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Alter Art: ‘The festival sector is facing a new reality’

Alter Art CEO Mikołaj Ziółkowski has spoken to IQ about the raft of new challenges facing the festival sector in 2023.

The Warsaw-based promoter is behind some of Poland’s biggest and best-known festivals, such as Open’er, Orange Warsaw and Kraków Live – which was recently cancelled.

“2023 is full of challenges for the live music industry in general, but I think the biggest ones concern the festival sector,” says Ziółkowski. “Super high costs of festival setup in all aspects, artists’ rising fees, unstable economical situations and the post-pandemic reality – those are the main factors that create a quite new industry reality. On top of this, we must mention a record number of stadium tours in 2023 in Europe, which became a new factor for the festival market.”

“This year, the live music industry is characterised by high volatility. There is a whole lot of revaluation and new challenges that appear in this space. In general, this is not the best year for the festival industry and we also see this year through the prism of so many spectacular headlining shows – especially global stadium tours. My general feelings are that our industry is changing very quickly and new architecture is on. Looking at all these challenges, all the more we appreciate how great this year’s Open’er edition was.”

The 20th anniversary of Open’er took place between 28 June and 1 July 2023, at its usual home of Gdynia-Kosakowo Airport on Poland’s Baltic coast, with 225,000 tickets sold.

“This year, the live music industry is characterised by high volatility”

This year’s all-star line-up was headlined by Arctic Monkeys, Lizzo, Lil Nas X, SZA and Kendrick Lamar, with support from acts including Labrinth, Caroline Polachek, Rina Sawayama and Queens Of The Stone Age.

“We are very pleased with how this line-up was built: it was up-to-date, diverse and progressive,” says Ziółkowski. “This is a programming challenge and satisfactory results are not always achieved, but we are thrilled with the final line-up. It’s not a coincidence, but a conscious decision and dedicated work. Our goal was to create a lineup that reflects the values ​​of the festival and characterises the event and what it wants to be –open to other cultures, possibilities, horizons and perspectives.”

Another key achievement for Open’er this year was optimising the production and enhancing the visitor experience, according to the Alter Art CEO.

“This year is the first year of regular production processes since the pandemic, so we focused on making all elements at the level they worked before the pandemic or even better,” says Ziółkowski. “Now that the festival has ended, we can say with confidence that the production, organisation, transport and all the bits and pieces turned out very well – our audience appreciated it. We focused on production, site, festival experience improvement and we are very proud that we’ve managed it as a team.”

With successful editions of Open’er and Orange Warsaw behind them, Alter Art’s attention turns to Kraków Live – which will move from its longtime home in 2024 – and Taylor Swift’s 2024 Warsaw dates, which the company will promoter in cooperation with AEG.


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Two major Polish festivals called off for 2023

Poland’s festival summer has rapidly diminished with the cancellations of two major events: Kraków Live and On Air.

“Festivalgoers, Kraków Live will have its beginning in a new formula and place next year. See you in summer 2024!” reads a statement posted on Kraków Live’s Facebook page, on 5 June.

Promoter Alter Art, which also organises Open’er and Orange Warsaw, last year announced that Kraków Live would move from its longtime home of the Polish Aviation Museum due to site changes, but added that the event would return in 2023. Ultimately, no details of the 2023 edition were given before it was pulled.

Kraków Live has taken place at the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków since 2007 and was known as Coke Live Festival until 2013.

The two-day event has hosted stars such as Calvin Harris, Post Malone, Travis Scott, Lewis Capaldi and The Chemical Brothers, and typically attracts 60,000 people each year.

“Kraków Live will have its beginning in a new formula and place next year”

On Air, a new festival from Fest Festival promoter Follow the Step, was also cancelled this week on Wednesday (7 June).

“We made a decision to postpone our festival to next year,” reads a statement on On Air’s Facebook page. “The second edition will take place in September 2024,” the statement continues, adding that refunds or ticket exchanges will be offered to ticketholders.

On Air was due to return to the 70,000-capacity Bemowo airport in Warsaw between 8 and 9 September 2023, with the line-up yet to be announced.

Following last year’s debut, Follow the Step co-founder Maciej Korczak told IQ of the challenging but rewarding launch.

“Launching a new festival is never easy, especially in the post-pandemic times,” says Korczak. “The biggest challenge that we faced was that On Air took place at the very end of the festival season and a lot of fans already used their festival budget.

“Normally it wouldn’t be a problem as it’s actually a good time for organising a festival in the capital – people are coming back from holidays and students to the universities – but this year because of the high inflation and because of many festivals and events being moved to this summer due to the pandemic, it meant that tickets were harder to sell this year.”

IQ has contacted Follow the Step and Alter Art for comment on the cancellations.


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