Exit Festival boss reflects on landmark year
Exit festival founder and CEO Dušan Kovačević has looked back on another landmark year for the event and opened up on his plans for the future in a new interview with IQ.
Last year’s 20th anniversary Exit was billed as the first major festival in Europe to take place since the pandemic. And for its 2022 edition, held from 7-11 July, the Serbian institution again made history by welcoming its first homegrown headliner – Belgrade-born singer-songwriter Konstrakta.
“This was a significant moment,” Kovačević tells IQ. “Konstrakta is an absolute phenomenon, using an artistic approach to connect with new generations on various trending lists, overtaking trappers and artists in other popular genres. This makes her highly unique, and we wanted to honour that.
“We are proud not only because she is a local performer but also because she is a female artist. She caused complete enthusiasm and hysteria in the region, Europe, and beyond.”
“Last year was incredibly significant for the festival’s history because we showed that we would not live in a world without public gatherings”
Fans from more than 100 countries attended the 17th century Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad to witness headliners including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Calvin Harris, alongside acts such as Iggy Azalea, Afrojack, Sepultura, Jax Jones, Disciples and Joel Corry.
“The event went great; as expected, the fortress was packed every night with around 50,000 people daily,” says Kovačević.
“Last year was incredibly significant for the festival’s history because we showed that we would not live in a world without public gatherings. We organised a safe event and became the first major festival to take place since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I thought that it would take a long time to surpass that incredible catharsis and explosion of positive energy when tens of thousands of us finally got together again after two years. However, this year something magical happened, and the festival’s energy surpassed even that of the previous year.”
“This year has brought a series of economic challenges, which is another blow we’ve had to suffer after everything we’ve been through in recent years”
Kovačević singles out the closing night’s festivities in the Dance Arena, which was extended for an hour beyond its allotted time, as “pure magic”.
“People didn’t want to leave when the [last act] left the stage, as the energy was still at a maximum,” he says. “I asked Human Rias, who was with us on stage and also opened the Dance Arena [on the first night], to keep the party going. So the closing of the Dance Arena lasted an hour longer this year.”
While highlighting the biggest hurdles as “increasing costs and all the uncertainties that accompany the current global crisis”, Kovačević sounds an upbeat note on the recovery of the European festival market in general.
“Due to the current crisis in Ukraine and general inflation, this year has brought a series of economic challenges, which is another blow we’ve had to suffer after everything we’ve been through in recent years,” he reflects. “But the pandemic also had its positive side, showing that going to festivals is not only a form of entertainment but also a way of life without which new generations cannot imagine growing up.
“Young people build their identities through festivals and gatherings. Considering the influence of social media, which should be connecting us, but is doing the opposite, festivals truly connect us and have become one of the most important forms of live experiences and socialisation.”
“We will continue to pay special attention to mental health projects”
He continues: “I found inspiration in this year’s mental health messages displayed all over the Petrovaradin fortress and on the screens at the biggest stages. I want our organisation to give this topic even more room next year. We have proven once again that when we are together and united, we can do anything, and nothing can stop our positive intentions.”
Indeed, Kovačević’s thoughts have already raced ahead to 2023, when Exit is slated to return from 6-9 July.
“As every year, we are planning numerous improvements for next year, so we can definitely expect more novelties in areas such as the production level of the Exit Festival, which has been raised to a new level this year with the highest-quality sound systems and over 40 stages and zones,” he says.
“The mental health initiative has been a big part of the festival for years and I can say that we will continue to pay special attention to mental health projects. The promotion of World and Consciousness Music through all musical genres will be a big part of our future and many other things which I am not able to speak of yet.”
Founded as a student movement in the fight for democracy and freedom in Serbia and the region, Exit was first held in 2000 on several stages set up in the University Park in Novi Sad. Moving to the Petrovaradin Fortress the following year, it has gone on to host the likes of Massive Attack, Cypress Hill, The White Stripes, Carl Cox, Wu-Tang Clan, Sex Pistols, Arctic Monkeys, Placebo, Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, Arcade Fire, M. I. A, Jamiroquai, Guns N’ Roses, Duran Duran, Faithless, Motörhead, Jason Derulo, David Guetta, Migos and The Cure.
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European live trade bodies stand up for Ukraine
Live event organisations across Europe are taking a stand in condemnation of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.
Representatives from the Alliance of Swiss Organisers’ Associations, the German Interest Group Event Management and the Austrian Society for Theatre Technology have linked up to launch the Light for Peace campaign.
From 8pm on Thursday (3 March), venues, company headquarters and other locations will shine in the rainbow colours of peace for two hours, with videos and photos to be shared on social media under the hashtag #lightforpeace2022.
“The network from Switzerland, Germany and Austria not only represents the interests of promoting quality, safety and cooperation in the event industry. As international, diverse, heterogeneous and open-minded as the self-image of the events industry is in its various areas, we act in many of our endeavours with the clear idea of peace in mind,” reads a joint statement from the associations.
“It is a privilege to be able to take a stand and we want to use this to express our solidarity. Solidarity with the people who are victims of political, physical and psychological violence worldwide and with all those who courageously take to the streets against aggressors.”
“The fear and pain experienced by the people of Ukraine is familiar and we mourn for the innocent victims on all sides”
Serbia’s Exit festival has also released an emotive statement across its social media channels.
“You have probably seen this photo of a man draped in Ukrainian flag embracing a woman wearing Russian flag at a concert in Poland,” it says. “This image perfectly describes what Exit has been fighting for since the beginning. It shows the essence of how we should look at each other, not as members of a particular race, nation, religion, sexual, political, or any other orientation, but as human beings, with all of our imperfections, fears, hopes, and dreams.
“Since we also found ourselves bombed back in 1999 by some of the biggest countries in the world, the fear and pain experienced by the people of Ukraine is familiar, and we mourn for the innocent victims on all sides. We also remember and mourn all the victims of the wars fought in ex-Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Yemen and all other bloodsheds worldwide, truly believing that there is no such thing as justified war.
“Just as the hippie movement and the forerunner of modern music festivals, Woodstock, emerged as a reaction to the Vietnam War, Exit was created as part of a movement for freedom and peace in the Balkans. We have vowed to be the generation to stop the bloody cycle of war in the region. That is one of the primary social missions of our festivals in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and other countries.
“Now is the time for the next step – for like-minded people and organisations around the world to unite and forge new relationships among people, bringing true world peace. That is why this new movement must overshadow all countries and governments worldwide. It must outshine all previous structures and lead us to a New Era dreamed of by many generations before.”
Meanwhile, in Australia, the Australian Road Crew Association (ARCA) has pulled out its music recordings from the Russian Federation and challenged the rest of the Australian music industry to do the same.
“The ARCA crews are family,” says ARCA co-founder Ian Peel. “We celebrate our freedoms and what we’ve fought hard to achieve. Although we in no way know how much real suffering is going on in the Ukraine, we feel for its people and want to make a stand. We roadies don’t cop abuse; we don’t tolerate it on a personal, local or national level.”
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Serbia’s Exit festival launches NFT series
Hot on the heels of Coachella joining the non-fungible token revolution, Serbia’s Exit Festival has signalled its entrance into the metaverse with its own line of NFTs.
Exit’s first NFT collection is being created in collaboration with “major music stars of today” and trading platform SolSea on the Solana blockchain. The NFTs will be available in the SolSea virtual store in a few weeks.
Most of the tokens will be made for use in the “multiverse” – an “exciting and innovative 3D web reality”, which the festival is involved in the development of.
“In cooperation with the world’s leading IT companies, we are developing a community that will place artists and creatives at the epicentre of events through various platforms,” it says in a statement. “This will give fans and those about to become fans unprecedented experiences and ways to interact and communicate.
“The festival’s NFT collection will be multidimensional, as it will feature a specially created live experience”
“In line with Exit’s philosophy that live experiences are irreplaceable, the festival’s NFT collection will be multidimensional, as it will feature a specially created live experience in addition to cutting-edge digital art. This will bring with it many exciting surprises relating to the EXIT festival and its music stars, which few have had the opportunity to experience so far.”
Exit is also offering an exclusive limited NFT series as a gift to those who are the first to sign up to its new Discord digital community, launched today, which you can join here.
“These will be distributed only on this occasion and provide owners with exclusive content and other benefits, as well as a special status within Exit’s digital community,” it adds.
Last year’s 20th anniversary edition of Exit, held in a 17th-century fortress in Novi Sad, attracted 42,000 festival-goers from more than 70 countries on the opening day alone. It returns from 7-10 July with artists such as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
Earlier this week, Coachella announced it was auctioning off 10 lifetime passes to the event as part of an NFT series. The ‘Coachella Keys’ collection grants admission to the 125,000-capacity festival in Indio, California US every year, along with other benefits. The auction begins on Friday, 4 February at 10am Pacific time (7pm CET) and will last for one week.
New York’s Governor’s Ball festival also offered NFTs through a partnership with Coinbase for its 10th anniversary edition in 2021
Left no trace: No increase in infections after Exit 2021
Exit Festival 2021, which took place in Novi Sad, Serbia, from 8 to 11 July, did not lead to a significant increase in new cases of Covid-19 at either a local or national level, despite attracting more than 40,000 people a day, organisers have confirmed.
Exit – which monitored infections for two weeks after the festival as part of a safety protocol, Safe Events Serbia, under which it went ahead (which, among other things, limited entry to those who were vaccinated against Covid-19, had antibodies, or presented a negative test) – found that in the 14–15 days after the event, infections did not increase significantly in the Vojvodina region or Serbia as a whole.
There were just 12 new coronavirus cases in Novi Sad connected to Exit Festival after seven days, despite the estimated 20,000 foreigners from 70 countries who entered Serbia to attend the event, organisers tell IQ.
In fact, the vast majority of new cases in the city were connected to weddings, and not to Exit Festival, which was not a place of significant infection, according to Vladimir Petrovic, director of the Institute of Public Health of Vojvodina.
“In the period from 12 to 18 July, 12 cases were registered in Novi Sad that could be traced back to Exit Festival, ten among visitors, and two with family members of visitors,” Dr Petrovic told Euronews Serbia on 20 July. “All cases were accompanied by a mild clinical picture and were treated at home.”
The vast majority of new cases in the city were connected to weddings, and not to Exit Festival
“In the last week, a total of 84 cases have been registered in Novi Sad, and most of them, after epidemiological investigations, were found to have attended weddings organised across the country,” he added.
David Guetta, Sabaton, Charlotte de Witte, Nina Kraviz, Paul Kalkbrenner and Solomun were among the overseas artists who performed at Exit Festival, the biggest major international festival since the pandemic began.
Exit co-founder and CEO Dušan Kovačević comments: “Research from Exit proves that even during a pandemic, a means and a model can be found according to which even the largest events can take place completely safely. This research is our contribution to the struggle of the entire music industry for far better treatment in Europe and other countries than has been the case so far. We have proven that we have been treated unfairly in the past, and that there are no longer any arguments and justifications that can allow gatherings at sporting events, in cafes or shopping malls, and not at concerts and festivals.
“I call on our entire industry to, just like we have fought and won in Serbia, join forces and fight for the fair treatment of our industry on an international level.”
Exit festival pulls off major international event
Serbia’s Exit Festival took place last weekend (8–11 July), attracting 42,000 festivalgoers from more than 70 countries on the opening day alone.
The 20th-anniversary edition has been slated as ‘the first major festival in Europe to take place this summer after the pandemic,’ having hosted both a multi-national crowd (50% of the four-day ticket holders came from abroad) and an international line-up.
David Guetta, Sabaton, Charlotte de Witte, Nina Kraviz, Paul Kalkbrenner and Solomun were among the international headliners that performed in the 17th-century fortress in Novi Sad – while others were forced to cancel at the last minute, “mainly due to pandemic-related reasons”.
According to the organisers, besides the programming, the biggest challenge of putting on the event was the “ever-changing regulations due to Covid-19” but the festival worked with the Serbian authorities and health organisations to create a protocol that was “legal and realistic” for the fans.
Visitors were allowed to enter the event either with proof of immunity (vaccination or antigens from a past infection), or a negative test (either before entering the country or at the test zone set up by the festival).
“Festivals are generally made to promote values worth living for and we are determined to prove that they can be organised safely”
The organisers say that early statistics have shown less than a dozen positive cases from approximately 14,000 tests done at the festival’s pre-entry test zone.
“I knew this year’s event was more than just a festival, it was a movement of people, ready to do whatever it takes to keep human connections at the forefront of our existence,” says Dusan Kovacevic, Exit founder and CEO.
“Festivals are generally made to promote values worth living for and we are determined to prove that festivals can be organised safely even during a pandemic. That’s why we have worked tirelessly to create a best practice model on how to do it. Besides our own event, we also hope that Exit will be an encouragement to all our international festival colleagues, the ‘Festival Family’ that it is possible for all of us.
“A festival is only as strong as its fanbase and during the four days we had a gathering of probably the most passionate festival fans in Europe and beyond! The ones that didn’t mind coming despite all uncertainties, cancellations and travel, PCR tests and other obstacles. They felt the same superstrong need we had all this time – a need for us to be together no matter what, united as one by power of music and life,” he concluded.
Exit announces new festival in Bulgaria
Not content with Exit Festival being one of the only major festivals in Europe going ahead this summer, Serbia’s Exit will launch a new open-air event, Sunland, in Bulgaria next month.
Nina Kraviz-headlined Sunland will take place on Perla Beach, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, from 29 to 31 July. Sunland joins the a festival family which also includes Sea Dance (Montenegro), Sea Star (Croatia), No Sleep (Serbia), Revolution (Romania) and F84 (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
In addition to the new event, Novi Sad-based Exit has also announced plans for a new nightclub in Changsha, China, dubbed Exit Effinity, and a partnership with Space Miami in the US, which will host an Exit-themed party this summer.
Exit announced last month will offer the coronavirus vaccine to international guests who attend its flagship event on 8–11 July.
Newly announced for Exit Festival 2021 is Jonas Blue, who joins previously announced acts including David Guetta, DJ Snake, Meduza, Paul van Dyk, Nina Kraviz, Sabaton and Paul Kalkbrenner.
Exit festival to offer vaccines to int’l visitors
Exit Festival plans to offer doses of the coronavirus vaccine to international guests who attend the event this summer.
The Serbian festival, which will be held in Novi Sad from 8–11 July, is set to go ahead as normal as the country charges towards a full reopening on 21 June, thanks to Serbia’s “successful mass vaccination programme and significantly decreased number of new Covid cases”.
Now, “as a way to aid countries that currently have vaccine shortages,” Exit has partnered with the ministry of health to organise “a few thousand” coronavirus vaccine doses for international artists, ticketholders and accredited press who attend the festival.
The festival told IQ that international guests will be able to apply to have their vaccine in Serbia. More information regarding the vaccination process for international visitors will be announced soon.
Attendees who can prove they are immune against Covid-19 or can produce a negative PCR or antigen test will also be able to attend the 20th-anniversary edition of Exit – which is slated to feature international acts including Robin Schultz, David Guetta and DJ Snake.
“Serbia has been one of the global leaders in mass vaccination for months,” says Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić. “Thanks to that, we have an ever-improving epidemiological situation and the plan is to open the country for gatherings, concerts and festivals on 21 June.
“Exit festival happening this July will be one of the important symbols of Serbia’s victory over the pandemic”
“In this way, we show not only the care for the event industry that contributes so much to our tourism and economy, but we also fight for the mental health of young people. Also, we confirm the strategic commitment of the government of Serbia towards the development of creative industries. Exit festival, which our country is globally proud of, happening this July will be one of the important symbols of Serbia’s victory over the pandemic”.
The country’s prospective 21 June reopening, which coincides with World Music Day, depends on 50% of adults getting vaccinated by that date.
Currently, around 45% of adults in Serbia have been vaccinated against Covid-19 with a further 5% expected in the next few weeks.
The government recently launched an immunisation campaign that would “reward” citizens for their “responsibility” to get inoculated against the virus.
Citizens over the age of 16 who have either already received one or two doses, or will be vaccinated with at least one dose by 31 May will receive a one-time payment of 3,000 dinars (€25). The amount equates to around 5% of the country’s average monthly salary.
The government initiative – believed to be the first of its kind in the world – is aiming to revive Serbia’s immunisation campaign amid waning public interest and growing scepticism.
Read about the international live music industry is divided as to how, if at all, fans’ vaccination status should be taken into account as live activity resumes here.
Exit Festival adds 20 new acts to 2021 line-up
July’s Exit Festival, which is on course to be the first major international festival of 2021, has announced 20 new additions to its line-up.
Joining the Serbian festival’s 20th-anniversary event are acts including Sabaton, Meduza, Asaf Avidan, Artbat and Hot Since 82, who joined previously announced performers such as David Guetta, DJ Snake, Tyga, Eric Prydz, Four Tet, Solomun, Boris Brejcha, Paul Kalkbrenner, Nina Kraviz, Honey Dijon, Metronomy and Sheck Wes. View the full 2021 line-up here.
Exit returns to Petrovaradin Fortress, on the Danube in Novi Sad, from 8 to 11 July.
The new additions come as the mayor of Novi Sad confirms that Exit will be allowed to go ahead with no social distancing restrictions, providing guests can provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or a negative rapid antigen test. Tourists can already travel to Serbia with a negative PCR test, and it is expected that testing to enter the country will no longer be a requirement by June.
Made possible due to the high vaccination rate in the Balkan country, “his year’s Exit will be a symbol of Serbia’s victory over the pandemic,” says mayor Miloš Vučević.
“We are very excited about … the opportunity to finally celebrate life together”
Dušan Kovačević, Exit Festival CEO, adds: “We are very excited about this news and the opportunity to finally celebrate life together with our audience from the whole world. Considering all the difficulties we have been facing for over a year, we already feel that the big bang of positive energy will create new dimension of the festival experience and make this year’s Exit unique in the history of the festival.
“However, we must remain responsible in the coming months and we’re calling for all of our visitors who have the opportunity to get vaccinated before the festival – as, no matter what, the health and safety of all visitors, artists and the crew is our top priority.”
Today (29 April) sees Exit launch its buy four, get five offer for groups of friends, in which the fifth ticket is given free of charge with four purchased tickets (€435).
Read IQ’s recent interview with Kovačević here.
Dušan Kovačević: “Exit 2021 will go down in history”
Ahead of the 20th anniversary edition of Exit, festival founder and CEO Dušan Kovačević talks to IQ about social activism, expanding the Exit brand and plans for the 8-11 July gathering.
IQ: How big is your full-time team, and how big is the team during a festival?
DK: Bearing in mind that we are one of the fastest-growing independent festival groups globally, with seven festivals in six countries and several new ones planned, we have about 100 people employed full-time throughout the year. During the Exit festival, the team grows to over 5,000 people, while with other festivals, that number grows to over 10,000 people involved throughout the year.
You’ve won Best Major European Festival at The European Festival Awards twice – 2013, 2017. What does it mean to you?
It means a lot, both on a personal and on an organisational level. The award in 2013 came after I took over the management of the festival again after a few years break. After the world economic crisis in 2008, the festival fell into a period of stagnation and even decline. It took a lot of energy to raise the hype again, and I can say that we did a fantastic job, which was confirmed by this award. In 2017, another award came our way. That year was extraordinary because as one of the few modern big festivals that inherits the tradition of social activism from the first major festivals, we marked the 50th anniversary of the famous Summer of Love of 1967.
Exit has been among the top ten European festivals practically every year since the launch of the European Festival Awards
This celebration began with our Sea Star festival in Croatia, which we also launched that year. It continued with the main event in Novi Sad and ended at the Sea Dance Festival in Montenegro. The first Summer of Love in 1967 was tied to the Peace on Earth movement and stopping the Vietnam War, and we dedicated our Summer of Love 2017 to the slogan Peace with Earth, pointing out the need to urgently protect the planet from the destruction of life on it.
We were honoured that the opening ceremony of Exit festival that year was attended by representatives of the Standing Rock Indian tribe. These Native Americans fought with oil companies and the federal government to stop constructing oil pipelines through their holy land and rivers. Nik Vujicic, one of the most famous motivational speakers in the world, was also present at the opening that year, sending a message to everyone that giving up is not an option! The award in 2017 came as a confirmation of the constant success of Exit Festival and the other festivals in our family, especially considering that Exit has been among the top ten European festivals practically every year since the launch of the European Festival Awards.
“[The Dance Arena] is the main reason we have visitors from over 100 countries from all over the planet”
Exit’s Dance Arena is almost as big as the main arena (25,000 vs 35,000). How important is it and why do you mix musical styles so much?
We are one of the first festivals to decide to have two main stages and have alternative electronic music on the big stage. The Dance Arena soon became known among DJs and music magazines as one of the best, if not the best electronic dance floor in the world. Because of this status among performers and the audience, it is our flagship stage and the main reason we have visitors from over 100 countries from all over the planet.
The Dance Arena, along with the main stage and over 35 other stages and zones throughout the Fortress, provides a unique and unforgettable festival experience, combining a large number of genres, a fact we are particularly proud of. We are committed to being a multi-genre festival, where you can hear the world’s best alternative and mainstream electronic music, but also the world’s best rock, hip-hop, pop, as well as reggae, drum ‘n’ bass and other music genres.
If you could sum up the top three things you’ve learned over the last 20 years of Exit, what are they?
First: never give up. I often say that doing a major festival in a country where wages and ticket prices are ten times lower than in developed western countries is akin to farming in the Sahara. But despite the many crises and temptations that the festival and I personally went through, I learned that the night really is always darkest before dawn and that one must persevere in awaiting daybreak. I have the same mindset regarding the pandemic, and I believe that the Exit is closer than most expect.
The second thing I’ve learned is that people are most important, both people within the team to make the festival happen and the people in the audience, the fans. It is vital to be dedicated to people; then, you can expect great things from them. I would say that this is one reason why Exit is known for having one of the best atmospheres in the world. The third thing I’ve learned is that nothing is impossible. The key to life is believing in yourself and your dreams, and if that faith is strong enough, miracles can happen every day.
“In a year in which the world’s music industry was brought to its knees, we are proud to have realised Life Stream”
What’s the plan for the big 20th birthday party?
We are planning a Big Bang at the Fortress, from the 8th to the 11th of July. Many performers have already been confirmed, including David Guetta, DJ Snake, Sheck Wes, Nina Kraviz, Erik Prydz in a special b2b set with Four Tet, Paul Kalkbrenner, Solomon, Tyga, Boris Brejcha, Honey Dijon, Metronomy, Paul van Dyk, Sepultura and many others. And that’s not all; new surprises will be announced soon.
What celebrations have you rolled over from last year?
In a year in which the world’s music industry was brought to its knees, we are proud to have realised Life Stream, in co-operation with the United Nations World Food Program, the largest humanitarian organisation in the world and the current Nobel Peace Prize winner. It was a full-blooded live festival experience with a limited live audience and the world’s top electronic music performers. The video of the show was later viewed almost eight million times. With this, we started the 20th-anniversary celebrations, the finale of which will take place from the 8th to the 11th of July 2021 at our Fortress.
“We expect such a strong positive charge that this year’s Exit will go down in history as one of the most special”
What’s the plan for 2021 in terms of capacity and mitigation measures in place regarding Covid? How will you be ensuring that it’s safe?
In the few months of 2021, Serbia, along with the UK, has established itself as the European leader in immunisation numbers, which is why we expect an accelerated opening plan similar to the British model. We believe that, before the end of spring, we will have achieved herd immunity, with a large number of those who have either been vaccinated or survived Covid-19.
Therefore, we expect the government to lift all restrictions by the beginning of summer, similar to what is planned in the UK. In the worst-case scenario, we expect entry to the festival to be possible for all who have been vaccinated, while others will be able to take quick tests at the entrance.
What can we expect that’s special or different from Exit this year?
The first Exit took place after a decade of war and poverty in Serbia and the Balkans. After a decade of isolation, the desire for normal life led people to an explosion of positive energy that was so strong that it created a legend of Exit that is still retold to this day. Due to the pandemic and the fact that people have been living in abnormal conditions for more than a year, it seems as if history is repeating itself, so this year we expect such a strong positive charge that this year’s Exit will go down in history as one of the most special.
“The appetite of the young audience in Serbia and the whole world is huge”
Have you surveyed your audience as to how confident they are and what the appetite is to return?
The appetite of the young audience in Serbia and the whole world is huge. As we have seen, in the UK, once the opening plan was announced, virtually all festivals were sold out in record time.
Aside from physically being able to go ahead, what’s the biggest challenge that festivals face right now?
Of course, it is a considerable challenge. For almost a year, our industry has been most endangered, revenues have been reduced by nearly 100%, and it has been a massive challenge, the biggest in history. We are proud to have managed to keep most of our team together, and we expect that with the completion of the immunisation process and return to normal life, we will soon be in full swing again.
“I think we all finally realised that if any part of the music ecosystem is disrupted, everyone is threatened”
How do you see the festival business changing over the next few years?
I think it will take several years for the whole industry to recover from such a strong impact. It will require unity of all participants on the scene, from artists and their agencies to the promoters of concerts and festivals. We will have to be more united than ever, and I see a significant change in the fact that the pandemic has awakened solidarity and united the world’s music industry in an incredible way.
The practice used to be that performer agencies and event organisers were often on opposite sides. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how, after the outbreak of the pandemic, the whole industry became united, and I think we all finally realised that if any part of the music ecosystem is disrupted, everyone is threatened.
Exit was born from political struggle – how political is the organisation these days? What’s its social responsibility?
The Exit Foundation is as important to us as the music festival, and it implements dozens of important projects each year. Using the power of the Exit brand, the Exit Foundation has positioned itself over the years as a leader in mobilising both public opinion and the decision-makers in the areas of youth support, environmental protection, peace promotion, creative industries, destination branding and humanitarian work. Each year, we implement dozens of projects to contribute to improvements in these areas.
Last year, apart from the aforementioned Life Stream, we used our Green Revolution platform to influence the government of Serbia to adopt our initiative and increase the country’s afforestation from the current 28% to 40% of its territory. The foundation has become an indelible part of the festival, and over the years, its social role has been integrated with our musical work, making a single unit.
“We are excited by the possibility of creating new concepts and brands adapted to their [other] countries”
How do you see the festival developing over the next 20 years?
The next 20 years will determine whether our planet will become uninhabitable for humans and most plants and animals. I see Exit at the forefront of that fight, along with all like-minded individuals and organisations, because only united we can make real change.
How do you plan to keep growing the Exit brand?
On the one hand, providing the best festival and entertainment experience in the unique, magical location of one of the largest fortresses in Europe. On the other hand, through strong social activism, which together with other organisations should lead to a new evolution, but this time an evolution of consciousness of enough people to really collectively reach peace on earth and peace with earth.
We also received many invitations to spread all over the world, which we find very exciting. There’s only one Exit Festival, and the Exit brand is reserved only for our Fortress in Novi Sad. Still, we are excited by the possibility of creating new concepts and brands adapted to their host countries, but at the same time associated with the Exit brand.
In addition to Exit, we currently have the Sea Dance Festival in Montenegro, Sea Star in Croatia, Revolution in Romania, Echowaves in Georgia and F84 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There’s also the youngest member of our festival family, No Sleep in Belgrade, which is the current holder of the EFA award for the Best New European Festival.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
This year, I am most looking forward to another embrace – an embrace between the audience and the artists and an embrace between all of us.
András Berta joins Serbia’s Exit Festival
Festival marketing expert András Berta has joined Serbia’s Exit Festival as international marketing director ahead of the festival’s 20th-anniversary celebrations in 2021.
Berta, 42, previously worked for Sziget in Hungary, handling the festival’s international marketing, PR and ticketing between 2010 and 2017. He leads the European Marketing and Communication (Emac) Group at Yourope, the European Festival Association.
His main focus at Exit will be the promoter’s flagship Exit Festival, though he will also work with the company’s other events, including Sea Star (Croatia), Sea Dance (Montenegro) and No Sleep (Belgrade, Serbia).
“It’s an honour to join Exit, since it’s clearly one of the most famous festivals in the world,” comments Berta. “For me, personally, it’s also very important that this event is far more than ‘just’ a festival.
“It’s an honour to join Exit, since it’s clearly one of the most famous festivals in the world”
“Understanding the deep social engagement of Exit is something you can only do once you join them. So, I’m here for a reason and arrived with clear plans and expectations, but also with a lot of respect.
“I think we all need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and we don’t really know how festival marketing can cope with all the restrictions we’re facing these days. But we’re also looking at 2021 as the new beginning which gives us lots of energy to explore new ways. So, long story short: it’s definitely a huge challenge and I’m looking forward to my new role at Exit.”
Exit 20 – postponed from this year because of Covid-19 – takes place from 8 to 11 July 2021 at Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, Serbia, with performances by David Guetta, DJ Snake, Tyga, Eric Prydz, Paul Kalkbrenner, Nina Kraviz, Boris Brejcha, Four Tet, Sheck Wes, Solomun, Sepultura, Metronomy, Honey Dijon and more.
Tickets for Exit 2021, currently priced for a limited time at €109, are on sale now.