Quiet Market Lifts Off

Charmenko’s Baris Basaran gives two key reasons why Off Festival will be successful: The fact that Poland is one of the very few old Eastern Bloc markets that isn’t overplayed, and that famous local rocker Artur Rojek founded the event.

The 2-year-old gathering on a 15,000-capacity park and forest site at Myslowice doubled its first-year attendance, attracting 6,500 punters per day August 17-18.

Basaran, part of the Charmenko team that books 15 festivals and hundreds of club shows in the eastern and central European and Balkan regions, will continue to steadily grow the event over the next few years, but remain as an essentially "indie festival."

"We would look to be booking the sort of acts that are at the stage that Arcade Fire, for example, has reached this summer," he explained.

"There is only one major festival in Poland, which is Heineken Open’er, and many think that’s as much as the market needs. But I think there’s room for Off Festival as well because it offers a smaller – although growing – alternative," Basaran told Pollstar.

Basaran also believes the lack of a major corporate sponsor, despite limiting the budget in the early years, can be seen as something of a plus.

"It’s a free festival in the sense that it’s not tied to brands, which, along with Rojek’s involvement, gives it an independent image," he explained.

Rojek is a member of Myslovitz, which has been on the Polish rock scene for 11 years and scooped all the country’s major music biz prizes, including a Fryderyks Statues – the equivalent of the U.K.’s Brit Awards – and a clutch of MTV gongs.

Basaran said the act’s following puts it at a level similar to Radiohead in the former Communist countries.

"I decided to call it Off Festival in order to create an event directed at the alternative acts beneath Poland’s mainstream music," Rojek said. "There are many interesting and talented artists waiting for their chance. At the moment they don’t get sufficient media exposure and I hope this festival can help.

"I’m an artist in a popular Polish band that succeeded via the alternative market and I want to use my position to promote music that’s not well-promoted in my country."

The acts helping Off lift off at Myslowice included the U.K.’s iLiKETRAiNS, Electrelane and Piano Magic, Australia’s Architecture In Helsinki, Norway’s Low Frequency in Stereo and some of Poland’s top national talent.