Sziget, though still popular, may need reinvention


The 2017 edition of the Sziget Festival ended on August 16 with a total number of 452,000 visitors. This is 10% below the record attendance of 496,000 last year, but the decrease is in keeping with a general European trend, according to the organizers, who suggest that the event may need more than just big music stars in future.

In January this year, the company behind the festival, Sziget Kulturális Menedzser Iroda Kft., sold 70% of its shares to U.S.-based Providence Equity Partners. The former owners, including founder Károly Gerendai, retained 30% of the shares and their positions as managers of the company.

The portfolio of Sziget Kulturális includes several other festivals, such as Balaton Sound, Telekom VOLT Fesztivál, Gourmet Fesztivál and Gyerek Sziget, but the flagship has always been the Sziget Festival in August. 

According to business news site, Gerendai said on the last day of this yearʼs Sziget that the situation is more and more difficult each year, as the fees demanded by global music stars rise ever higher, which is very hard to compensate for from ticket sales and other income. Gerendai added that the new owner is aware that Sziget has no other choice but to strengthen what separates it from competitors: namely, other, non-musical cultural programs.

In a recent interview with news portal, the festival founder acknowledged that the concept of Sziget has been the same for the last four or five years, and it has become tired.

Tamás Kádár, CEO of Sziget Kulturális and the person taking over the role of founder Gerendai, will lead the festival into its next quarter-century, and promises to have vital changes in place by as soon as next year.

“The 25th festival is a turning point in Sziget’s life: an era has ended, where we built a unique and popular multicultural festival, differentiating it from other festivals with its amazing atmosphere, cultural diversity, colorful program, high level of services and spectacular visuals,” said Kádár in a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal. “Today Sziget is seen as a great leader among other festivals and because of this we also have to change, so we don’t become just one in a million,” he added.

Kádár expressed the view that this yearʼs reduced visitor numbers could be attributed to a combination of many factors, including the growing number of Sziget-like festivals and what he said was “an unlucky line-up this year.” Regardless of these factors, he pointed out that a wonderful and peaceful festival had been staged across the seven days.

In 2017, Szitizens, as Sziget festivalgoers are known, came from more than 100 countries, but most arrived from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.

This year several Hollywood stars were also spotted at Sziget. On the so-called P!NK day, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Justin Theroux and Luke Evans visited the island, and also came back on following days. Kutcher and Kunis attended the gigs of Wiz Khalifa and The Chainsmokers, where they also hung out with the artists backstage.

Many performers crossed the ocean just for their Sziget performances, including Iggy Azalea, The Chainsmokers and Macklemore, who unfortunately needed to be hospitalized after the show with suspected kidney stones.

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