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Gerendai Károly on the Future of Sziget and the Festival Scene

On the 27th of June – today – the Hungarian festival season starts officially with the 25th annual Telekom VOLT Festival in Sopron, Hungary. Among the artists performing on its stages, we find veterans like Fatboy Slim, Linking Park, along with bands like Imagine Dragons, Pendulum, Lost Frequencies, Knife Party, and many others. This year marks the 25th anniversary for two of Hungary’s biggest and most important music festivals – Sziget and VOLT. Also, this year comes with sad news for many festivalgoers – Gerendai Károly, the founder and chief organizer of the festivals has previously announced that he is stepping down as an organizer, preferring to focus on other projects.

Gerendai on leaving space for the young

Gerendai stepping down as chief organizer means the end of an era for the Hungarian festival scene. And he didn’t take this decision due to the change in the festival’s ownership – in an interview (Hungarian), Gerendai revealed that he decided to step back long before. What pushed him to take this decision was, at least in part, his loss of motivation. “I was a little tired, and I put every bit of ideas, innovation, and enthusiasm I could into this project”, he told nullahategy.hu. “And if I don’t feel the craving to go to work in the morning and I don’t enjoy my work, I could become an obstacle in front of development”.


Gerendai Károly

(Photo: Index.hu)

Besides, he said, the world has changed a lot. When the festival started, he was just another guy in his twenties, one of many. “Today, I live a completely different life from our target audience, so I decided it was time to leave space for our young coworkers”, he said.

Of statistics and feeling

When asked about the information, studies, and statistics the organizers rely on when trying to find out what the tastes of the attendees are like, Gerendai said that back in the day, there was no need for such data. He was one with the target audience and didn’t need to rely on statistics to know what bands to invite. Today, in turn, he considers that the decisions on which artists to invite have to be taken by those who actually listen to their music – he has revealed that, when it comes to today’s performers, he is not as knowledgeable as he should be.

“If you look at a performer’s views on YouTube and follower count on Facebook, you can form an idea of how big the interest in his or her live performance would be. I’m not on Facebook, though, and I don’t even have my own email address, so I’m drifting further away from our target audience,” he revealed. “I can read the statistics and follow the trends, I might even be able to interpret them, but this is not the same as relying on your gut feeling”.

Of prices and events

When asked about whether the constant rise of ticket prices endanger the future of Sziget, Gerendai confirmed that there is a slight possibility. The prices asked for by the top performers kept growing in the last few years mostly because the many competitive events outbidding each other. The trending performers can make use of this tendency and raise their prices year after year. This is dangerous, as the liquidity of the attendees is not growing in tune with the prices. At one point, you reach a price level where attendees can’t afford to come anymore, which can lead to the festival’s demise.

This could lead to the market’s self-regulation – when festivals can’t produce these high prices anymore, and they go bankrupt, there won’t be so much competition and outbidding on the market. It will be then when the prices will return to the normal level.

This year’s innovation at Sziget Festival is the Sziget25 Cruisin, a party boat slash sightseeing tour that you can book a ticket to at the price of 24 EUR (until Friday night). More details about the lineup of the boat and its schedule can be found here.

Sziget 25 Cruisin

9 thoughts on “Gerendai Károly on the Future of Sziget and the Festival Scene

  1. I was happy once it was announced he is stepping away, but it didn’t change anything. As long the booking team is living in the past, has zero music knoweledge and base their bookings on youtube plays we can’t really expect quality.

  2. Agree with Fsfsf.
    If Youtube followers and Facebook likes are your reference, only pop or EDM acts will enter the stage.

    It is not true youth generation only likes those two genres of music, but a lot of the older generation have that idea apparently.
    That’s the problem with more and more festivals, when they are organized by a older generation as the target audience is.

  3. I want to believe that after the flop of this year, the new management asked for a scapegoat and the poor Gerendai paid that price. Not that he deserved it because the whole Sziget thing in 24 years has rapresented one of the best artisic start up (today we would call it that way), but it’s clear that after 2013 Sziget changed shape trying to find a new definition from year to year and only sometime succeed in this (2014), til totally losing it this year (because yeah more space is cool, but you can have more space if they stop selling 90k tickets for an island big as a children pool).
    Something gotta change deeply, because in a single year they succeed in destroying a whole trust they built in me, the buyer, in 3 years, and I hope that the new owners, and most likely the new management gonna change the thing, with a whole revolution top to bottom

  4. Counting the likes on Facebook and views is childish and unprofessional. The best example is Depeche Mode: they filled Groupama Arena and they don’t have too many likes and views on YouTube. And they played 90 minutes only, exactly how much Sziget would have needed. I think that they should have been headliners this year, but they were not. And next year they’ll play another arena show in Budapest, but this time at the Budapest Arena…

  5. In addition to the “Facebook Likes”-gate: Did they consider that
    A) Many are based on another continent (Chinese popstars may have millions of likes, why they don’t book them?)
    B) many Likers may be <16years so not allowed to join Sziget
    C) Festival goers don't give a sh** about FB likes

    Please let the Chainsmokers cancel "due to organizational problems"… god damn, I'm angry

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