On Saturday October 17th, ADE Playground presented Talking About Your Event at Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, an informal conference with people from behind the scene telling stories on setting up events in electronic music. Guests with different backgrounds talked about their experiences. In this article, you will find the highlights of this meeting.
Damion Pell (managing director of Decoded Magazine)
Alex Salvador (DJ, man behind Tomorrow Is Now, Kid!)
Bas Engels (creative entrepreneur, founder of Nachtlab, Alter Ego and Shoeless)
Nadia El-Nadi (head of SASOMObookings, and former booker/promoter of Bar25)
Mandy Haakmeester (owner of Hemeltjelief and creative entrepreneur at the NDSM area)
Kim Kuijpers (creative director and project leader at Alter Ego, owner of Brandpunt)
Dirk Schmidt (DJ/producer, known as POP ON ACID, owner of club Bahn)
Valerio Taiocchi (owner & founder of Select*Elect and Inground Bookings)
Changes in the electronic music landscape
What has changed in the electronic music landscape?
Mandy: “From my experience at the NDSM area, at the beginning of the millennium, a lot of stuff was illegal. There was the bunker, which was one of the illegal locations, underneath the old ship wharf. You could party there every weekend. Nowadays, if you want to get a license in that area you have to become good friends with the authorities. Furthermore, the market has changed. A lot of the people don’t come anymore for the line-up. To meet with other people, the feeling and creativity are becoming more and more important.”
Can you mention any differences between countries?
Valerio: “Each country has a different club culture; everybody conceives the club experience in a different way. It differs of course from country to country. Germany has a very open club culture.”
Bas: “There are now like 400 festivals in Amsterdam during the summer. What especially happens in Amsterdam and Berlin is that people are coming to a festival or a club for a concept, for a certain feeling, instead of for the big names. Commercial productions wherein I was involved in the US, in South America and Asia all had the same concept as in Europe. However, in contrast with Europe, people there chose those events because of the big names. The developments within especially Berlin and Amsterdam are little bit beyond that.”
And what about the production?
Kim: “We have a stage concept with performance artists and we were booked at Mysteryland in the US. The production part there was really hard. They don’t really know yet how to build a festival. It’s new. And production wise it’s different.”
Dirk: “In the states the scene is younger. We are more developed in Europe.”
Bas: “And, in the US they have the union. At 17:00 o’clock the builders have to stop, otherwise you’ll get lawsuits and big problems. In my opinion, producing means that you don’t stop until its finished. That is different in the states. As an example, I was doing the stage design for the premier of Sensation in New York. The day before the event the builders went home at 17:00 o’clock, because they had to stop. The next day 60.000 people would come to the festival! We had to fly in 100 new builders from Washington.”
Do you have any examples of issues with regulations in The Netherlands?
Mandy: “You always get complains about the noise. The NDSM area was empty before. They started to build creativity, and the ground has a higher value now. But the regulation gets stronger. You have to find a way to work together, also with the people who live there. It is not that they don’t want events; it can be really annoying if there is a festival every weekend. So the question is, what can we do as an organizer to do good for both? A lot of companies invest in curtains to keep the sound inside. Make a sound plan together, do measurements together with the authorities. You have to be friends with them. And, sometimes push the boundaries, and open it up a little bit.”
Kim: “But do really check what the allowed level of dBs is. It can ruin your event if the sound is too low.”
How do you manage that?
Kim: “Sit back with the government and tell them if we do this we kill it, we can’t have parties there.”
Mandy: “And also tell your audience, be honest.”
Dirk: “But don’t tell them afterwards, that’s too late.”
Kim: “Yes, cancel the location, if the maximum sound level is too low.”
Opportunities within the market
How do you sell your artist to a club?
Nadia: “Maybe I’m very lucky with the artists I have. We get a lot of requests, the clubs are coming to me, and there is not a lot of research needed. They really want these artists.”
Valerio: “Certain promoters will only go for the big names. Some scenes are more open; some are more closed. It is difficult to book artists in certain countries if you work with only underground artists.”
In how much a booking agency has something to say in the concept of an event?
Mandy: “The promoter will always try to get a good name with the artists in the line-up of his/her event. So, you’re trying to get the best deal. If you come up with the best deal and the best time in the timetable, you can get the best artists. This is very hard when your organization is just starting.”
Bas: “If you want to book an artist like Tiesto, you have to pay 250.000 euro, and you have to agree with his terms and conditions. He has around 60 people crew and a 120-page rider. In the end it is totally his show. In this example the booking agency decides what happens instead of the promoter.”
How is that like at the clubs?
Dirk: “Bahn has slightly a different concept; we are such an underground club; I don’t promote big artists. However, some big artists are playing at Bahn. Some DJs like the fact that nobody will recognize them. I present it to the artist in another way: you’ll get carte blanche and nobody will recognize you.”
What do you think of exclusivity in arrangements?
Nadia: “I’m not keeping it exclusive. I like to keep it open that the artist has the right to play in different clubs or on different festivals. When it is a big festival of course you can agree the artist is not playing two months before, and one month later in a certain area. It is maybe also better for the artist in the end. If they play too much, they’ll maybe get overwrought, that is also not good.”
And, how do you feel about residencies?
Nadia: “SASOMO came from bar25, nowadays Katerblau. Half of the artists still have residencies at Katerblau.”
Alex: “A younger DJ, that you want to attach to your brand, can be a bit skeptic at first. You have to create mutual trust. You have to build on it; it takes time. As a promoter, when you cannot commit yourself to a DJ, it is hard for a DJ to commit to you.”
Bas: “Let the clubs book their own talent!”
Are there opportunities for the younger DJs?
Valerio: “I would say, try to tell a story during the set.”
Dirk: “I’m opening a new club, with a lot of opportunities for the younger DJs!
Besides that, I think it is very important for younger DJs to start early in the evening, and learn to play in the smaller clubs.”
Alex: “That’s the only way to learn how to DJ.”
Nadia: “In Berlin there are so many DJs, and young talents that are coming up. Bar25 was never about the big names, but about the feeling, the atmosphere. Even the sound system wasn’t that good. So, more important is the atmosphere, the people and decoration, which offer maybe more opportunities for the younger DJs.”
Bas: “This is something we don’t really have at the clubs in Amsterdam. Festivals in Amsterdam are maybe comparable with the clubs in Berlin.”
How important is the line-up in comparison with the creative concept?
Kim: “Shoeless is always sold out, without telling the line-up. You know the kind of music; you know what to expect.”
Mandy: “It depends on the people, on the music. Some events are focused on the line-up, some on the creative concept.”
Alex: “It is the choice you will make right from the start. What is your concept about? Is it about music or about more than music? It is very important to define on forehand what it is going to be like.”
Isn’t it strange that a lot of festivals don’t have a proposition, and that some of these are successful?
Kim: “If only earning money is a success?”
Mandy: “When we were younger, we went to the disco or to a rave. You just want to go somewhere where your friends are, to meet them. The headliners of an event can bring the people together. But there are a lot of events without any creativity at all. They just copy paste the line-up of other events. It is about how much money you can bring in.”
Kim: “But that’s definitely not long lasting. If you don’t have a vision it’s short-term thinking.”
Alex: “Festivals are our cafés, our playgrounds and meeting points. There are also a lot of parties that will strive for longevity. I hope that those are the parties that will prevail.”
Expanding into different countries and markets
Who and how would you connect when setting up an event?
Val: “It is a long process, with a lot of networking, and then follow up.”
Alex: “Start with believing in yourself; be professional and polite. Think about whom you will contact first. Pour your heart and soul into it. Make a small plan, and follow up with small steps.”
Bas: “I think you have to meet someone informal. Go to a place where somebody hangs out. Ensure that you’re being introduced by someone. In this industry that’s very important. There’s no other industry where it is more about liking each other, that people know your face before you start doing business. If you want to get into a different party, if you want to go to a different country, then go to a party, hang out with the right people, drink a beer with them.”
Do you have any more advise for expanding into different markets?
Valerio: “Collaborate with the right organizations.”
Alex: “Try to connect with another group of individuals, that is doing more or less the same thing that you are doing. Once you’ll get into other markets, other countries, I would say strive for longevity. To have a connection for a long time is always more profitable.”
Bas: “Party together, that is when you make the real connection!”
Kim: “Don’t try to copy another concept, do something because you love it. Not what the rest of Amsterdam or the rest of the world is doing.”
Mandy: “Make sure the finances are checked before. Be original. And then ensure that everybody in your team is on the right spot. A good crew is 50% of a good production.”
Nadia: “From the booking agency point of view, you have to stand behind the artists, behind what they are doing and the music that they’re making. It has to come from the heart. Then get the network, try to work together with different promoters from different countries, and socialize a lot, that is important.”
Any last things to say?
Dirk: “I would love to invite everybody at Bahn, November 28th.”
Bas: “Think about creating unique experiences. Try to search for things and find things you never saw before. Step out of your comfort zone. Search for experiments and you’ll be really surprised. I always try to put that in things that I do.”
Nadia: “Come to Berlin!”
Mandy: “If you want to do something in the event business, make sure you will always be there. Don’t loose your goals, be sure you work really hard.”
Kim: “Do you really want to go for it? Put your effort into it and work fucking hard.”
Valerio: “Growing together to improve the scene is very important.”
Alex: “When you are starting up events, start with yourself, build up your own trust, and your own crew around you. Be conscience about the fact that you radiate energy and that people pick up on that energy. And what you put out is going to come back. Connect with people and know your own crowd.”
Talking About Your Event was made possible by ADE Playground, Select*Elect, INGROUND BOOKINGS, Music Motion, Decoded Magazine and Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy.