Welcome to our inaugural Eastern Europe Focus, where some of the most prolific live professionals share their current mindset on the state of business and future potential of the region in general, and it individual markets in particular.
The war between Russia and Ukraine, the highest inflation rates in Europe, and a promising scene of local talent competing with the world’s top tours for people’s budgets there’s plenty to delve into. Check out the features and interviews below to get the lowdown on the state of business in Eastern Europe.
Pollstar reached out to Mikolaj Ziolkowski, founder and director of Alter Art, promoter of Poland’s biggest festivals, including Open’er, Orange Warsaw, and Kraków Live, to talk about the state of the business.
Fest Team is looking back on a successful 2023. The company has brought some of the biggest names in the game to Bulgaria in recent years, including Lenny Kravitz, Sting, Tom Jones, and Eros Ramazotti, and organizes some of the country’s most beloved events, like Hills of Rock, ARTE Feastival, and SPICE Music Festival.
The human tragedy of war can neither be adequately described in words, at least not by a music business journalist, nor can it be understood by anyone not living through it. We reached out to Vlad Yaremchuk, booker for Ukraine’s biggest festival, Atlas Weekend, to get his first-hand account of how the live scene is doing in the country.
Atlas Arena is one of Poland’s largest multi-purpose venues that can house many different event and sports genres. Located in Lodz, it offers space for up to 13,800 spectators. Last year, which still marked a transitional period post-COVID, the building hosted 100 events and welcomed some 600,000 spectators. This year has been off to a great start, and as Maciek Laski, vice president of Atlas Arena’s operating company, told Pollstar, the business is almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
Nick Hobbs is one of the best people to talk to, when trying to gage the state of play in the Balkans. For one, his company Charmenko operates across multiple territories in the region, and has been doing so successfully for many years now. Two, he’s outspoken, honest, and self-reflective, which are qualities increasingly hard to find in that combination. He shared his views on business in the balkans, and more.
Lina Ugrinovska is the founder and director of European booking agency Banana & Salt, mainly dealing across the Balkans. As she laid out, there are more and less developed markets in the region, and she encourages promoters to take a bit of risk, and not just focus on the already established territories with their bestselling acts. It used to be part of the promoter’s job, after all, to develop new acts and markets, and if the plan was to create a competitive market in the long run, all involved would be well advised to remember these basics.
EXIT festival is one of Europe’s mainstays, and as such more able to deal with crises than lesser-known events. Still, price increases across the board are an issue for the team around founder and CEO Dušan Kovačević, who is determined to remain independent.
Ruth Koleva, born in Bulgaria, but living in New York, is an accomplished musician and entrepreneur, and winner of multiple awards. In 2019, she founded Sofia Live Festival. She has an ear to the ground in all things live in Bulgaria, and Pollstar wanted to get her expertise for this year’s East Europe Focus.
When we reached out to Tamás Kádár, CEO of Sziget, Hungary’s most famous festival with a 30-year history, he was in the middle of preparing its 2023 edition. It was the perfect moment to assess the state of the business, and it sounded like the infrastructure was mostly back up and running.
Boyan Pinter has worn many hats, from manager, festival and concert promoter to digital music distributor, touring artist, and conference organizer. In this interview with Pollstar, he touched on everything from the current economic situation, and what it means for artists and their teams coming through, as well as ticket prices; the effects the war on business; and the state of Bulgaria’s infrastructure, which was still lacking in parts, but has been rapidly improving in others.