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Festival Focus: Tamás Kádár, Sziget

Since it launched in 1993, Hungary’s Sziget has evolved into one of Europe’s largest festivals, featuring more than 1,000 shows on six stages over six days. With a strong focus on diversity, it attracts people from more than 100 countries and includes a broad range of entertainment including circus, theatre, a museum quarter, and much more. In an excerpt from IQ and Yourope’s European Festival Report, CEO Tamás Kádár looks back at the festival’s return since the pandemic.

What was it like for you and the Sziget team during the pandemic?
First of all, it was a great pleasure to see so many happy faces again on Sziget, the Island of Freedom, in August this year. To be together again and to enjoy music and freedom is always the highlight of my year, but this edition was even more emotional for our entire team after almost three years of pause and waiting.

Financially, it was a very tough ride for our company because the Hungarian government wasn’t willing to provide sufficient support for the culture and live sector during the pandemic, so we had to rely on ourselves. We managed to keep the core team onboard and to somehow keep our heads above water, despite these huge financial and emotional challenges.

Sziget is renowned for its broad international audience – what do you think is the cultural value of attracting people from so many countries to the festival?
I think Sziget is really a Pan-European get-together where young people from all over the world become ‘Szitizens’ of the Island of Freedom. We welcomed fans from over 100 countries in 2022. The festival’s programming is a broad church, from the weirdest of the weird to the most mainstream acts on Earth. We welcome them all. We believe in embracing diversity, respecting human dignity, and looking out for each other.

“I don’t consider this season to be the first edition after Covid-19 but the last during the pandemic”

What trends do you think we will see play out in the next few years at festivals?
I don’t consider this season to be the first edition after Covid-19 but the last during the pandemic. The real comeback for festivals will happen next year, and I think that major festivals will become increasingly successful. I’m conscious of the humanitarian and economic impacts of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, but I strongly believe that festivals can provide a safe haven for our souls where we can enjoy life and hopefully celebrate peace very soon.

What challenges does the festival industry face? And how are you aiming to approach them?
Most of the challenges are things such as inflation, staff shortages, and increasing energy prices, but I think Sziget has learned to manage these things over the past 30 years.

What do you think is the importance of festivals to the cultural landscape?
I think festivals have proven not only to have a strong positive economic impact on local and national level, but they also add a lot [of colour] to the cultural landscape of a society. Sziget is not only a music festival with a very strong international line-up but also a place for local acts and world-class performances from all kinds of genres and artforms. So, it is really a 360-degree performing arts festival, way beyond music.

Read the European Festival Report in full below.

2023 lineups take shape: Superbloom, Sziget and more

Superbloom, Standon Calling, Sziget, Shaky Knees and Kite’s 2023 lineups are taking shape, with rafts of new additions announced.

After its successful debut this year, Goodlive’s Superbloom returns to Munich’s Olympiapark on 2 and 3 September, 2023.

Imagine Dragons, Martin Garrix, Ellie Goulding, Marteria, Badmómzjay, Zara Larsson, Ofenbach, Aurora, LostFrequencies, Giant Rooks, Years & Years and Cat Burns are among the first wave of confirmations for the second instalment.

The inaugural edition sold out, welcoming 50,000 fans each day. Goodlive director Fruzsina Szép reflected on the successful launch in an IQ inteview.

Standon Calling has announced Years & Years, Self Esteem, Bloc Party and The Human League

Elsewhere, the UK’s Standon Calling has announced that Years & Years, Self Esteem, Bloc Party and The Human League will headline the 2023 offering.

Anastacia, Confidence Man, Dylan, Squid, Katy B, KT Tunstall and Melanie C will also perform at the 17th edition of the boutique music and arts festival.

Festival founder and director Alex Trenchard says “We’re so proud of this year’s progress in booking a gender-balanced headline bill.”

The Broadwick Live-owned festival will return to the Hertfordshire countryside between 20 and 23 July 2023.

Across the Atlantic, Shaky Knees has confirmed headliners The Killers, Muse and The Lumineers for the 10th-anniversary edition.

Shaky Knees has confirmed headliners The Killers, Muse and The Lumineers for the 10th-anniversary edition

More than 60 bands will perform across four stages during the 2023 festival, slated for 5–7 May at Central Park, downtown Atlanta.

Greta Van Fleet, Tenacious D, Hozier, The Mars Volta, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Flaming Lips performing “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” Cypress Hill performing “Black Sunday” have also been announced.

The festival is promoted by Live Nation subsidiary C3 Presents, who today announced new festival Palm Tree in Aspen.

Elsewhere, Hungary’s Sziget festival has unveiled the first wave of artists for next year, including headliners Billie Eilish, Florence & The Machine, David Guetta and Imagine Dragons.

Other confirmations include Sam Fender, Foals, Niall Horan, Yungblud, Jamie xx and Nothing But Thieves.

Tinderbox has lined up Maroon 5, George Ezra, Jada, bbno$ and Oliver Malcolm

Europe’s biggest festival will return to Óbuda Island in Budapest between 10 and 15 August 2023.

In Denmark, Tinderbox has lined up Maroon 5, George Ezra, Jada, bbno$ and Oliver Malcolm for the 2023 event, between 22–24 June in Odense, Funen.

Last year, the festival broke records when a daily number of 48,000 people visited the festival again after two years of cancellations.

The UK’s Kite festival today announced it will return for a second year, with musical artists including Hot Chip, Suede, Candi Staton, Lynks and Sarathy Korwar.

Hailed as a “festival of ideas and music,” the Oxfordshire event will also feature authors, actors, comedians, journalists, motivational speakers and more. The festival is set for 9–11 June at Kirtlington Park.

See more festival lineup announcements from the likes of Roskilde, Primavera and Nova Rock here.

 


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Europe’s biggest festivals join sustainability pact

Sziget, Pohoda and Øya are among a slate of European events that have joined the Green Deal Circular Festivals (GDCF) sustainability pact.

Launched in 2019 by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, GDCF brings together participating festivals to share knowledge and experience on sustainability practices in a bid to become circular and climate-neutral by 2025.

Festivals from the GDCF, along with the municipality of Amsterdam and other European cities and regions, gathered at the ADE Green conference during the Amsterdam Dance Event on 21 October in Amsterdam, where 23 new festivals joined the initiative.

Mysteryland (NL), NorthSide (DK), Amsterdam Dance Event (NL), EXIT Festival (RS), Awakenings Festival (NL), Awakenings Summer Festival (NL) and Paradise City Festival (BE), join Sziget (HU), Pohoda (SK) and Øya (DK) in signing on to the cause.

With the 23 new additions, the number of participating parties has more than doubled to 43 festivals from 14 countries

Other new signatories include Boom Festival (PT), Castle Fest (NL), Department Festival (SE, DK), Georgie’s (NL), Komm schon Alter (NL), Lago Lago (NL), Le Guess Who? (NL), Meadows in the Mountains (BG),  Orange Blossom (DE), Welcome to the Village (NL), Wild Paths Festival (UK) and Wonderfeel (NL).

With the 23 new additions, the number of participating parties has more than doubled to 43 festivals from 14 countries.

Existing members of GDCF are Amsterdam Open Air (NL), Best Kept Secret Festival (NL), Boardmasters (UK), Body & Soul (IE), Boomtown (UK), DGTL Amsterdam (NL), Down The Rabbit Hole (NL), Eurosonic Noorderslag (NL), Into The Great Wide Open (NL), Lowlands (NL), Mañana Mañana (NL), Milkshake Festival (NL), North Sea Jazz (NL), Pukkelpop (NL), Roskilde Festival (DK), Shambala (UK), Superbloom (DE), Vierdaagsefeesten (NL), We Love Green (FR) and Zwarte Cross (NL).

 


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Sziget reveals first NFT collection

Hungary’s Sziget Festival has unveiled its first NFT collection, minting its first set of artworks as well as creating the Sziget Festival NFT Club.

During the 2022 event, festival-goers were able to access free NFT versions of key images from previous years, becoming the first SzigetVibes NFT Club members in the process.

Now, in partnership with Nimi Collectibles Inc, the festival has formally announced its entrance into the NFT world. Under the motive ‘Collect memories, not things’ SzigetVibes NFTs allow fans to collect the best moments from the 2022 event experience in the form of original artworks and photographs created during the festival, and with a collaboration with artist Tim King.

For a limited period of time, fans can register online and receive a free NFT as a welcome gift.

The first collection of Sziget NFTs will be dropped via the SzigetVibes website in the autumn

The first collection of Sziget NFTs will be dropped via the SzigetVibes website in the autumn, entitling owners to special benefits such as exclusive festival discounts, special VIP passes and backstage tours.

Held from 10-15 August in Budapest, the latest edition of the 80,000-cap festival boasted a star-studded bill headlined by Arctic Monkeys, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris, Justin Bieber, Kings of Leon and Tame Impala. Organisers say a combined 450,000 people attended across the six days of the event.

Sziget is not the first festival to join the non-fungible token revolution, with Coachella and Governor’s Ball in the US, and Serbia’s Exit Festival among those to previously launch their own line of NFTs.

 


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TicketSwap grows international footprint

Price-capped ‘ethical’ ticket marketplace TicketSwap has expanded to new markets in Europe and Latin America.

The Amsterdam-headquartered firm is growing its international footprint by opening offices in London, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Berlin, Stockholm and São Paulo, which will serve as its first Latin American base.

The company has also signed a multi-year deal with Sziget, the company behind Sziget Festival, to be the brand’s official resale partner until 2026. Other partners include Hellfest (France), LWE (UK), Bootshaus (Germany), Norbergfestival (Sweden), Entourage and Ingresse (Brazil).

“After the pandemic, fan behaviours are changing dramatically, and with over 750,000 people attending our events every year, it’s crucial for us to have an option for fans to safely sell their tickets to other authentic fans,” says Sziget CEO Tamás Kádár. “I’m convinced that the more we see event organisers supporting ethical fan resale sites, the quicker we can bring an end to ticket touts and help protect our fans.”

“We’ve focused on the business growth and expansion to new markets, while reinforcing our presence in existing markets”

The company, which launched in 2012 and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, caps the resale price of tickets at 20% above face value.

Last year, TicketSwap raised $10 million in new funding from Amsterdam-based venture-capital firm Million Monkeys.

“Thanks to our first funding raised in June 2021, we’ve focused on the business growth and expansion to new markets, while reinforcing our presence in existing markets,” says Hans Ober, co-founder and CEO of TicketSwap, which counts 6.5 million users in 36 countries.

TicketSwap is also extending its partnership with Netherlands-based Tomorrowland promoter ID&T Group.

“We’re thrilled to support our partners in this crucial phase for their businesses,” adds Simon Aurik, CMO and CCO of TicketSwap. “Our 10th anniversary is also the perfect occasion for us to give back to the community and partners.”

 


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Yourope restructures, relocates to Germany

European festival association Yourope, which represents 108 festivals including Sziget and Primavera Sound, is restructuring and relocating.

Founded in 1988, the association has ties with London, Roskilde and St.Gallen but as of April 2021, the organisation is based in Bonn, Germany.

The move comes as Christof Huber, director of festivals at the Swiss Gadget ABC Entertainment Group who is also responsible for Yourope member festivals OpenAir St.Gallen and SummerDays, moves from general secretary to working chairman.

Huber will chair Yourope’s executive board and continue to ‘actively steer the association’s fortunes from the top’.

“The importance of our organisation became more obvious than ever last year, because especially in times when major events are impossible due to the pandemic, the need of the actors in this cultural field for exchange, international cooperation and speaking with a common voice grew once again,” says Huber.

“And despite these challenging times we succeeded in restructuring our organisation, expanding the network and securing even closer relationships with valued associates.”

“The importance of our organisation became more obvious than ever last year”

“I look forward to continuing to use my strength and experience for this purpose – together with our members and the new Yourope team.”

Assuming Huber’s former role as general secretary is Holger Jan Schmidt, who was previously anchorman and coordinator of Yourope’s sustainability-related working group Go Group (Green Operations Europe) and Take a Stand, the association’s social engagement initiative.

He will also run Yourope’s new office in Bonn, which will become part of the Bonn-based Compentence Network along with Schmidt’s Bonn Promotion Dept (BN*PD) and the IBIT (International Training Centre for Event Safety), which has been a key contributor to the steering committee of the Yes Group (Yourope Event Safety Group) for years.

“We have been a member of Yourope for almost twenty years – first with our festival, Rheinkultur, and for 10 years as an associated member with the Competence Network here in Bonn,” says Schmidt.

“I have identified with this institution from the beginning and travelled all over Europe with and for Yourope. To talk about festivals, to give festivals the opportunity to exchange, and above all to get to know and experience festivals and their philosophy.

“I couldn’t be prouder and happier to be trusted to take on this new role for Yourope and to continue to work on those issues that are close to my heart. And to do so from my hometown, which means a lot to me.”


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Superstruct makes first acquisition since pandemic

Providence Equity-backed Superstruct Entertainment has bought a majority stake in Dutch festival and event organiser Feestfabriek (Party Factory) – the company’s first acquisition since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

Feestfabriek is responsible for organising the largest paid-for festival in the Netherlands, Zwarte Cross, which combines music, motocross, comedy and theatre, as well as grassroots festival Mañana Mañana, which has been running since 2013.

Superstruct will add the two festivals to its impressive portfolio, which includes one of the world’s biggest festivals, Sziget Festival in Hungary, Budapest, as well as Wacken Open Air in Hamburg, Germany, which was the company’s last acquisition, in August 2019.

Neither Superstruct nor Feestfabriek has disclosed the terms of the new deal.

According to a statement from Superstruct, nothing will change for visitors to the festivals and employees of the Feestfabriek, nor for the parties that the Feestfabriek works with.

The company also says there are no plans to change Zwarte Cross, Mañana Mañana nor any other activities of Feestfabriek.

“Superstruct works from the philosophy that local core values, creative aspects and specialties that characterise an event will always be respected, so that the events remain truly unique.

“We trust the Feestfabriek team to continue doing it as it has been up to now. It is a long-term partnership and we look forward to working together,” the company’s statement reads.

“We trust the Feestfabriek team to continue doing it as it has been up to now. It is a long-term partnership”

The statement says that the companies combined network of events offers ‘broad possibilities’ associated with programming, international partnerships, new events and joint purchasing.

Feestfabriek owners, Hendrik Jan Lovink, Gijs Jolink and Ronnie Degen, say: “We are pleased that in these difficult times the continuity of the Feestfabriek is guaranteed and we look to the future and growth opportunities with confidence!”

Co-founder Hendrik Jan Lovink has announced plans to step down after 30 years at the company.

“We have really managed to build something special together, the Zwarte Cross is rock solid and the Feestfabriek can continue for years to come on all fronts. That is why this feels to me (however contradictory it may be) as the right moment to be able to leave the Feestfabriek and to focus on other beautiful things that life still has to offer me and my family,” he says.

Lovink will leave after this year’s addition of Zwarte Cross, which has been rescheduled to 23-26 September and relocated, though a new location is yet to be determined.

“With this relocation ahead we can’t say with certainty that the event will take place in 2021. There is uncertainty for everyone… the size of the Zwarte Cross is not exactly helping in this case,” the statement reads.

 


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The New Bosses: Virág Csiszár, Sziget Cultural Management

The New Bosses 2020 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 93 this month, revealing the 12 promising promoters, bookers, agents, and A&R and production experts that make up this year’s list.

To get to know this year’s cream of the crop a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2020’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success. Catch up on the previous New Bosses interview with Madie Cavilla, a senior account manager at Paradigm Talent in the UK here.

The next New Boss in the spotlight is Virág Csiszár (30), international booking manager at Sziget Cultural Management (SCM) in Hungary. Having finished her university studies, Csiszár joined SCM, which organises Hungary’s leading music festivals such as Sziget, VOLT, Balaton Sound, Strand Festival and many other events. She is involved in more than 150 shows every year, primarily through the festivals and headline gigs at Akvárium Klub in Budapest. In 2019, she received the highest state award for young talent in tourism from the Hungarian government.

 


What are you working on right now?
Booking the artists for the 2021 editions of our festivals

What are some of the highlights of your career to date?
I will always be proud that I worked on the first Hungarian festival appearances of Foo Fighters and Depeche Mode, and the first-ever Hungarian shows of Linkin Park, Lana Del Rey, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Shawn Mendes. Bringing artists to our country and introducing them to the Hungarian audience is an important mission for me.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt working in live music?
Accepting the fact that we can’t prepare for unforeseen incidents – neither in the booking process nor at the festival site. No matter how prepared we are, there will be things we can’t control and we have to find solutions that hurt the least.

“Bringing artists to our country and introducing them to the Hungarian audience is an important mission for me”

Did you always want to work in festivals?
I grew up in a family of artists. I remember when I was about five years old, my parents took me to see the stadium shows of Michael Jackson and Rolling Stones in Budapest. I’m lucky to be able to work in an industry that I’ve loved from a very young age.

What’s it like working in the Hungarian market?
Although we are a small market, Sziget is one of the biggest and most famous festivals in Europe with thousands of visitors coming from all around the world. I was born and raised in Budapest, showing my beautiful capital to so many great people through the festival is an incredible experience.

What impact has Covid-19 has on your job?
We needed to cancel all our events in 2020 which is something that never happened before in the history of our festivals. It was extremely sad to let go of all the shows we’ve been working on tirelessly for months but at the same time, we started to work on our line ups for the summer of 2021, hoping that we are going to be over the virus situation by then.

“No matter how prepared we are, there will be things we can’t control and we have to find solutions”

Do you have a mentor in the industry?
A few years ago, I lost an amazing mentor, colleague and friend, Dan Panaitescu, who was the international booking manager of our company. I never felt ready to take over such an important and responsible role, but I feel privileged having the support of all these amazing people around me every day.

What advice would you give to someone who’s new to the business?
Let yourself enough rest to be able to stay creative and curious about new things.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a festival booker?
Coping with constantly growing artist fees; finding a solution for a billing on our poster that all our headliners are happy with; and, on the human side, finding the right balance between private life and work.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
I’m a “live in the moment” type of person, so I can’t even plan that far ahead.

 


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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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Sziget 2020 cancelled as Hungary extends events ban

Sziget, one of Europe’s largest and popular music festivals, will not take place in 2020, promoters have announced, as Hungary extends its ban on large-scale events until mid-August.

In a press conference this morning (30 April), Gergely Gulyás, Hungarian head of the prime minister’s office, announced that while some restrictions will be eased beginning the week of 4 May, events larger than 500 people are off limits until 15 August to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Both Sziget, the seven-day, 90,000-capacity Budapest event, and its sister festival, Balaton Sound on Lake Balaton, are affected by ban, with both festivals postponed until 2021, says Superstruct-backed organiser Sziget Cultural Management.

“Sziget has always been special because of the atmosphere that you, our Szitizens, create, and we are devastated that we won’t be able to see you on the Island of Freedom [in Budapest] this summer,” reads a statement announcing Sziget’s cancellation.

“Sharing an unforgettable week with you is what keeps us going throughout the year, and while our whole team has been working very hard on preparing for the festival your Sziget adventure will now have to wait until 2021.

“We are devastated that we won’t be able to see you on the Island of Freedom this summer”

“As hard as it is, we believe that this decision best serves the safety of all of you and everyone working at our festival.”

Sziget 2020, scheduled for 5–11 August, would have featured performances from Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Kings of Leon, the Strokes, Asap Rocky, Major Lazy, Stormzy and more.

Hungary is the latest European country to have put the brakes on large music festivals this summer, following the Netherlands, where large events are banned until 1 September; Switzerland, Ireland, GermanyBelgium and Denmark, where a ban is in place until 31 August; and Luxembourg and Finland, which have prohibited mass gatherings until 31 July. France, meanwhile, has given mid-July as the earliest date when events could go ahead, while Austria has identified the end of June.

Among the other Hungarian festivals set to cancel are Colorado Festival (Nagykovácsi), Fishing on Orfű (Orfű) and Volt Festival (Sopron) in June, and Rock Marathon (Dunaújváros), Campus Festival (Debrecen), Bánkitó Festival (Bánk), Valley of Arts (Kapolcs), FEZEN (Székesfehérvár) and EFOTT (Lake Velence) in July, reports Hungary Today.

 


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