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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.”

 


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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.

 


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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”


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Exit Festival will go ahead in 2021 – organisers

Serbia’s Exit Festival will be held according to plan in July 2021, despite the cancellation of Glastonbury Festival and uncertainty over the festival summer elsewhere in Europe, organisers have said.

Dušan Kovačević, the festival’s founder, says he remains “optimistic” about celebrating Exit’s delayed 20th anniversary on 8–11 July, citing Serbia’s successful vaccination programme and the high proportion of the population who already have Covid-19 antibodies. Serbia is currently vaccinating around a million people, or 15% of its population, every month, and health experts say at least 40% of Serbs are likely already immune to the disease.

Exit was famously one of the last festivals to cancel last year, though it did still have a live audience for its hybrid (part-physical, part-livestreamed) Life Stream event.

Artists performing at Exit 2021, many of whom are rolled over from last year, include David Guetta, Tyga, DJ Snake, Eric Prydz and Four Tet, Nina Kraviz, Paul Kalkbrenner and Metronomy, with more still to be announced.

“The safety of all our visitors, artists and staff is of course a priority,”

“We are very optimistic about the possibility of celebrating Exit’s jubilee in 2021,” comments Kovačević. Given what we have all been through in the past year, the euphoria at this year’s festival can only be compared to the explosion of positive energy at the first international Exit in 2001, which occurred after a decade of isolation and conflict in the Balkans during the 1990s. It was this release of huge repressed energy 20 years ago that led to the creation of the legend of Exit as a festival with the most exciting atmosphere, where performers have some of the best performances in their careers.”

Other festivals to have already indicated they will push ahead this summer include Frontier Festival in the Netherlands and Albania’s Unum Festival, the latter of which will make use of mass testing for Covid-19.

“The safety of all our visitors, artists and staff is of course a priority,” adds Kovačević, who says Life Stream proved it is possible “to host a Covid-secure event with health and safety measures at the highest level.”

Exit 20 takes place 8–11 July 2021 at the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad. Tickets start at €109 for a four-day pass.

 


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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.

 


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Festivals can still make a difference

The Covid pandemic has been the harshest on the events and festival industry, keeping in mind that mass gatherings were the first to be shut down and will be the last to reopen.

The worst thing is that nobody knows when the revival of the festivals might happen. Uncertainty is at its highest point. However, despite unprecedented challenges, there is still a lot that festivals can do.

Most festivals have turned to the digital world in order to remain present in the lives of their fans. Some offered videos of their past editions, some built complex pay-per-view virtual worlds with exclusive superstar shows.

At Exit we decided to take a somewhat unique approach. Exit started as a youth movement for peace and freedom in Serbia and the Balkans 20 years ago.

Since then, social activism remains as important as the music itself through the work of Exit Foundation, which runs the festival, among other projects.

The Foundation’s work varies from humanitarian initiatives, such as helping to build a hospital wing for children with cancer, and participating in a global campaign to stop human trafficking, to projects in youth development, peace promotion and environmental protection.

We were also responsible for bringing the titles of European Culture Capital and European Youth Capital to our home city of Novi Sad.

Life Stream is an open-source platform that can run by every event in the world

Dedication to social activism is the reason we decided to mark Exit’s 20th anniversary with one of our biggest environmental projects to date, Life Stream, in which regular festival streams combine with video and messaging to alert the audience to the seriousness of the environmental crisis: if humanity doesn’t change course, Planet Earth could become inhabitable in just a few decades!

We launched a pilot edition of this project during ADE 2019 with Artbat performing from The Crane in Amsterdam.

The next level involves partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), to illustrate the crisis that is happening as we speak.

The pandemic and lockdown measures, together with climate change, are pushing a record number of people to the edge of extreme hunger.

It’s estimated that 270 million people will be in danger before the end of 2020 – an 80% increase from 2019.

Life Stream 2020 is a four-day festival, 3–6 September, taking place at Petrovaradin Fortress, where Exit Festival takes place.

From our legendary Dance Arena, we brought together international stars alongside our most famous regional acts. Some performances were live from the Fortress and some will be exclusive online sets, which we’ll present as if they’re live onstage.

The task of our generation is to build not a new normal, but a new Earth

We built a big production for this, one of the few actual stages that will be built this year. Viewers joined us online via stream, free of charge, and we had a small live audience, adhering to government guidelines and current health and safety measures.

During the stream there was be a call to action for people to donate directly to the UN’s WFP page.

Life Stream is an open-source platform that can run by every event in the world that wants to dedicate media space to support social issues.

Helping others is the strongest motivation to realise such a project, even in such difficult times. The pandemic is the fourth emergency state we at EXIT have experienced in our lives.

Therefore, we can offer a few words of consolation: that no matter how bad the situation looks at the moment, the clouds will disappear and the sun will shine again.

It is up to us in the festival world to be at the forefront of not allowing the ‘new normal’ to be a world with no contact, but for the pandemic to bring us to a more responsible way of thinking about the world around us.

The task of our generation is to build not a new normal, but a ‘new Earth,’ where humanity will be in harmony with the life around us. If we don’t succeed, we might be the last generation to try.

 


Dušan Kovačević is founder and CEO of Exit Festival in Serbia.

Ivan Milivojev exits Exit after 20 years

Twenty years after the first Exit Festival, Ivan Milivojev, co-founder and director of festival promoter Exit, has announced he is leaving the company.

Milivojev – a popular and widely respected figure credited with helping to put Serbia on the international live music map – shared the news in an email to colleagues and friends, writing that 2020 brings to an end his Exit journey. “Exit was my life and my passion, but now I feel that I need to let it go to start a new chapter in my business life,” he said, adding that “even the best stories have endings”.

With the Exit team, Milivojev (pictured) is a co-founder of Serbia’s Exit Festival (2000), Warriors Dance Festival (2012) and art event DEV9T (2015), Montenegro’s Sea Dance Festival (2014) and Romania’s Revolution (2015), among others.

Working primarily as a programming manager, he has worked with acts including the Prodigy, Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Chemical Brothers, Robbie Williams, Franz Ferdinand and Die Antwoord.

“Even the best stories have endings”

He is also a long-time ILMC member and board member of Yourope, the European Festival Association.

“I will always be proud of Exit and what we did,” he tells IQ, saying the flagship festival was “important for Serbia as a country”, providing a platform for international artists to visit the country for the first time. The festival celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019.

Milivojev remains a minor Exit shareholder for the time being, but will have no role in the company’s management beyond 2020.

He says his plans for the future will be announced in the coming months, but confirms he will be remain in the festival/concert promotion business.

“I wish all my former colleagues the best of luck,” he comments, “but it’s time to say farewell and move onto new challenges in our crazy and beautiful music business.”

 


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Exit Festival lobbies Serbian gov to plant 1bn trees

The Serbian government has initiated countrywide reforestation plans in accordance with Green R:Evolution, a campaign led by Exit Festival and local environmental organisations.

The plans would see forest cover increase from 28% of Serbia’s total surface area to at least 40%, equating to almost one billion new trees across the country.

The reforestation is in keeping with Exit Festival’s Green R:Evolution initiative which is backed by local eco organisations and calls for an increase in forest cover by almost 50%.

Launched in November 2019, Green R:Evolution recently received the support of Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, for the reforestation of the Fruška Gora mountain in Serbia.

The Serbian government has initiated countrywide reforestation plans following a campaign led by Exit Festival and local environmental organisations

Exit Festival is showcasing another eco initiative, Life Stream, at its 20th anniversary event from 9 to 12 July in Novi Sad, Serbia, which features performances from David Guetta, Tyga, Fatboy Slim, DJ Snake, James Arthur and Metronomy, among others.

The project will see imagery, text and data related to environmental issues injected into live broadcasts from the festival.

The sustainability efforts of festivals is one of the topics being discussed at the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) today, taking place as part of the opening day of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London.

 


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Exit 2.0: back to the future of the Balkans’ biggest festival

Exit Festival, a live music event spawned from the desire for peace and freedom in the Balkans, is turning twenty years old this year, with a brand new set of social aims appearing at the top of its agenda.

Founded by Dusan Kovačević, Ivan Milivojev, Bojan Boskovic and Milos Ignjatovic in 2000, the first edition of Exit Festival took place in University Park in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, with the objective of connecting like-minded Balkan people and encouraging political engagement among the youth.

“Exit was the first mass gathering of young people from former Yugoslavian countries after the Balkans War [which took place from 1991-1999],” Sagor Mešković, the festival’s chief communications officer, explains to IQ. “It started off as a youth activism movement for peace in Serbia and the Balkans.”

“After ten years of war and isolation in the region, the first edition of the festival was characterised by a feeling that normal life was back again,” adds Exit co-founder Kovačević. “Emotions were so high, that most of the artists said that they played the best concert of their tour , or even their whole career, at the event.”

Twenty years on, Exit Festival has just enjoyed its biggest year yet, welcoming 200,000 fans to its permanent site at Novi Sad’s Petrovaradin Fortress for four days of performances from the likes of the Cure, Carl Cox, Amelie Lens, the Chainsmokers and Greta van Fleet.

“After ten years of war and isolation in the region, the first edition of the festival was characterised by a feeling that normal life was back again”

Adding to its flagship event, the Exit team have now developed an extended festival network, providing “the biggest cultural bridge between the countries of the former Yugoslavia” in the form of No Sleep Festival in Serbia, Sea Star in Croatia, Revolution Festival in Romania and Sea Dance Festival in Montenegro.

This unique history and ethos is the driving force behind the desire for Exit to remain independent.

“Exit didn’t start for profit,” states Kovačević. “I respect the investment funds that are taking over festivals – they are still doing great shows and people are having fun – but we have decided to stay independent because we know the festival world needs something like this.”

With so much history behind them, the twentieth anniversary of Exit Festival is “important on so many levels, not just for us, but for the whole region,” says Kovačević.

Exit 2.0, as the anniversary event is dubbed, will look to the future as well as celebrating of the past, a fact reflected in the very programming of the festival. “We are going to bring back some of the acts that marked our history and mix them together with those who are making an impact in this day and age,” states Kovačević.

With over 20 stages and even more genres of music, Exit’s line-ups are broad and diverse, frequently seeing pop stars and leading electronic acts headlining alongside rock, and even metal, bands. A dedicated Latin stage has been present at Exit since day one, which now seems “almost prophetic”, given the global Latin music rise we see today.

“I respect the investment funds that are taking over festivals, but we have decided to stay independent because we know the festival world needs something like this”

Although line-ups are always eclectic, the billing never tends towards the generic due to the team’s habit of booking based on “gut feeling”, in addition to using data, metrics and ticket sales figures. “The irrational part of us is the one that makes a good line-up,” states Mešković. On a more personal level, the team also strive to work with the artists “who have a similar ethos to ours.”

For Exit, it is vital to “be one with the audience”, making sure every decision is guided by the wants and needs of the fan. To this end, the festival aims to keep tickets affordable, especially for the local audience. “We never want to lose our local fans,” says Kovačević, “because if we did, we would lose our soul.”

In addition to its core audience of locals, Exit’s fan base has become more and more international over the years. Fans travel to Serbia from elsewhere in Europe, as well as from Asia, America and Australia to attend the event.

“We are bringing a lot of tourism into the country,” says the Exit co-founder, explaining that the boost the festival has given to the country’s international reputation is often compared to that made by Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic.

Together with the tennis player, Exit Festival has now set up a foundation to help build nursery schools in Serbia, one example of the festival’s continuation of its social activist roots.

“We know that through a good party and the love of music, you really can engage people in a meaningful way and make a difference”

Another example is Life Stream, the environmental campaign launched by Exit at Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) in October. “The Life Stream project aims to put the festival industry at the forefront of the fight for life on the planet,” explains Kovačević.

The idea is to inject imagery, text and data relating to environmental issues into live streams from music festivals, to harness the “visibility and influence” they have for the good of the planet.

“We don’t want to show despair only,” says Mešković, “we also want to show there is some hope and to mobilise people to take action – because there is still time.”

The upcoming edition of Exit will serve as a major platform for the project, with both Kovačević and Mešković hoping other festivals will follow suit.

“We know that through a good party and the love of music, you really can engage people in a meaningful way and make a difference.”

Exit 2.0 takes place from 9 to 12 July 2020 in Novi Sad, Serbia.

 


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200k fans attend biggest Exit Festival yet

The 2019 edition of Serbia’s Exit Festival broke its previous attendance records, hosting more than 200,000 festivalgoers over the four-day event.

The festival, which took place from 4 to 7 July in a disused fortress, broke its existing daily attendance record of 55,000 on the opening day. Over the four days, attendance surpassed 2018’s total of 198,000.

The record comes ahead of next year’s special celebratory edition, Exit 2.0, which marks the festival’s 20th anniversary of the festival.

Performances across the weekend came from the Cure, Greta van Fleet, the Chainsmokers, Carl Cox and Chase and Status.

Over the four days, attendance surpassed 2018’s total of 198,000

Techno DJ Amelie Lens closed the 25,000-capacity mts Dance Arena on Monday morning. Lens ended the festival with the Prodigy track ‘Firestarter’, paying homage to the band’s late frontman Keith Flint. The Prodigy headlined Exit four times, in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2016.

The festival also featured video messaged from Yoko Ono and Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, who has teamed up with Exit to develop preschool education in Serbia.

Exit organises four other events across south-east Europe: Sea Dance festival in Montenegro, Sea Star in Croatia, Revolution Festival in Romania and No Sleep Festival in Serbia.

 


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