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Interview with the the founder of EXIT Festival Dusan Kovacevic ahead the 2024 edition

  • 7 March 2024
Interview with the the founder of EXIT Festival Dusan Kovacevic ahead the 2024 edition

How was last year's EXIT festival, now you have had time to reflect and look back on it?

After the iconic 2021, where we stood as one of the first festivals to happen post-Pandemic and global crisis, I thought that it would be challenging to surpass the energy we experienced at the Fortress during that historic event. However, both 2022 and 2023 were living proof that we could indeed push boundaries further, with last year serving as a remarkable testament to our progress. Emotions were overwhelming, especially with the return of The Prodigy to their favourite festival after the tragic events. From the great opening with The Prodigy to the epic closing set with Keinemusic on our legendary Dance Arena, hailed as one of the electronic music world's best performances of 2023, the entire journey was nothing short of extraordinary. Featuring acts like Skrillex, Eric Prydz, and the celebratory homage to 50 years of hip hop with Wu-Tang Clan, and many others on the Fortress, we truly expanded the EXIT Universe which was the theme last year.

PH: Milos Krstic

In terms of promoting a festival over the years, how has your approach changed or rather, how has the changing conditions impacted it?

EXIT has been at the forefront of utilizing digital platforms right from the beginning of MySpace, to Facebook and then Instagram and TikTok. Acknowledging that our community unfortunately spends a majority of their time online, consuming news and information through social media, we strive to engage them beyond traditional digital marketing. Our approach involves creating interactive and entertaining experiences for our fans, encouraging them to step away from the digital realm and immerse themselves in irreplaceable live experiences.

That’s also the main purpose of our campaign “Life is Live” created in collaboration with Unicef, aimed at inspiring young people to reconnect with the real world and disengage from the digital rabbit holes. Endorsed by Yourope, the foremost European festival association, "Life is Live" stands as one of our most significant social activism projects today.

When preparing to release lineups for the festival, how much do the ideas around gender, race, sexual diversity impact it?

-We are deeply committed to fostering diversity and inclusivity across all facets of our event. For instance, two-thirds of our workforce comprises women, with a high number of them holding leadership positions.Our event lineup is a direct reflection of our commitment to fostering gender equality, racial diversity, and sexual inclusivity. Beyond these very important aspects, what we do and what we would like to see more of on other festival’s lineups is a balanced programme with performers from less developed regions of the world. By giving them the platform to grow as artists, we aim to bring hope to youth of their countries, demonstrating that success on a global scale is possible, despite varying starting points. That’s one of the topics we want to bring to the table, bridging the world and uniting in music and entertainment.

PH: Todor Milivojevic

To date, what has been one standout moment you have been most proud of with regards to the EXIT Festival over the years?

-It’s really hard to choose just one amongst all the important moments we’ve had over the years, so I will state two. The first one being the partnership with the largest humanitarian organisation in the world United Nations Food Programme. In 2020 we launched Lifestream, a hybrid online/live event that gathered artists such as Carl Cox, Nina Kravitz, and Charlotte De Witte, just to name the few.. The mission of this event was to draw attention to an environmental crisis and extreme hunger threatening over hundred millions of people.

The second one happened 10 months later, when we managed to organise EXIT as the first major event post-pandemic. As the sole festival in Europe to take place in 2021 (aside from several festivals in the UK), we offered hope to our festival peers and millions worldwide who tuned in to our live stream from quarantine. We signalled that the worst was behind us and that the world was on the path to recovery, which is exactly what happened.

EXIT has been a staple in Serbia’s cultural offering for many years - how much do you think the festival has aided the growth of the local scene?

EXIT was the key for the development of the festival scene, not only in Serbia, but the entire Balkans region. We’ve created EXIT after a decade of crisis and war in the Balkans, and with music, culture and entertainment we became a beacon of hope to everyone who craved change for the better. Serving as a window to the world for our country, each summer, we unite with the global community, leaving an indelible mark on our musical and festival scene, culture, tourism, and economic landscape. Over the past 24 years, we've injected over 200 million euros into our tourism and local businesses, while also providing invaluable exposure to local artists, propelling them onto the international stage.

Beyond that, last year we started our new Music & Talent Office EXIT Echosystem already gained success by connecting young, local artists with international management offices which made their careers skyrocket.

PH: Todor Milivojevic

The theme of EXIT festival is always creative, this year is of course Starseeds. What does the process involve when bringing this to fruition?

EXIT was born as a movement meant to bring positive change, peace and freedom to Serbia and the Balkans, and that is the role that we continue to play with other stakeholders on the global level. We’ve adopted the concept of Starseeds, the special people capable of bringing great positive changes in society. We believe that new generations all have Starseeds potential, the power to create a better world, one without wars, a world in which humans live in harmony with nature. Whilst some may think that we’re dreaming of an utopia, we see it as the fundamental purpose of our generation. Starseeds is the exact term for the people who feel this way too, and our mission is to gather them and be the home for those that want to bring important collective changes to the world.

This year, the lineup is incredibly diverse, and many more names are soon to be revealed. Of the already announced names, who are you most looking forward to seeing perform?

-I’m not sure it would be fair to single just one artist out, especially considering the full lineup is yet to be unveiled. However, I am looking forward to the return of our dear friend Carl Cox, who comes to visit us ritually every 5 years since 2009, and whose performances on EXIT have always been spectacular. There is also one special act that I am looking for. Since the founding of EXIT we wanted to bring Rage Against The Machine, given their alignment with EXIT's DNA of social activism. Unfortunately, the band no longer performs together, but we are thrilled to welcome Tom Morello, not only the main author of their music and their activist endeavours, but also one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Hearing RATM heavy riffs roar from his repertoire at the Main Stage this July is going to be a dream come true for m

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