Szlovénia elsőszámú metál fesztiválja, amelyik az utóbbi években Európa elitjébe nőtte ki magát, tegnap egy szomorú bejelentést tett, miszerint nem lesz több MetalDays.
Tavaly mi is jelen voltunk Velenjében a Pennhurst zenekarral. Bizonyára mindenki hallotta, hogy 2023-ban a fesztivál utolsó napját Szlovénia történelmének legnagyobb vihara mosta el. A fesztivált és az országot ért kár felbecsülhetetlen volt. Hiába a fesztiválozók, a fellépő zenekarok és a helyi lakosság összefogása, januárban biztossá vált, hogy idén nem lesz megtartva a MetalDays. Akkor azt a közleményt adták ki a szervezők, hogy inkább tartalékolnak, és 2025-re készülnek, hogy biztosabb körülmények között tudják megrendezni a rendezvényt. Tegnap azonban jött a hír, miszerint nem lesz több MetalDays. A Covid és a tavalyi vihar olyan károkat okozott amit már nem lehet helyrehozni. A fesztivál vezetősége az alábbi  rendkívül hosszú, minden részletre kiterjedő angol nyelvű közleménnyel búcsúzik:

 

With this statement, we would like to inform you that the decision has been made to not organize another MetalDays edition. We want to extend a huge thank you and heartfelt appreciation to all the artists, partners, media, good people of Tolmin and Velenje and  staff who have been loyal to MetalDays. And to you, our fans, MetalDays wouldn’t have existed without you. Thank you for making it special. We feel incredibly privileged that so many of you chose to party with us each summer. We are proud to have created a second family for many visitors. Seeing your happy faces year after year filled our hearts with joy. The festival aftermovies and photos speak more than words. We have been privileged to watch children growing up visiting MetalDays with their parents, who met at MetalDays or even got married at the festival beach. We made friends and enemies for life, and we’re equally grateful for both. All of them taught us valuable lessons. For us, this is the end of a period in life, and we feel blessed to carry such memories forward.

When we set out on this journey in 2013, our mission was to create a unique experience. With your support, we became a beacon for heavy metal enthusiasts, known for our unique blend of intense metal performances and the breathtaking natural backdrop of the rivers Soča and Tolminka and Lake Velenje in Slovenia. This combination created an unforgettable experience for our dedicated attendees and made MetalDays the finest metal festival on the planet. For all involved, it was an opportunity once a year to explore new and unique metal holidays and to be among like-minded metalheads.

MetalDays was a pioneer in blending holidays with music, a concept that has been embraced by almost every festival since. With a full week of festival activities including beaches, outdoor adventures, cinema, yoga, sports competitions, workshops, and art exhibitions, and advanced festival-ecology initiatives, MetalDays set the standards that have become the norm today. Despite all this, we have reached the end of the road. This decision has not been made lightly. Unfortunately, we have found ourselves impacted by the financial losses caused by Covid-19 and the flooding in 2023, as well as the cost-of-living crisis and significant operational cost increases associated with running a festival like MetalDays. We offered our company and brand to all major players (Live Nation, Festival Republic, Superstruct Entertainment) and even approached many major festivals to take us over to fulfill all our obligations that remained unfulfilled due to these reasons. Regrettably, despite our best efforts, this did not happen, and it is just not economically feasible to continue.

We don’t want to pretend that everything was great. We can’t ignore the infamous refund situation sparked by Covid-19-related cancellations, nor can we overlook the unpaid artists and partners affected by the 2023 cancellation due to flooding. But we also can’t let lies about us spread without presenting the truth. It’s our moral duty. Here’s our honest take on these matters.
Trust us, this is the truth. This is going to be a lengthy text, but we advise you to read it until the end.

 

When they declared the global pandemic and the first lockdown began, we had already sold 10,200 tickets for MetalDays 2020. This was the fastest-selling year in the festival’s history, and it was almost certain we would be sold out with 12,000 tickets by the end of March 2020. Due to Covid-19, the festival got canceled, and all tickets already bought were simply rolled over to 2021. Because the Slovenian Government didn’t think our industry was worth helping, we almost didn’t get any financial help from the state. We struggled with regular expenses like office rentals, storage house rentals, and employee wages. Like many, we believed the lockdown would not last long, and because of that, we didn’t change anything regarding our regular expenses. Our judgment was wrong, and it was a mistake to continue our business affairs as if nothing had happened.

Despite having sold over 10,000 tickets for MetalDays 2020, we had no savings. MetalDays is an independent festival with a very delicate cash flow. Because MetalDays is so personal to the organizers, it often led to overspending to ensure everything was perfect and to delight visitors. This is great for the audience as they get an experience they likely wouldn’t find at a major festival, but it’s financially challenging for us. The first MetalDays edition, with only 6,200 visitors, resulted in a €1.2 million loss. In the following years, the festival grew and became profitable, allowing us to recover from the losses of the first edition. We have reinvested the profits from MetalDays into our other festivals: Winter Days of Metal, Headbanger’s Holiday, Bluesland, Overjam Reggae (2017-2019), and Punk Rock Holiday (2013-2016). Consequently, we had no savings when Covid-19 struck. This was not very prudent from a business perspective but was done with enthusiasm. It’s something we would approach differently now. Who could have imagined that a global pandemic would force us to stay home and be unable to work? Lesson learned.

By the end of 2021, we were already in a pretty bad position financially. This was the moment when we thought we might not survive as a company. We considered filing for bankruptcy, but because we believed so much in the festival and wanted to protect our employees during covid-19, we didn’t fire them until October 2021. We did shrink our expenses by canceling some rentals and minimizing costs as much as we could. Instead of declaring bankruptcy at that time, we took a private loan to be able to survive as a company and to slowly return requested refunds. Even though we didn’t receive any significant state aid and we legally didn’t have to, we promised to refund tickets to those who didn’t want to roll them over to the 2022 edition. We felt this was the right decision and that our visitors deserved such treatment for their loyalty to the festival. Maybe we should have known that we were walking on thin ice.

When we returned after Covid-19, subsequent lockdowns and an economic downturn made it impossible to organize the festival without unexpected expenses. By 2022, all production costs had risen (in some cases by 300%), but we were sold out with ticket prices too low that were calculated before March 2020. The green light for the festival season came really late in 2022. At that time, we had already used all the loan funds for refunds and to keep the business alive. Without a ticket price increase and with all the unexpected price rises, we kept pushing back the refunds, creating a bad vibe going into an already sensitive festival edition. Plans to move to a new venue, a significant event in MetalDays’ history, were destroyed by Covid-19. Consequently, we had no choice but to organize one last edition of the festival in Tolmin in 2022. Without Covid-19, we would have already transitioned to the new location. This move had been carefully planned years in advance, anticipating that a bypass road would split the venue, leaving no space for 12,000 visitors. However, tickets for the Tolmin event were sold in 2019, forcing us to host the festival at a construction site. This not only increased costs but also limited our ability to sell additional tickets at a reasonable price in 2022. Being held on the construction site without enough entries and impossible to secure, the venue capacity was “only” 7,000 visitors. Managing this was a logistical nightmare that resulted in significant production expenses and visitors’ dissatisfaction. Despite being sold out with 7,000 visitors, the least we had since 2013, we didn’t break even in 2022. 

The pre-sale for 2023 was good, even though we didn’t announce the new venue, and with that money, we were able to cover all expenses from 2022, However, we were not able to pay back the refunds. Could we have known this in advance and should we have declared bankruptcy before the 2022 edition? Probably. Now that sounds like the right decision. At the time, it didn’t seem like an option at all. We were too proud and too naive.

 

 

For the 2022 edition, it was decided to implement a Cashless Payment system through a partner who also had a concession to sell drinks at the festival. This decision was based on other festivals in Tolmin entrusting this operation to the same partner to reduce production expenses and simplify operations. Instead of handling this separately for each festival, it was agreed that Amaia Esa d.o.o. would manage this operation. The company had been our gastronomy partner for several years, with shareholders and key personnel acting as our subcontractors since pre-MetalDays 2007, primarily managing bars and drink sales. This was the first and only time such an important part of production was entrusted to a third party. What a mistake that was! Amaia Esa d.o.o. did not honor our contracts and agreements and unlawfully withheld a significant portion of the money owed to the MetalDays organizing company. Not expecting such criminal acts, we promised refunds would be made after the 2022 edition. This money was more than enough and it was intended and planned for refunds of tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021 for those who opted for refunds. With what they did, they not only jeopardized our refund promises but also caused our festival season to result in a negative outcome.

 

In addition, Amaia Esa d.o.o. refused to refund the remaining funds on cashless cards to visitors who were unable to collect their credits at the festival. This made us appear unprofessional and led to negative publicity, with those awaiting refunds labeling us as scammers. Subsequently, we filed lawsuits against Amaia Esa d.o.o. Two cases have already been decided in our favor so far, and we wait for the final judgment to be issued. There are currently two ongoing cases, with court documents accessible to the public. We expect to win all cases. As the promoting company that sues them is in bankruptcy, we can’t say if the liquidator who’s now in charge of the company will continue to sue them.

After every MetalDays edition, we expressed our gratitude to all crew members and asked if we could count on them for the upcoming edition. This time was no different. On August 12, 2022, via email, we thanked Črt Batagelj (one of the Tolminator promoters) for his work on the MetalDays 2022 second stage and asked if the whole second stage team would be interested in joining us again in 2023 at the new location, which would be announced in December 2022.  However, we never received a response.
Little did we know that at that time, they had their event planned extensively, which was strange considering we shared drinks and laugh just few days ago on MetalDays 2022. 

The Tolminator festival introduction they sent out to booking agents was written as if we were staying at Sotočje with a different event, so agents started offering us their bands for “our” new event in Tolmin. This was unplanned, and that’s when the organized fabrication of lies about us began.

The frustration about non-refunded tickets started in the summer of 2021. Visitors kept addressing this on our social media channels, and we had already posted a few official statements regarding the issue. So, it was already a public matter. It was something that was debated within the team all the time. So, you may wonder why Črt Batagelj (and the rest of the now Tolminator team and crew) would work with us until after the 2022 edition when they already had plans set for their own festival, which they kept secret, and they label us as scammers. Why would they want to have anything to do with us? It’s because they love our money. The same money that they claim we stole from you. It’s bad to steal money from you… unless we give it to them. Then it’s okay.

At that time, the majority shareholder of Tolminator was PRH d.o.o., the promoting company of Punk Rock Holiday. But since Tolminator didn’t sell any tickets for the first edition, the PRH guys quickly bowed out and stepped away from the project. What irony that the festival supposed to save Metal in Slovenia was initially run by people who couldn’t care less for the Metal community.

 

Since they never organized an event with their own money and didn’t know how to promote an event that didn’t sell, Črt Batagelj and Matej Ahlin (now the promoters of Tolminator) decided to create bad publicity for MetalDays, creating conflict within the community. The goal was to save their event by making a portion of our visitors decide to go there instead of MetalDays. 

If one puts enough blood, sweat, and tears into a new festival, it will find its visitors. It takes time, but eventually, it will happen. There is no shortcut to that. Being passionate about your own festival is crucial, but deliberately going after the festival that gave you all the relevance you have, and targeting the people you shared drinks and laugh with just a few days ago, making it that personal, is not only cowardly but also pathologically ill. They collaborated with various internet trolls, including Slovenian journalist Mitja Birt, who is their friend, to generate negative publicity for MetalDays and us personally. Sadly, we now live in a time where one is considered guilty until proven innocent. As a result, we were publicly found guilty of something we haven’t done. But one is only guilty if found guilty in a real court, not the court of public opinion. It’s hard to believe that a newspaper like Delo can publish such articles that are based on no evidence at all. Even harder to believe that editor-in-chief Bojan Budja would approve it. In all honesty, we are still amazed that we’re that popular. Wars nearby, refugees, food insecurities, financial, living, and energy crises, and we get a double page in a major Slovenian newspaper. Not once, but twice. You can’t make that up.

Fabricating lies is something that always comes with a price. Almost every new festival needs at least five years to break even, which in this case is another irony. Imagine doing all they did to be able to organize the festival only until 2027, naming the festival after a town that doesn’t want them. As you may know, the Tolmin major announced not long ago that they are going to  tolerate festivals in Tolmin only until 2027. Those still asking us why MetalDays didn’t stay there in a smaller version, now you may understand. The solution to this is to rename the festival to Trollminator after 2027. Besides being a great fit, this would make it possible to keep the party going elsewhere.

Promoters of the Tolminator festival, Črt Batagelj and Matej Ahlin, are not the friends of the Metal community they claim to be, nor do they care about MetalDays visitors’ refunds. Having lived on taxpayers’ money for a long time, their only concern is their own self-interest. While they spread lies about us to promote their own business, they are in partnership with Marko Vraz and Danica Badovinec of Amaia Esa d.o.o., the very individuals actually holding your refund money. You should google Disini, Lombok. 

COVID-19, subsequent lockdowns, and an economic downturn made it impossible to organize the festival without raising ticket prices for the 2023 edition. Unfortunately, this didn’t sit well with many visitors. This, along with moving to the new location, the frustration caused by not fulfilling the refund promise, and the production-wise not so good 2022 edition, resulted in sales similar to our first edition. To create the best possible festival experience for our visitors at our new location, we decided to allocate more money to the lineup than usual. While we can confidently say that the MetalDays lineup of 2023 was one of the best of that summer, we now realize that this wasn’t the wisest decision. We forgot that MetalDays isn’t about the lineup; it’s about the Metal family feeling that was lost but we were too ignorant to understand that. Not putting extra effort into reuniting our community was a huge mistake. No matter how overworked we were because of all the complications with the new venue, we should have known better.

 

Despite the excessive spending, the 2023 festival would not have incurred such a loss if it weren’t for the flooding. Instead, with money from the 2024 pre-sale, we would have been able to cover all 2023 production expenses, including bands. As we would be unable once again to refund those who have been waiting already way too long for their refunds, we can only imagine the outburst of frustration on social media. So, what happened was maybe for the better. Flooding not only produced additional expenses, it also influenced visitors not to buy tickets for the upcoming year. They were happy to come back home alive. We understand not many wished to buy tickets for next year immediately after such a traumatic experience. With being flooded in a natural catastrophe that is historic for Slovenia, our excitement with the new location at Lake Velenje was short-lived. If we could survive this financially, we believe this unfortunate event would create such a strong bond between visitors and the people of Velenje that it would have a positive outcome in the end. However crazy this may sound. Unfortunately, promised state aid still didn’t arrive, and this edition lived to be our last one. 

 

Besides the loan we took in 2021, in 2023, we sold a portion of shares in the MetalDays promoting company. This money was invested in MetalDays 2023. One shareholder also took an additional loan, which was likewise invested in MetalDays 2023. In total, well over half a million € of private funds were invested by shareholders in MetalDays from 2021 until 2023, covering both production costs of 2023 and processed refunds. If any of the defamation aimed at discrediting us had been true, we would never have invested this money in MetalDays 2023, nor would we have refunded a single ticket. Every allegation that we are scammers who misappropriated visitors’ money for high-end tourism on a paradise island is false, and only a fool would believe it just because a wannabe Metal influencer said it on the internet. MetalDays has been our life from day one. Anyone who thinks we would destroy the product of our hard work and dedication for the reasons stated in those false accusations is simply naive. The outstanding refunds amount to only about 30% of what shareholders personally invested in MetalDays 2023. How foolish would that be? There’s absolutely no logic behind it. We don’t claim to be geniuses, but we aren’t that stupid either.

To all the bands that played at MetalDays: you are as crucial to MetalDays as our visitors. Over the years, we have established ourselves as reliable promoters, enabling us to host so many incredible bands. Each of you contributes uniquely to MetalDays, enhancing the festival’s significance. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to meet such talented personalities and to host you for a day. To the bands we were unable to pay due to the financial loss caused by flooding, we can only say that we deeply regret this situation, and we wish it had not come to this. Given that many of you have performed at MetalDays before, we trust you understand that this was never intentional. We have consistently been a dependable partner, honoring every contractual obligation and prioritizing the interests of every band that graced our stages. We truly hope to regain your trust and to become a reliable partner you can again count on in the future. To New Forces Promoters and Bands, we wish to thank you for your unwavering support of MetalDays until the very last day. Your dedication and enthusiasm have been invaluable to us. Many of you have become not just partners, but true friends. We look forward to hosting your bands at future events and continuing our collaboration for many years to come.

We’re not looking for excuses. Our goal is to present the last four MetalDays years and all significant events as they truly happened. We made mistakes that, even though they occurred during unprecedented times, should not have been made by promoters with our level of expertise. We had to know better.  We had to think like businessmen when COVID-19 started and we should have declared bankruptcy back then. Being proud, being friendly,  and relying on luck has no place in business. Many individuals and companies would have not been harmed if this decision had been made at the right time. We wish to apologize to each one of them. We are sorry for refunds not returned, unpaid bands, and unsettled production expenses more than you can imagine. We now know what we could and should have done differently. However, the global pandemic and historic flood created challenges that were too big for us to manage effectively at the time. 

In the end, it’s up to you to decide whom to believe. We will respect your decision, whichever side you pick, because we are at peace knowing we aren’t scammers who plotted to steal visitors’ money. As this is the last public statement we will make regarding MetalDays, it was important to put the truth out there.

This is the final goodbye to MetalDays. For us, MetalDays is a thing of the past, a beautiful memory. When we return, it will be with something new, exciting, and capable of setting a new trend. And most importantly, funds must be available before the first ticket is sold. Until then, we wish you nothing but the best. We are at peace in our hearts, and we wish nothing less to all MetalDays supporters. As they say, “when one door closes, another opens.”

Much love,