Event organisers around the world are still navigating the aftermath of the pandemic. Even globally renowned, established promoters such as Cosmopop have their fair share of setbacks, with their flagship event Time Warp in Mannheim, Germany not opening its doors since 2019.
But Robin Ebinger, Cosmopop Co-Founder and Marketing Director remains unwaveringly optimistic about the future of the events industry, having experienced a series of highs and lows throughout his thirty year career.
Now, Cosmopop are ready to welcome the return of Sonus Festival, set on the idyllic backdrop of Zrće Beach - one of Europe's most sought after destinations - as well Time Warp: Two Days | Two Stages in October, a streamlined version of their world renowned celebration of techno.
Ahead of a busy few months for Cosmopop, we spoke to Robin about the company's challenges and successes in recent years, how passion was the driving force behind the brand's global evolution, and his predictions on the industry's immediate future.
Robin, you’ve been at the helm of Cosmopop since co-founding the company in 2003. The past few years surely must’ve been the most uniquely challenging in your entire career?
There have been many ups and downs over the past three decades. However, the pandemic was a huge challenge especially as it was unprecedented for our generation. The most enervating fact was that there was no clear perspective or prediction to be made. Promoting festivals is a high-risk industry, so we are normally used to finding solutions and being flexible. The pandemic however has not given much space to manoeuvre in.
Nevertheless, I don’t want to complain. I love my work. We made the best of the past two years and focused on everything that was still sitting at our desks and put much energy into rethinking our processes and rebuilding our infrastructure.
The flagship event of the iconic Time Warp has sadly not taken place since 2019, although you’ve temporarily replaced it with events such as Time Warp: Two Days | Two Stages which is scheduled for October. Did you always intend to increase your portfolio with smaller scale events like this throughout the annual calendar, or what is a reaction to restrictions caused by the pandemic?
Ever since we started we had a diverse portfolio of events from small scale indoor to large scale outdoor, from local clubs to international venues. So this was not new to us.
In 2021 when we had to cancel the large spring edition of Time Warp in Mannheim for the second time we re-scheduled for October. Then, the huge Time Warp event for October was not realistic anymore due to high Coronavirus infection numbers in Germany, so we had to cancel again.
In the summer, all of a sudden there was a small window of opportunity where authorities were giving us the signal that an event with a limited number of people might be feasible in October, so we came up with “Two Days | One Stage”. As we were not allowed to present a huge show our intention was to at least give our international fans two days. After we were forced to cancel the spring edition in 2022 again, we decided to stay optimistic and plan for an evolution of last year’s “autumn” and plan for two days and two stages. We have just released the lineup for this year and are very much excited for this show.
There’s been talk within the industry about oversaturation of events. Do you think this is why many events are struggling to sell out? And do you think there are other factors influencing this?
I believe this is a combination of various reasons: first of all, we should not forget that everything, especially in economics, fashion, trends and life in general is cyclical. I have seen this in the past. However, I do believe that there is a certain oversaturation in the market. In “normal” times I would be more relaxed and say that this will be consolidated by itself. Given the facts, that we are still in a pandemic situation, prices and costs skyrocket and lots of crew has shifted the industry, the threats and challenges are very tremendous.
The reason for not selling out is not just explained oversaturation. I believe it is also due to consumer uncertainty, and thus the requirement to save money. Another aspect is the freedom of travel after the pandemic. I think a lot of young people would also choose a holiday to travel abroad over spending time and money on a domestic or international festival. I believe the right product and a trusted brand will also master these times.
Talking again about portfolio and how important this is, we also promote the destination festival Sonus in Croatia. This festival combines the longing for holiday, for lonely beaches, mediterranean food, stunning landscapes, but also open-air clubs filled with energy. We have the strongest year ever in ticket sales.
Over the years, what key components did you identify to help transform Time Warp into a globally renowned brand?
The internationalisation was more a logical evolution for us. It has never been just a strategic step based on key components. Ever since we have had a very international audience in Mannheim and a lot of requests from other markets to produce a Time Warp. Somehow we meet the taste of a global dance audience.
The brand carries a lot of heritage. Time Warp is what it is today because of its past, but also because of our passion for electronic music and constant striving to renew and make use of modern technology to intensify the experience on the dancefloor. We somehow delivered a universal formula which helps in all markets.
Possible key components would be no compromise in sound quality, focus on the event experience for our guests and our musical proposition. And obviously social media helped to spread the message.
What have proved to be the biggest obstacles setting up an event that is predominantly focused on attracting travelling customers from abroad?
With almost all our festival brands, we attract lots of visitors from all around the world. The biggest obstacle would therefore be travel infrastructure. For a festival in a metropolis area this is usually no problem. For a destination festival like Sonus this can influence sales numbers. As Croatia has become even more attractive as a holiday destination in recent years, flight schedules and accommodation options have constantly increased.
Are there any new surprises in store for festival goers waiting for them at Aquarius, Kalypso and Papaya, three of the world’s most famous nightclubs?
This year, we have also integrated Noa Club into the festival. We are presenting four clubs in a rotating system, with three clubs operating per day. Apart from this, Sonus is always good for a surprise with its open-air parties from dusk till dawn next to the sea.
This year we will have the most international crowd with sales in over 75 countries. I am very excited after the three year enforced break. I am convinced that all parties will be on fire!
Sonus Festival regularly welcomes a roster of the biggest contemporary techno and house producers to its gorgeous coastal location. What have been some of the highlights from recent editions?
Each edition has its own highlights. At Sonus all local and international artists are usually very motivated and deliver special sets. The highlight of Sonus is definitely its set up: electronic music in open-air clubs at the bay, huge mountains in the background, like-minded people dancing into the sunset, colouring the mountains in mystical colours. You keep on dancing into the sunrise and the morning light. What else do you need?
Since setting up events in the beginning alongside your Cosmopop co-founders Steffen Charles and Frank Eichhorn, you’ve strived to create innovative new spaces for people to dance. What has consistently been your main source of inspiration to continue evolving?
Music. Passion. Sports. Interacting with inspiring people. And just keep curious and be sensitive and focused on your surroundings. Listen carefully to the next generations.
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