How a Freedom Protest Became a Massive Music Festival, The Story Of EXIT

Industry Heroes is our new series where we highlight people and organizations that are fighting the good fight. Selfless deeds, thoughtful gestures, and inspiring movements are changing the world as we speak, and we’d like to further ignite this conversation.

Industry Heroes is our new series where we highlight people and organizations that are fighting the good fight. Selfless deeds, thoughtful gestures, and inspiring movements are changing the world as we speak, and we’d like to further ignite this conversation.

Expect articles on the most exciting initiatives and projects currently happening within the events, music, and entertainment spaces because good news is important, and it doesn’t always get enough praise or exposure. It’s our way of saying “thank you” to those who are keeping our industry not only alive but thriving.

In our first edition of Industry Heroes, we would like to shine some much-deserved light on Exit Festival and its Exit Foundation. They have a fascinating birth story not many people know.

EXIT festival (source: EXIT’s official website)

Exit is an award-winning summer music festival that takes place in Novi Sad, Serbia, with more than 1000 artists playing at over 40 stages. It was named “Best Major European Festival” at the EU Festival Awards in both 2013 and 2017.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

But did you know it started as a 7-day student protest back in 1996? It all began when 10,000 people were marching for democracy and freedom in Serbia and the Balkans.

Following this, Dušan Kovačević, the founder of Exit, and several of his peers founded the first politically independent student organization at the University of Novi Sad. Three years later, the student union organized a multimedia protest event, where almost 20,000 people came together.

This entire movement for freedom and peace was accompanied by the sounds of music, and all that shebang was definitely not the conventional thing to do back in the day. It was history in the making.

Students protest against the regime in Belgrade in 1996 and their banner says “Belgrade is the world” (photo by Draško Gagović, source: VREME 2011)

This kind of rebellious and united spirit paved the way for an iconic festival to emerge. Its mission has been clear from the beginning — to achieve social change through the power of music. To help co-create a beautiful future where we all stand together and live in better harmony while sharing our love for art, culture, education, creativity, and diversity.

During the past 20 years, Exit’s incredible line-up has included names like Billy Idol, Guns N’ Roses, David Guetta, Massive Attack, Fatboy Slim, Cypress Hill, Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan, The Prodigy, and Migos. But as we now know, they have been doing much more than securing some of the world’s biggest music sensations!

“The spirit of that student protest in 1996 is woven into the very fabric and character of EXIT.”

Students protest against the regime in Belgrade in 1996 (source unknown)

Social responsibility and activism is still a key aspect of Exit’s activities today. These days they are mainly focused on a variety of environmental and humanitarian activities while also supporting the growth of the creative industry. Many of their projects are taking place not only in Serbia but all throughout Southeastern Europe.

Highly motivated to continue to drive positive change forward (politically, socially, and economically), the team behind Exit launched the Exit Foundation. Ready to tackle the challenges that today’s Serbian and international youth are facing, they have made a big promise to engage in a multitude of projects that are all spreading a message of love, hope, and progress.

Leveraging the success of the Exit brand and its loyal and strong community, the foundation’s goal is to position itself as a leading force among the decision-makers and actual shapers of tomorrow.

One of their latest and greatest endeavors was Life Stream — a project in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme in September 2020. The goal was to help millions of people around the planet who are facing extreme starvation due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In the unprecedented year of 2020, Exit’s fans got to enjoy a live experience at the legendary Petrovaradin Fortress, and then recordings of the performances were presented at an 8-day streaming festival available worldwide. Fans were thrilled to participate in Life Stream, knowing that the collective effort is battling global hunger. The line-up included both virtual and live appearances from loved artists like Black Coffee, Nina Kraviz, Hot Since 82, and Adam Beyer.

Nina Kraviz playing at Life Stream virtually (from EXIT’s Flickr)

Isn’t the unique story of EXIT quite impressive?

Understanding how and why it all began puts things into perspective when we look at all the projects they are currently involved in and have been working on for the past 2 decades! It’s truly inspiring to see an example of how one can build a successful and profitable business, while still investing a lot of effort and imagination into creating positive change.

Can’t wait for Exit 2021!

You can learn more about other charity, education, environmental, and cultural projects by the Exit festival and its foundation here and here.

If you want to become a part of the event change follow our community channels:








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