Be there to be at the top (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.3)

Oh boy did the both of us need that night of sleep! Day 1 was intense, the days to come promised to be even more exhausting. On the other hand, we already knew: The way to make it in the music industry is to be here, at ADE, every year.

You probably know that it takes that special something to draw people to you in a crowd this big. For that purpose, you have a very special asset that is just right for this occasion: The Badge. During my first years of being a (remotely) known festival DJ, I used to proudly wear that piece of paper with my name as visibly as I could. getting older, I realized it’s not that big of a personality magnet as I imagined it to be, so I started to wear those under shirts, or not at all. During ADE, your badge is the thing that makes or breaks random contact. I won’t remember cheesy names (like, ahem, Dark Beauty). But I sure will do remember Bassfart. I’m so making my badge funny next year!

But really. If you want to launch a start-up or product in the music industry, Amsterdam Dance Event is the best launchpad how to attract Customers, Mentors, or Investors. Everyone is there. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone can make two agendas fit. There are two great stories, how to do that:

I’m entering the venue right on time. My phone rings with a message from Paulie from Inflyte – a platform for sending out better promos. That was something I was deeply interested in because it’s one of the pain points of the label. In the comfy seating of the networking area, it really didn’t take long to convince me to try. You see that you’re speaking to humans that once had this problem themselves. Beats the sleazy long-form sales page anytime.

India. There are literally a billion people there… suddenly at the point of having an internet connection stable enough to sustain streaming music. I love people who are forward-thinking, business-oriented, and awesome to talk to – which Nina and her team at Horus totally are. They do music distribution and PR, paying close attention to relations with emerging markets. Feel like starting a new label in the nick of time? I sure did! Say hello to Vivid Flare. Finally a place for all that Uplifting Trance from Russia (jeez I’m so going to regret writing this, anyone interested in an A&R opening 😀 ? ).

But you don’t really need an appointment to meet awesome people around. Just be nice. Say hello. Ask where she’s from. Lend him your pricey Sennheisers to calibrate sound for his camera without second thoughts. This is how you make cool friends from all around the place. Sure works most of the time, as mentioned: at ADE, everybody has an agenda of his own, so make yours meet and you’ll be fine.

It’s all about money, money, money on panels today. Ever heard of Monstercat? Yeah, a heavy business sugarcoated in fresh young paint, and a community of geeks, gamers and young visionaries under the hood. Revenue opportunities? Everywhere you dare to look! Like, do cool stuff for gamers, rake in money. Easy. Hey, even I was a gamer once. I mean, I still am. Business ahoy!

Selling music is Dead (as punk in 1980’s). And there’s tons more money to make. Designer merch, streaming, monetizing video content, perfumes, mobile apps… We live in exciting times, where your money isn’t held by that office fatty anymore. It’s here, yours for the taking. The world of music business is getting young, fresh, and profitable as hell. And yeah, if you are a DJ and producer, who’s able to solve his own pain points, there’s definintely friends around you who will appreciate your solution as well, even for a modest fee. Not scared of doing localised content? Bollywood infused EDM targeted at India? Or, mellow deep house with Chinese lyrics? There’s a guy who does it all. Meet Sam Feldt – #75 DJ in the world, and a brilliant mind. It was a privilege. And it was time to visit De Brakke Grond.

The air in the keynote auditorium was blazing hot. Panelists: Tiga and all the other people he didn’t leave much room to talk 🙂 It was pure bliss to listen to the guy spilling liquid gold of wisdom, wrapped in humor. We sure learned he does not have a special affinity to “Sunglasses at Night”, one of the signature tracks of his. He calls making commercially fitting tracks as “professionalism”, and I cannot agree more.

Martin joins me after his own round of meetings just as Surgeon and Lady Starlight start their live performance, with a short Q&A afterwards. Every panelist is kind of funny today. Did the acid kick in already? We make one more round to have a look at all the toys lined up, ready to play with new geeky temporary owners. I fall in love at first touch with what is becoming my next investment – it’s a Moog. Anyone needs a kidney in relatively good shape?

Oh, by the way. If you told yourself while reading: Yeah, I don’t need ADE to make it, I’m already up there… up where? Stop lying to yourself and come down to ‘Dam next year to have some pretty serious fun 😛

In Trance We Trusted (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.2)

Let’s talk a bit about the night of Day 1. While tired, the both of us were buzzing with inspiration. It was time to head out, but knowing our schedules for upcoming days, we needed to do one thing before…

A proper safari in the streets of Amsterdam. Get fries with Vlaamse sauce. Have a brief walk through Damrak and RLD. Getting lost while looking for a supermarket. And all that stuff. After an unexpected detour to our hotel room, our ultimate destination for the evening was Westerunie, with the “In Trance We Trust” party.

I see a familiar face at the entrance already. We do quick helloes, cross introduce each other (I introduced Martin as a “way better DJ than myself”) and move inside with a promise to see each other on the dancefloor. It was Heatbeat. I warmed for him a week before ADE, which was loads of fun. He’s a very funny guy.

Seeing familiar faces was not a coincident. There is a wide overlap of artists who are on today, with the artists of Luminosity Beach Festival. Which means, it’s almost all Luminosity people from New York to Israel, partying together back again in Amsterdam. It’s not the typical teen club. The contrary, actually: It’s mostly people who are in about their thirties. The vibe is unique. People love this music. This is pure #trancefamily.

We are consciously heading towards the Black Hole room and plan to spend the majority of the night there. My level of tired jumps from “casually tired” to “I hate myself” just about the same time as Nifra appears behind decks. The both of us love Nifra: as an amazing DJane and producer, as the down to earth smiley-face, as a friend. Of course, we enjoyed the performance, but there were some special… distractions. See, Tim from Coldharbour Recordings was live-streaming the show to Instagram just in front of me. The temptation to bomb the stream was big (something something ginger cheeky monster), but I didn’t have the balls to do more than this. Which was still fun, since Tim started to look around a bit and then closed the stream. Obviously, Instagram live comments do have a few seconds of delay, so I pretended. Wasn’t me.

Gabriel and Dresden stole the show of the evening. Most of us in the room enjoyed all the classic tunes, spanning from “Beautiful Things” to “As the Rush Comes“. It wasn’t just the regular partygoers. Random famous trance DJs and producers found their way in. Even though it didn’t seem to be the VIP part of the room, it sure felt like it (or we crashed it, maybe). I did see both guys from Cosmic Gate, Isaac from Fisherman&Hawkins, and I think Mike Saint-Jules as well. While they were not on the lineup, they sure seemed to enjoy the ride. So did we until the moment we realized it’s time to catch the night bus (literally, we found out the way out from the island with Westerunie is not the same as the way we went in, and that the stop we need to run to is not the one we’re standing at). We ultimately made it, but boy did those feet hurt…

This was a night that was short, but intense. Compared to what was about to come.

Good morning, Amsterdam! (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.1)

After 13 hours of thinking, what an insane engineering mind it requires to create comfy seating with loads of leg room and be a pain in the ass to sleep in at the same time, I find myself at Sloterdijk station. I’m meeting Martin in 2 hours and Panels start in 3. After 13 hours, there’s nothing better than a Starbucks Double Espresso with a large flat white. 

All in all, Day 1 of the conference is mostly about how musicians could enjoy a sustainable career. I’m waiting for Martin at Centraal Station and we’re heading to pick up our wristbands and badges. We expected a long line of music enthusiasts already checking in, as well as ADE crew members sweating to get things sorted. Didn’t happen. We’re greeted by possibly the friendliest staff ever, everything is smooth and ready, and boy am I hyped for the days to come. I’m tempted to buy merch, but we’re heading towards the hotel to try our luck with an early check-in. Obviously, everything is possible in Amsterdam. I love Dutch people.

We leave our bags and backpacks at the hotel and head towards the main venue of ADE – The DeLaMar Theatre (with an obligatory stop at McDonald’s). Despite a huge crowd amassing around the premises, the entrance is smooth. We’re picking up our goodie backpacks (pure love), posters with the Programme and something to read. Two minutes later and 5 minutes late, we’re sitting in the main panel room, D4.

It’s all in the mind. Can you fix musicians with the wrong mindset? Martin looks at me while smart guys are answering all the awkward questions I tend to ask him. Like, “Why do you want to be a famous musician? What do you want to achieve?” Turns out, you should be in it for the greater good. To ease pains of people who seek escape in your music. To evolve the scene. To enrich lives with your creations. That’s the mindset with the best outlook if you want to make it in the industry. So, yeah, all those selfish pricks out there should go hug themselves. This might have easily been the top panel for me in the 2017 installment of ADE.

My hearing can be saved now. And possibly restored in the future. While medicine advances in a crazy tempo, mental health seems to still be a topic that’s quite taboo. Imagine yourself playing a floor for 10.000 people. Then enjoy the hospitability (including loads of alcohol). Then go to your hotel room, mostly alone. Have 3 hours of sleep. Head to the airport. Go to the next gig. Do it all over again… No wonder there’s a high percentage of musicians suffering. This lifestyle, while having its sweet perks, can also have quite devastating side effects. This is why since December, Music Minds Matter. These are brilliant people who will help a lot of us.

Did you know that Taylor Swift requested sample clearance of “Look What You Made Me Do“, cause the rhythm of “I’m Too Sexy” is the same as one part of it? Yep, sampling is still not nearly as benevolent as creative musicians would love it to be. Despite some good news coming from recent rulings from the US. There’s no such thing as fair use, yet (much). You get caught = you have a problem. But the future looks promising, and changes might be coming!

Let me do a brief paragraph about meetings. I don’t want to call anyone out. I know, there’s a lot of people and lot of distractions at ADE. I know that Dark Beauty as a label is still in early infancy. But when you go the distance and set up a meeting with me, you better show up or let me know. I won’t bite heads off…

Gigging in the US is a wet dream of most artists. The Money, the open-minded Audience, the Opportunities… But to get there, you need visas. Not ESTA. You need a valid working visa for artists. Get caught without (which happens to a lot more people than I imagined), and you’re possibly ruining your chances for the future. The only exceptions might be showcases like SXSW. You need a reputable local entity (possibly a record label) to vouch for you in stage one. Prove you’re worthy of America. In stage two, you need to pass an interview at your embassy. Your permit is bound to the relation with the vouching entity and is granted for a period up to three years (Refused to let your label manager touch you in wrong places? Chances are you’re stuck back home in Europe for few months). But there’s a discussion about the process. There’s also a company who does pro bono consulting for artists who get stuck in it.

After that, the day took an unexpected turn. For the better, I guess. We got into the panel room, where Martin Garrix was setting up his studio setup (= laptop with FL Studio). You wouldn’t believe what happened next.

It was pretty much a Q&A driven studio session for a gazillion of people in the auditorium. To be honest, being Martin Garrix at that time and place, I’d probably rage by the end of the talk, cause… you keep on telling people for an hour, that the only way to create great stuff is “love it and just do it”. And yet, people were still trying to find out what’s the “magic mastering chain” and “how to compress to make something sound so very way phat” and what’s the “one simple trick”. It’s a great thing that Martin is an adult, down to earth guy. I learned a lot, but mainly the fact, that people are willing to commit hours of speculating about shortcuts, instead of putting down the hours into deliberate practice. Which is a great thing, this is going to be a brilliant business plan for a part of Dark Beauty…

What happened next? Tell me, tell me now!

Raavn pres. Setwork #31

First Monday of each month (with a pause here and there, that is always greatly compensated anyway), there’s always at least 5 people online, awaiting an upload. This time, I managed to mix it on time. Honestly, it’s one of the few things I love about hands-on music at the moment.

68 minutes of… well.. Dark Beauty. Including “Yoav”, couldn’t miss it, could I?

Tracklist:

01 // Juan – Basia
02 // Daniel Navrotsky – Truth
03 // Ivory – Bums of Dharma
04 // Joris Voorn – The Monk (Billka Remix)
05 // Chicola – Yoav
06 // Yöurr – Transitions
07 // Amber Run – I Found [Taglia x Josh]
08 // Sabura – Malderla (Original Mix)
09 // Guy J – On the Go
10 // Microbots – Freedom (Cid Inc Bootleg)
11 // Juan – BAWA (Mark Hoffen Remix)
12 // Mononoid – Orbit Rain

Before we hit the road (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.0)

Amsterdam Dance Event. A unicorn in our calendars, waiting to be slain for several years (pun intended). To be honest, I did not really believe I can make it until about mid-September. After Luminosity, and several other clubbing trips around the globe (ok, 3 times Budapest and 1 Amsterdam), my budget was not looking as promising compared to the day I learned I’m not going to make it to Burning Man. This is a story of two young musicians striving to see the bigger picture of the industry, in about 8 parts. 

One cold evening, I made the call, booked a backup Apartment not far away from the city center, and bought the Conference Pass. For some reason, I thought it’s a better idea to focus on Panels instead of Parties. Kids, before you learn the hard way: You won’t be able to make the most of both, and end up burning if you try.

Buying one of two passes (ADE Pass, Conference Pass) gives you one nice incentive: access to a delegate database. It’s basically a dream database that keeps marketers wet and awake at night, with contacts to people from the industry. From small independent artists who don’t know South just yet, to a handful of high caliber people who are likely never going to respond to you anyway unless you touch the right spots. The tradeoff is – you’re also ending up in that very same database. You inevitably get spammed by people who don’t bother to read your profile, but…

…holy crap! Someone thinks he/she knows what you’re up to and wants to meet. Yes, you can have a lot of fun talking to people at ADE, if they show up at all. Later on this subject sometimes… Later™.

Now, by this time, I have realized there are opportunities. Huge opportunities! So I started to poke around and found a Hackathon, promising to be a very nice (and intense) 24 hours long rollercoaster for the 100 brightest minds in the music industry. Register form, few pokes at people and ideas, and I found myself on the ADE Hackathon Slack. Now that I was in, I started to play with the idea to not just do what is asked – but I felt there’s an opportunity to lead my own team. And eventually, I had my “Team from the DJ Booth”. Until I didn’t. But more on that – wait for it – Later™.

We did have a very generous share of “bumps on the road” before we even took of. I was lucky enough to have the milder hiccup, with my wife tearing her ligamen and pretty much not being able to walk. My two-week vacation got shortened and… it meant I needed to take a bus to Amsterdam, which is a nice 13 hours trip through the night. For those few days, Susanna’s parents came up to Prague to take care of her. My parents-in-law are awesome!

Oh, by the way. By “we, 2017 edition“, I mean Martin and myself. Finally, there was more than just one person ready to commit. Martin pinged me few days ahead with the awesome news, that he’s just checked out the full ADE Pass. I canceled the backup accommodation and started to look forward heavily. Simple reason: around Martin, I don’t need to pretend to be a nice guy and can be myself (that tall ginger cheeky monster).

Ready to read about the first day of Panels in Amsterdam? Click here.