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Poland’s Fest Festival files for bankruptcy

Fest Festival, one of the fastest-growing music festivals in eastern Europe, has filed for bankruptcy after selling only 50% of its tickets for the 2023 edition.

The fourth edition of the Follow The Step-promoted event was due to take place this weekend (9–13 August) at Silesia Park in Chorzów, near Katowice, with acts including The Chemical Brothers, Peggy Gou and Kasabian.

Today’s announcement comes two months after the Polish promoter cancelled the second edition of its Warsaw festival, On Air.

In a statement published on Fest Festival‘s website, organisers said today is “the most painful day in the history of Fest Festival”.

“Our festival was in a phase of dynamic growth, with attendance increasing by over 30% each year,” reads the statement. “Such dynamic development led us to believe that this year would be just as successful. However, despite the tremendous support from many of our partners and sponsors, this year’s crisis in the event and entertainment industry significantly reduced ticket sales, making our projections incorrect.

“Despite tremendous support, this year’s crisis in the industry significantly reduced sales, making our projections incorrect”

“In the last few weeks, we have done everything in our power to cope with this new situation. We used all available funds for event organisation and the necessary preparations. Over the past months, we held discussions with public institutions, sponsors, and funds to secure additional funding for this year’s edition. We reduced costs and diversified promotional channels. Unfortunately, none of these actions yielded the expected results or secured the finances for the upcoming event. We fought with all our might until the last moment. ”

The first edition of Fest Festival took place in 2019 and drew 16,000 people each day, placing the festival among the largest music events in Poland. Organisers called it “the most challenging period in our country’s history to launch a new festival initiative”.

“Any new project of this kind requires several years to reach profitability,” continues the statement. “In our case, the previous editions of the festival were funded from ongoing operations, contributions from the owners, and loans from external companies. Despite four years of efforts, the project did not receive sufficient support from public entities, which significantly complicated its organisation.”

In 2020, Follow The Step was forced to cancel the second edition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, Fest Festival was permitted to go ahead at full capacity but under strict Covid-19 rules. With 35,000 festivalgoers over four days, it was the biggest event in Poland in 2021.

The following year was just as challenging due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Poland’s neighbouring country, which saw “a massive hike in inflation and a twofold increase in costs, putting the festival in an exceptionally challenging situation”.

“We are forced to initiate bankruptcy proceedings, which prevents the company from making any payments at the moment”

“We managed to overcome last year’s problems, but 2023 painfully verified our plans – in mid-June, the 30% sales growth trend of tickets reversed, resulting in lower sales compared to the previous edition of Fest. Other issues did not help either – a further significant increase in event organisation costs due to inflation, exceptionally strict “upfront” payment conditions for subcontractors and artists, the international crisis, lack of expected support from the province, and a delay of 5 days in handing over the event site.”

Warsaw-based Follow The Step says Fest Festival 2023 ticketholders will be contacted about the refund process but adds that “in the current situation, we are forced to initiate bankruptcy proceedings, which prevents the company from making any payments at the moment. This is the only way for us to settle the organisation of the festival.”

Other festivals that will not take place in 2023 include Falls Festival (Australia), Rolling Loud (US), Summerburst (Sweden), Hills of Rock (Bulgaria), InMusic (Croatia), Wireless GermanyHear Hear (Belgium) and Tempelhof Sounds and Tempelhof Sounds Presents (Germany).

Follow The Step was launched in 2015 by Maciej Korczak and Marcin Szymanowski. The agency owns two music venues (Smolna and Praga Centrum) and seven festivals (World Wide Warsaw, Made in WWA, Summer Contrast, FEST Festival, On Air Festival, and Undercity) and organises over 100 international headline shows per year.

 


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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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Poland’s Follow the Step on launching On Air festival

Follow the Step co-founder Maciej Korczak has spoken to IQ about the challenging but rewarding launch of new festival On Air.

The inaugural edition took place last weekend in Warsaw and was the Polish promoter’s first outdoor festival in the capital city.

The two-day event debuted at the 70,000-capacity Bemowo Airport, which has hosted concerts from the likes of Madonna and Metallica, as well as three editions of Sonisphere festival between 2010 and 2012.

On Air, meanwhile, saw artists including Tame Impala, Jorja Smith, Celeste and The Kooks perform across two stages at the airport.

“Our main goal is to book A-list artists,” says Korczak. “We are really proud of the line-up – hosting such artists at the first edition of the festival is a dream.

“On Air was already hailed by people and the media as one of the best festivals in Warsaw and Poland.”

“We are really proud of the line-up – hosting such artists at the first edition of the festival is a dream”

Even with a star-studded lineup, a myriad of external issues meant that Follow the Step didn’t sell as many tickets as it hoped for the inaugural edition.

High inflation and a saturated market were key obstacles for the festival, alongside a less-than-ideal weather forecast for the weekend.

“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.

“We also had to allocate a significant portion of the budget to raise awareness among people about the existence of the festival and break through the noise about other summer events that already had their fanbase.”

With that said, Follow the Step has already announced the second edition of the festival, set to take place on 8 and 9 September 2023 at the same location.

In addition to On Air, the Warsaw-based festival and concert agency promoter organises marquee event Fest Festival, based in Chorzów, which this year marked a record attendance.

 


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Poland’s Fest Festival draws 50,000 to third edition

Fest Festival welcomed 50,000 attendees over four days for this year’s edition, marking a record attendance for the Polish festival.

The third annual event, promoted by Warsaw-based promoter Follow The Step, took place between 10 and 13 August at Chorzów’s Silesia Park – the largest park in Europe.

The Chainsmokers, Rudimental, Nothing But Thieves, Rüfüs du Sol, James Arthur and Jungle were among the 200 artists performing across 11 stages during Fest.

“The third edition of Fest Festival came to an end and was hailed by festivalgoers and media as the most beautiful festival this summer in Poland,” says a spokesperson from Follow The Step.

The Chainsmokers, Rudimental and Nothing But Thieves were among the 200 artists performing across 11 stages

“During the whole festival, we gathered almost 50,000 attendees – a record attendance for Fest – and the festival ran continuously for 120 hours.

“Fest Festival means way more than an exceptional music celebration. The festival town plays a special role that encourages festivalgoers to take the most from its attractions such as artistic performances, social campaigns and workshops.”

Unlike the vast majority of European festivals, Fest Festival was able to go ahead last year, with 35,000 Covid-19-vaccinated concertgoers. The 2021 edition was the largest event to take place in Poland that year.

Follow The Step continues its festival season with On Air, slated to take place on 9 and 10 September in Warsaw.

 


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Years & Years show to be livestreamed on demand

Years & Years homecoming show from London’s OVO Arena Wembley will be available to watch On Demand via new live event streaming platform On Air.

Recorded on 26 May as part of the Night Call Tour, the show will be available to watch in 4K UHD Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision from 7pm on 11 August.

“I’m so happy and excited to share this performance from the Night Call Tour,” says Years & Years’ Olly Alexander. “I grew up loving concert videos of Britney, the Spice Girls and Madonna so this is literally a dream come true.

“This show, created with Theo Addams, is a delirious night out that begins in a phone box and ends with a cosmic impalement. There are toilet cubicles, motorbikes, a magic chair and a giant bed along the way. I had the best time. It’s not possible for me to physically take this show around the world so it’s a great feeling to have it captured like this and to be able to share it with everybody.”

On Air has previously worked with artists including Arlo Parks and Skepta

Originally formed as a band, Years & Years is now an Alexander solo project. Represented by One Fiinix Live agent Jess Kinn outside of North America, he performed on the Other Stage at last weekend’s Glastonbury festival, with upcoming tour dates including Poland’s Open’er Festival (29 July), Montreux Jazz Festival (1 July), the UK’s Wilderness Festival (4 August) and Spain’s DCode Festival (17 September)

Launched in 2020, On Air has previously worked with artists including Arlo Parks and Skepta, as well as announcing an upcoming show with Tinie Tempah. On Air events promise to create an innovative and immersive experience optimised for streaming – including high-quality production, lighting and set design.

As part of its ongoing partnership with not-for-profit charity One Tree Planted, On Air will be planting one tree for every ticket purchased from their website for the Years & Years show.

 


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