Eastern European music festivals: What are they doing differently to succeed?

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When looking at European music festivals, the focus is often firmly set on Central and Western Europe, with festivals like Tomorrowland, Parookaville, and Glastonbury taking centre stage year after year. Although these festivals have dominated the music industry for years, we are beginning to see a shift, with festivals in Eastern Europe beginning to gain traction and grow in popularity exponentially each year. The electronic music industry is now in full-force in Eastern Europe and some of the world’s most illustrious festivals are now located there. But what does this shift eastwards mean for artists? Will this affect your strategy both on and offline?

With Central and Western European festivals having held onto dominance for so long, many are asking exactly why the focus is shifting towards the East. Festivals like Untold, EXIT, Neversea, Sziget and Outlook are now commanding a great deal of focus and have become a must-see for European festival-goers. These festivals are offering something fresh and exciting for music fans and attendance is continuing to grow year after year. These growing festivals are beginning to take the focus away from events in Western and Central Europe, leaving many asking why this shift is occurring and what this means for the future. As major festivals continue to inflate prices and book the same artists, they leave room for new festivals to offer a unique experience and steal their attendees.


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In 2017, Untold Festival in Romania was attended by 330,000 people over the course of one weekend, a figure which far exceeds Tomorrowland’s 200,000 per weekend. With such a high volume of visitors travelling from far and wide to attend, it comes as no surprise that questions are being asked around what Untold has to offer. Previously, festivals like Tomorrowland completely dominated the market and left little room for new events to grow. Unlike the majority of European festivals, events in Eastern Europe often face less restriction and are able to carry on through the night until sunrise. For electronic music fans, this is an exciting prospect. At night, all of the festival’s performers are able to truly shine and offer their very best visual show including stunning firework displays. At Untold Festival specifically, attendees are able to enter the festival site during the day and experience performances from pop artists before the DJ sets start after the sun sets. This is a hugely attractive option for attendees, as a nighttime set generally trumps a daytime set from any given artist.

Another major factor drawing attendees to festivals in Eastern Europe is the cost of attending. Not only are the tickets to the festivals much cheaper than the rest of Europe, but the drinks and food are also much more affordable for young festival-goers. Prices in Central and Western European festivals have inflated over the years and now leave many unable to pay the price. Many of the Eastern festivals offer a similarly stacked lineup for a much more affordable price, making it unsurprising that an increasing number of festival-goers are making the trip East.

There is also a certain magic that comes from festivals in Eastern Europe. Many of these festivals are held in unique locations, like EXIT Festival in Serbia, which is held in a fortress with the perfect view of the sunrise and sunset. It is very rare for festivals in Europe to offer sunrise sets, but in the East, this option is available at almost every event due to lesser restrictions. Another great example is Neversea festival which takes place on the beach in Romania. This year, the festival played host to an extended sunrise set from Armin van Buuren, something which fans are unable to experience elsewhere.


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With Eastern Europe offering so many fresh, exciting festivals, it’s not surprising that the events are expanding so rapidly and quickly growing in popularity. But what does this mean for artists? As the industry continues to expand in the East, it becomes more and more important for artists to tap into this growth through targeted campaigns. While so many artists focus on building their persona in Asia, the same level of focus should be given to Eastern Europe. There are thousands upon thousands of potential fans just waiting to be reached by marketing campaigns, so why not strategize and tap into this brand new market?

A great example of this is the impact Armin van Buuren has had in Romania over such a short period of time. Simply through his viral performances at Untold festival, he has managed to grow an extremely loyal fanbase in the country that grows with every passing year. The fact that Romania adopted Armin van Buuren so quickly illustrates the abundant potential in the market there and the possibility for other artists to replicate his popularity. The door is well and truly open for artists to expand their horizons and establish a solid fanbase in Eastern Europe, something which stands to benefit overall reach.


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The methods for gaining traction in the East are simple, and they revolve around social media usage. When targeting your posts on social media platforms, it is always possible to target a specific country. When planning your next campaign, include posts targeted towards specific Eastern European countries and make sure to write the post in their language in order to really connect. Research a national celebration and post about it, making sure to target the location. For example, on 4th July artists often post about American Independence Day in order to connect with their audience in the USA. When targeting a specific location it is important to get into the mindset of the individuals you would like to connect with and think about what is most important to them.

If you perform a show in an Eastern European country and are looking to grow your influence there, make sure to publicise the event as much as possible and make it clear that you appreciate any support given. By publicising event footage across your social media and telling fans that the location is one of your favourite places in the world, you will soon develop a connection. While it is true that all artists tell all crowds that they are better than the rest, go the extra mile and show fans that you really do care about their support specifically. When Armin van Buuren took to the stage at Neversea this year his first words were “Romania I’m home”.


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It is imperative that you ensure to always remain genuine. There’s a fine line between being passionate about making a connection with an audience from a specific country and appearing fake. Appearing fake in any way will damage your potential for building a fruitful reputation as your potential audience will see straight through you. As long as your posts are genuine and come from a respectful place, you should be able to engineer a positive relationship in any location you choose.

A huge aspect of expanding your reach in Eastern Europe is working your way up the festival ladder there. Start off small, approach a smaller festival or club and build a relationship with them. As long as you perform well at the event and continue to make contacts with those who work for local festivals, you will have no problem moving upwards. As you make your way up the ladder, it is then time to try and make inroads with the larger festivals like Untold, EXIT or Sziget. Even managing to perform a short set at a smaller stage at one of these festivals will be hugely beneficial to building your brand in the local area. By performing well at a smaller stage, it will then be much easier to negotiate your way to the mainstage over time. As with all festivals, remaining professional at all times is key in order to build positive relationships which will aid you in moving up the ladder.


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The festival scene in Eastern Europe is growing at an exponential rate, making now the best time to delve into the market. Don’t leave it too late, build a relationship with fans there now and continue to build your audience year after year. The growing festivals in the East will be instrumental in growing your fanbase in the location, as it is the simplest method for gaining exposure, as well as extensive social media campaigns. Find out who the key influencers are in the festival industry there and endeavour to build a positive relationship with them. The Central European festival market has become completely oversaturated and artists struggle to compete with one another in the location. In Eastern Europe, a huge proportion of artists are not making the most of the opportunities available. By being productive and making the location central to your strategy, you ensure that you will have the best chance of expanding your audience there. One thing is for certain, the Eastern European festival market will continue to grow at a staggering rate and many of the festivals there represent an exciting future for events worldwide.