ADA magic through numerous spin-offs worldwide.”
Meanwhile, EXIT’s talent and management agency Echosystem, which was established earlier this year, recently announced that one of its clients, 17-year-old electronic music artist LANNA, has signed to CAA and will be represented by agent Maria May.
“I am very excited to take over supporting LANNA’s career,” says May. “As a strong proponent of supporting young female artists, I believe LANNA has the potential to reach the stars very fast.”
The full list of ten of the best indie gatherings appears in Issue 122 of IQ Magazine.
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