Serbia’s EXIT Festival – which is going ahead from 13-16 August – recently hosted a webinar session called EXIT Strategy.

The webinar included discussion on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the live music industry and festivals. It featured industry professionals including: Global Live Music Agent CAA Maria May; Christof Huber of YOUROPE; Cindy Castillo of Mad Cool Festival; Ruud Berends of ESNS; and IFFEXIT Festival Co-Founder Dušan Kovačević.

Speakers gave insight, covering different topics regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. These included the economic impact, the newly published guidelines of WHO on mass gatherings, and the loosening of restrictions in many countries in Europe, presenting big steps towards new horizons.

Maria May said: “We are all really excited. Pretty much everybody I’ve spoken to in the industry is extremely excited that EXIT is going ahead. I think it’s a really good moment in this awful situation that we’ve all found ourselves in. I think it’s a little beacon of light for the industry to focus on a little bit against the backdrop of, we are still in very early stages with most markets around the world easing out of lockdown and working out what the future could be, what it looks like.”7

Founder and CEO of EXIT Festival Dušan Kovačević said that the invitation by the Prime Minister of Serbia to postpone the festival to August and not cancel it was unexpected news.

Secretary General and Board Member of the European Festival Association Yourope, Christof Huber, said that the new recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which allows mass gatherings is a “glimpse of hope”.

Huber added: “New recommendations by WHO are like a glimmer of light that the live scene is important for our social feelings to get together, that it is important to have big gatherings. Good signs are ahead, we need to make sure that the audience trusts coming back and that the people can see that we can do the shows responsibly.”

Ruud Berends confirmed that Eurosonic Noorderslag will ‘definitely’ take place, in whatever format or form governments and circumstances allow it to be organised.

Berends said: “We’ll have artists do conference items but we’re not going to make up our minds on the final format or shape until somewhere in September. Obviously we are in a luxury position where we can see what the others are doing and how that goes, what works and what doesn’t work, and I think in this case it’s good to have a little bit more time, especially if you see how quickly things are changing at the moment.”

Berends also revealed that the European Talent Exchange Program will be going ahead, after securing the support to do so.

The founder and CEO of EXIT festival Dušan Kovačević said that the invitation by the Prime Minister of Serbia to postpone the festival to August and not cancel it was unexpected news. Kovačević said that ‘support and solidarity’ from the industry will be very important for the first events taking place following the pandemic.

Kovačević said: “I think that unity is probably the biggest theme that we will cherish from this situation. I was actually very positively surprised by how all of the industry came together. In Serbia, all of the festivals are set together for the first time and now creating an organisation. This is the chance for the whole event industry to show to their Governments the real importance of the industry – economical, for the mental health, different social benefits, etc.”

In discussing the social importance of human contact, Cindy Castillo said that the music industry must not allow the ‘new normality’, in which people are not allowed to touch each other, to take over. Castillo said that ‘music is about love, about getting together’ and that she refused to live in a ‘brutal reality Black Mirror/Matrix world’.

The panel concluded with the message that the live event industry will get the chance to meet  again at EXIT festival from 13-16 August 2020.

To watch the entire panel click here.