The last couple of years has seen many new players join the Central and Eastern European festival scene, along with the growth of existing events, which have been entertaining the crowds for years – creating a mutual sharing market. Major events like Sziget and Exit are becoming increasingly popular internationally. Sziget, for example, has seen its international audience increase tremendously over the last decade. Last year, the Island of Freedom has welcomed visitors from over 100 countries – people are coming for the unique Sziget vibe, as well as the beer and the wide range of music and art styles represented at the festival.
Take the case of the Sziget festival itself, which started as a low-key student event in 1993 and featured the ‘a place away from the world’ atmosphere at its surface. Since then the festival has more or less been the staple gathering of music lovers from not only Budapest and around but also from quite a lot of prominent Western Europe countries. To put it into perspective, ever since its homely beginnings in 1993 the festival saw a surge in the visitors to the tune of 250,000 in 1997.
Some say the festivals lots their magic while going on an international scale with such an astounding growth and wome went as far as to say they’d better stay at home and play Wild Jack casino games instead of spending a week on the Island of Freedom . Indeed, playing a game at the Wild Jack is no alternative to the seven days of art and indie performances at Sziget, but it can be just as rewarding for some than a live event.
Back to the subject, what is staggering is that the number now is touching a double mark – in 2016 it was 496,000 visitors – and it would be safe to assume that in 2017 the amount would have touched the double. To wit, that is a impressive increase and only marks the importance of the festival to all of Europe as it caters to crowds from over 95 countries. To put stamps on its value, the festival was named as one of the 5 best festivals in Europe in 2011 and even won the Best Major European Festival in 2011 and 2014.
Exit festival’s story is also no different, albeit it does have a more progressive roots when it comes to the role of students in starting it. Held in city of Novi Sad, Serbia and branding itself as a socially responsible festival community, Exit festival was starting 2000 and risen through the ranks to make itself popular among the European crowd.
In terms of accolades and crowds, Exit 2002 saw a thumping 250,000 visitors – its highest ever although it has been steady ever since. Exit was also voted as ‘Best Overseas Festival’ at the UK Festivals Award in 2007 and in 2013. What’s more is the flurry of the top ten major festivals awards that Exit won in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 at the European Festivals Award which further go to stamp its credentials.
If trends are to be believed – and seldom lie and deceive – Exit and Sziget look set to gather more pace on the front of being major European festivals. For starters, they’ve had the attention of the native crowds for a long time and are gaining traction with the foreign crowds and the Dance music scene in Europe looks brighter than ever. Whatever the future may hold, it is not only that Exit and Sziget have a bright future but also that the industry needs new major venues, locations and experiences.