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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Perfect partnerships: 2022’s innovative activations
Sponsorship is a key revenue stream for festivals, whilst music and arts events are excellent ways for companies and charities to expose their messages to receptive audiences. In an excerpt from IQ and Yourope’s European Festival Report, we profile some of the most innovative partnerships in 2022.
Commercial partnerships are key for most festivals, with many companies eager to benefit from the association with a festival brand and access to its audience. However, it’s important to create an activation that not only aligns with the company’s goals but matches the audience’s expectations without damaging the event’s reputation.
But how do you ensure your partnership brand is met with approval by festivalgoers? How do you know the partner you’re working with won’t be viewed negatively by them? And even if they are receptive to your brand/message, how do you calculate the success of the activation when the measurements of success are not as sophisticated as they could be.
Well, thanks to a new big data collaboration with Aalborg University’s techno-anthropologists (yes, they do exist), Roskilde festival in Denmark might have solved these issues.
Together they have created a new online open-source platform called Culturography, which enables organisations to understand and visualise how their target group – and the broader public – engages in different aspects of societal issues online.
Roskilde’s online tool analyses social media posts from fans and the public that show where interests of different groups of people overlap
The online tool analyses social media posts from fans and the public that show where interests of different groups of people overlap. This use of big data enables festivals to understand whether a brand and its activities are a good fit.
“Every time we engage in a commercial partnership, there are three basic steps that we go through. There’s finding the partnership, signing the partnership, and then monetising it. This method was very helpful for all three,” says Roskilde’s head of partnerships, Andreas Groth Clausen.
“Normally, when I present the idea of a partnership with Roskilde Festival to a company, it’s just me, and I’m hoping that the person I’m talking to is a fan of a particular festival or can see the idea. With this digital database, we can actually tell them what our audience is interested in. We can show them our fans are really engaged with some of their competitors, but they’re not interacting with them. So, the starting point changed significantly when we introduced these visualisations to our partners.”
The tool also helps the festival and the brand design an activation onsite that hits the appropriate demographics, by identifying the key touchpoints certain groups are interested in. This minimises the risk of running an activation that doesn’t chime with festival-goers.
As a non-profit organisation, Roskilde festival is making the software available to everyone. But there’s still some development required – currently the data is interpreted by experts from the university, whilst the goal is to develop the software further so that it removes this requirement.
“Trasholution” incentivises people to pick up litter by gamifying the process
“That’s the last challenge for us – to build a tool that’s just plug-and-play for everybody. As good as it is right now, it’s still a work in progress, but we can make it even better. We are going to do that in the years to come,” says Groth Clausen.
FKP Scorpio: Trasholution
FKP Scorpio festivals Hurricane, Southside, Highfield, and M’era Luna launched a new concept for waste management in summer ‘22. “Trasholution” incentivises people to pick up litter by gamifying the process – and it was used to benefit social causes, too. Every full rubbish bag was counted by the festival and triggered a donation of €1 to social projects in the region of each festival. This was live-tracked and visible for all festivalgoers, further motivating them to hand in their rubbish. As soon as a donation goal was achieved, the German company launched the counter for the next one.
“This is so important because if the festival waste is separated cleanly, its recyclable materials can be sorted out much better and returned to the material cycle,” says FKP Scorpio managing director Stephan Thanscheidt. “So, we’re achieving two good things with one concept: donations for social causes, as well as more sustainability.”
Flow and Polestar
As one of the world’s first carbon-neutral festivals, Finland’s Flow fest is renowned for its environmentally friendly credentials. So, it was especially important for them to work with brands that shared its ethos.
Polestar’s commitment to bring 100% electric premium car products to the world, led them to partner with the Superstruct Entertainment-owned event to bring their brand statements to Flow’s highly eco-conscious fan community.
With a campaign aimed at building brand awareness and affinity in Finland, Polestar gave selected ticket holders exclusive drives to the festival as well as pairing with Tiilikello venue for an exclusive art installation, matching both the festival and brand’s minimalist image.
At Latitude and Wilderness, professional Bacardí mixologists offered cocktail-making classes for attendees
Live Nation and Bacardí
With 2022 being the first full year back after the pandemic, Bacardí partnered with Live Nation in the UK to join the celebrations for the return of festivals, signing a multi-year deal to be the official spirit partner across ten events.
A drinks brand could be considered an expected sponsor for a festival, which was exactly what inspired Bacardí to create spectacular spaces full of thoughtful surprises and touches.
The partners created physical spaces that became destinations in their own right at festivals. Each was tailored to the festival audience’s tastes and preferences, such as Casa Bacardí (at Reading, Parklife, and Wireless), a two-story dance destination programmed with world-renowned DJs and premium rum cocktails; or Haçienda Patrón (at Wilderness and Latitude), a Tulum-inspired space.
Bacardí also used its spaces creatively by inviting fans to experience its brands in new ways. At Latitude and Wilderness, professional Bacardí mixologists offered cocktail-making classes for attendees. Bacardí also programmed established and up-and-coming DJs at Casa Bacardí to support its Music Liberates Music initiative, an ongoing programme designed to champion underrepresented voices in the music industry.
The results reached 3m in-person attendees and 10m followers on social media.
Jay Williamson, VP of marketing partnerships for Live Nation UK, said: “The Bacardí team truly understands how live music is one of the rare things that can bring people together, and the opportunity to work with them this summer on creating lifelong memories for fans was an incredible privilege.”
Wacken Open Air partnered with brewery Krombacher to put together a band made up of rare native species under threat
Wacken Open Air and Krombacher: Growling Creatures
Have you ever heard an endangered animal sing metal? Well, now’s your chance. This year, German festival Wacken Open Air partnered with brewery Krombacher to put together a band made up of rare native species that are under threat: Growling Creatures.
To raise awareness of the plight of these animals, three songs featuring the calls of a variety of animals were released by the ‘group.’ Nest Destroyer included the sounds of the cuckoo and grey shrike over a melodic death metal tune. The brown hare and lynx contributed to metalcore banger Furry Inferno. And the female bison and grey seal joined together for death metal song Small Number Of The Beast.
The songs were released on Spotify and videos were posted on YouTube and social channels, as well as running on stage screens between bands. Band T-shirts were also sold.
All proceeds from the campaign will be donated to the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) of Germany.
“The audience response as well as the media was very positive,” says festival spokesman Peter Klapproth. “All three songs were professional produced and went down well in the metal scene. The campaign created a reach of over 8m, which made the whole cooperation very successful for all parties involved and most importantly created the awareness for the endangered species.”
The partnership was such a success that plans are already in place to continue it next year.
Emerging artist Madalena Pequito ran a workshop of festivalgoers that positioned art as a pillar for sustainability
MEO Kalorama and Underdogs
While audiences filled their ears with music from the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Arctic Monkeys, and Disclosure, new Portuguese festival MEO Kalorama also filled their eyes with art, thanks to a partnership with Lisbon-based cultural platform Underdogs.
Promoter Last Tour invited the art organisation to undertake three different initiatives that involved several people from the Underdogs’ diverse roster of Portuguese and international artists.
The first part of this collaboration was a large-scale intervention by Portuguese visual artist AkaCorleone called Temple of Sound, which saw the entire main stage decorated with work, as part of his ongoing Temple of Light project.
Elsewhere, an art gallery was built dedicated to displaying over 30 exclusive Underdogs artworks by a diversity of artists, including Felipe Pantone, Okuda San Miguel, Tamara Alves, Vhils, Wasted Rita, and many others.
And sustainability was a key theme for the third intervention – emerging artist Madalena Pequito ran a workshop of festivalgoers that positioned art as a pillar for sustainability. She invited the audience to illustrate the 17 sustainable development goals established by the United Nations.
Jazz in the Park bought six GoPro cameras, which festivalgoers borrowed for 45 minutes at a time to record their experience
Jazz in the Park and Mega Image
Most people who work on festivals never get to experience it as audiences do. But for its 10th anniversary in 2022, Romanian festival Jazz in the Park set about changing that. Thanks to a partnership with supermarket Mega Image, the festival bought six GoPro cameras and set-up a station that saw people borrow a camera for 45 minutes at a time and record their experience. The 180 people shot 96 hours of footage, which was edited into a “People’s Aftermovie,” which was released on social media.
“We were a bit nervous about people’s response[s] to being invited to film,” admits festival founder and manager Alin Vaida. “But the cameras were used almost all the time. People love the opportunity to just fool around and film their family, their preferred concerts, and so on. After the first day, people started asking about where they could get the cameras, and there was a good level of interest in the activation.”
The resulting film is unlike any traditional marketing movie, showing the event in a truly authentic manner, as even some of the ‘less desirable’ elements of the event, (such as the poor weather on the first two days) were included.
Communications manager Sergiu Topan says when the first draft arrived from the editor, he ran into Vaida’s office and shouted “It’s great!”
Vaida adds: “We are a relatively small office, and it’s usually quite noisy. But when the team got the video, there was just seven minutes of total silence. People were trying to be poker-faced about it, but I could see some of them wiping away tears. It was amazing. Watching the film was the first proof in 10 or 11 months or more that we had done something brilliant.”
He says sponsor Mega Image’s response was “really good.” So much so that there are now plans to increase the budget next year so they can buy more GoPros and have more people involved. “The word-of-mouth regarding the brand activation was excellent, too,” he adds.
EXIT’s fortress walls were painted with words of emotional and psychological support
EXIT and mental health
With global events such as the pandemic, the economic crisis, and the war in Ukraine continuing to impact people’s lives, organisers of EXIT Festival in Serbia had a special focus on mental health at the 2022 edition.
The walls of the festival site’s fortress were painted with words of emotional and psychological support, while the messages were also presented on the screens of the big stages.
Many people have encountered anxiety, fear, depression, loneliness, and other related difficulties in the past two years. This is why the festival further strengthened its relationship with Novi Sad-based suicide prevention and mental health support organisation Srce Centre. The festival has worked with the centre for years, and this year the partnership was extended to bring more mental support locations to the fortress, namely at the Foodland, the OPENS State of EXIT zone, and in the EXIT camp.
And it’s not only the audience that could get help. EXIT says it is the only organisation in the music industry with two mental health experts on the team throughout the year. Over the course of the festival, other psychologists and psychotherapists were onsite to support the backstage teams and performers whenever needed.
The Power Hour sees attendees gather at Defqon.1’s main stage for 60 minutes of DJs mixing high-energy tunes
Defqon.1 and Red Bull
One of the key moments during Dutch hardstyle festival Defqon.1 is the Power Hour – which sees attendees gather at the main stage for 60 minutes of DJs mixing high-energy tunes with lightning transitions – it’s an intense moment that sees the audience go crazy.
Festival organiser Q-dance (a brand of Superstruct Entertainment-owned ID&T) partnered with Red Bull to make this year’s Power Hour truly something to remember. Opening with Red Bull athlete Bicho Carrera, it featured an aerial display that included multiple Red Bull assets such as an aerobatic flight and the helicopter from The Flying Bulls.
During the left-to-right moment, which sees the whole crowd dancing from side to side, the Red Bull helicopter joined in, hovering from left to right, too. Additional activation included special Power Hour-branded Red Bull four-packs, which were sold onsite and in the campsites and included an illuminated LED cup.
This moment was captured in video and generated significant reach and viewership over digital platforms on both Red Bull and Defqon.1 channels.
“We had almost 4m (organic) total online reach and counting,” says Q-dance brand partnerships manager Jack van Mourik. “When answering the question ‘How would you rate the Red Bull show moments during Power Hour?’ the average score was an 8.59 out of 10 in our Defqon.1 survey and was experienced as ‘very positive.’”
At Ab geht die Lutzi Festival and Rocken am Brocken, a small PENNY.Festivals Kiosk was set-up
Many festivals and PENNY
For many years, German supermarket brand PENNY has supported the German festival scene – most prominently with its sponsorship of Parookaville. But for the return after Covid, it wanted to expand its help. So multifaceted festivals platform Höme used a survey of 37,000 festivalgoers to find out how the 2,150-store company could offer the best support. What they discovered led them to develop a broad range of activations across multiple festivals under a new sub-brand, PENNY.Festivals.
Alongside its activations with Parookaville, which include two big stores, the DJ-Tower with its legendary pre-party on Thursday and up to 20,000 visitors, the brand ran smaller and different modules at 16 festivals.
Among the activations were the PENNY.Festivals Shuttle, which saw festivalgoers at Burning Beach and Happiness Festival able to leave the festival site free of charge, drive to the nearest PENNY branch, and stock up on food and essentials. At other events, such as Ab geht die Lutzi Festival and Rocken am Brocken, the smaller PENNY.Festivals Kiosk was set-up; while elsewhere the PENNY.Festivals Food For Good Foodtruck offered vegetarian and vegan food. A number of festivals had digital partnerships.
And it wasn’t just audiences that benefitted from the support. PENNY also supported November 2022 conference Festival Playground, which brought together 150 different festivals of different sizes and genres.
“With this new concept, PENNY is once again strengthening its position as a reliable partner and supporter of the German festival industry,” says Höme’s Laura Pfeiffer.
“The response from the audience was great. For example, the Kiosk was always almost completely sold out after the first day (even though we ordered more than twice as much from the first to the second time). PENNY saw recognition at a huge variety of events. Our Instagram channel reached 10,000 followers within seven months. Festival attendees, especially from smaller festivals, are always happy to find our services at these events because it’s unusual to find big brands like PENNY there.”
Pfeiffer says this new approach is part of a three-year plan with the brand. “The first year was all about testing. Next year is all about improvements and taking the learnings from the first year to another level. Last but not least, the issue of scalability and the long-term implementation should also not be ignored.”
Read the European Festival Report in full below.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.