The ADE Hackathon (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.6)

For the first time during ADE 2017, I see light rain in Amsterdam. I’m making my way from DeLaMar to the back of the Centraal Station, where ferries dock. My circadian (and all other) rhythms are already messed up, so I’m not really worried by the fact I might not be on the proper one. While the ferry passes by Aitana (the hotel we stayed in with Martin), I am considering bailing out for the last time – as I imagine a comfy bed up there. One does not simply sleep at the ADE Hackathon. 

I had no trouble finding MTV Headquarters, really. An old shipbuilding facility, that’s now refurbished into a very very very modern workspace. What I really meant – it is majestic. All the fancy startups would be jealous. I’m signing my soul to Viacom in exchange for an ADE Hackathon T-shirt and making my way into something, that could be described as a lobby. But in reality, it’s a giant creative space, where your brain gets stimulated wherever you look.

ADE Hackathon at MTV NDSM

It’s me x100

I’ll be honest – it’s always nice when your peers openly think of you as smart. It happens to me and it’s a bit more than occasional, I feel special when it does. But my god, I wasn’t really able to imagine a 100 people just like me in one place up until today. Well, here we are, the illustrious “Brightest minds of the music industry” at ADE Hackathon 2017!

I’m passing by the DJ booth while looking for my teammates.

But first: How did we come together? It all began few weeks before departing to Amsterdam. I got invited to a Slack team with instructions. From there on, you pitch ideas in one channel, recruit team members or get recruited in another one. If you feel adventurous (I did), you create a third channel, where you coordinate everything with your newly recruited team members.

Fast forward a week before ADE Hackathon, it all gets shaken up – people change plans or… bail out. That’s harsh life of hackathon teams. Teams start panicking merging, and lucky for me – I manage to get into one that’s very active on Slack. Bruno from Brazil, Kellie from the US, Dennis from Rotterdam, Sebastian from Austria. Fresh minds, first-time hackathon attendees, known as “Ghosts ‘n’ Hackers” and guys who are making the Moov, later on. We adopted a flower-shaped couch and about 15 cans of beer. Why not.

Intro keynote

Meindert Kennis. This guy, CMO from Spinnin’. He talks about the magic behind their talent pool, innovation, and of course – he’s hiring. All the high profile names and brands support the ADE Hackathon because this is 100 rockstars that are able to disrupt the industry in a snap, literally. Everybody wants a piece of us.

We clap, try to speak with all the important people, get business cards, get job offers… And we are introduced into the hackspace – which is a huge room well prepared for being creative. By that of course I mean there are post-its and Red Bull in quantities that are possibly going to kill us.

Let’s think and have dinner

What happens when team members get connected last minute: you need to agree on a problem to solve first. Luckily, there are industry Pros from Phillips Hue, KPN Technium, and Woov staying onsite and are very eager to consult. Best thing: they are people who are a step ahead in the industry. Instead of consultation, we opted in to get as many insights about the development of their products as possible.

We are collectively leaving for dinner. What we don’t know yet is the location – it’s a secret. Until we enter a magical industrial area in the dockyard. With a huge DGTL banner and two full-blown stages. DGTL x Kompakt is happening here, tomorrow. And we already know what it’s going to look like while stuffing ourselves with super delicious burgers. That might well be the highlight until I suddenly get the silly idea to hijack the DJ booth. I get silly ideas in Amsterdam. Don’t ask. I am allowed to play by the organizers. At the booth in MTV.

People start dropping. Like flies.

While we iterate on our ideas, there is a sudden trend. Some people are leaving for a smoke and not returning. The last ferry leaves at 1 am, this is going to be a deadline. I think it’s mostly because some of the people are participating in their first Hackathon. The coffee machine breaks down. It’s getting colder (somebody left the doors open). This is what you would normally call a “shit hits the fan” situation.

It’s 1 am and my team is now Kellie and myself. We decide to call ourselves Ghosts & Hackers and are safely heading out of analysis paralysis. Bruno and Sebastian join us remotely later on to approve the final idea. We are going to build an AI-powered, geolocation-based recommendation system for ADE. All based on the problem, where best-promoted venues get crowded and people are not aware of alternatives because there’s so much happening. Suddenly bits and pieces start coming together, as we mock the first low fidelity prototype on paper. As soon as we are done, Kellie decides to move home as well.

My moments to shine

As the team’s chief of UX and UI, I need to create the wireframes first and ultimately ship the prototype and User Interface. ASAP. I have no idea when I finished, but I know Sebastian and Kellie did have already parts of the backend done. There is hope!

I need a place to crash…

Suddenly, it’s morning. I find myself on an inflatable mattress next to the elevator. Two hostesses who try and try not to wake us offer me a smoothie and I graciously accept. I feel like a hobo (and possibly look like one). A shower is something I’d enjoy now, but a stylish cap is ok as well. Yes, this is the moment when “Peter with the thinking baseball cap” was born.

I’m grabbing breakfast and a (possibly the 56th) cup of coffee. I make myself comfortable in the DJ booth and people seem to be waking up. So I did what I naturally would do – I started playing. Guys from team Angel App join me in the booth moments later and we have a tech talk while playing a b2b2b. After few mins, it’s just me again, but folks from team JokR are in the mood to dance. Here you go you beautiful French people, have some house tunes on me! (little did I know)

Kellie and Bruno come in and it’s time for work. Sebastian stays remote, and Dennis is sick at home. But holy shit. I just DJ-ed at MTV Headquarters!

Maarten, the most phenomenal host

We did have everything we needed, not just food and drinks, but also tech, data, and gadgets. And if there was something we didn’t have – we called Maarten. Maarten is the GM of Young Creators. He is the person who makes absolutely everything possible, is able to provide even more data on the fly in the middle of the night. He is inflating mattresses, repairing the coffee machine, making sure people are on Slack, and literally everything. Shoutout and a big round of applause!

Guys from Trancefamily can possibly picture me, on a party we were organizing – in full Duracell-Bunny mode – and quadruple that effort over 24 hours. Yes, that’s Maarten and I don’t believe he’s human 😀

Time flies when you’re having fun

Instead of picturesque description what happened next, I will leave it up to your imagination based on bullet points. We had about 5 hours left to hack, most of us pretty much nothing to show. Some teams didn’t exist anymore, others were thriving.

This happened for pretty much all of the teams including us, in chronological order:

  • “Damn, half of my team didn’t show up”
  • “Ok, one final update to the design”
  • “Ok, now that’s really the final design”
  • “Final_Final_Production.sketch”
  • “Ok let’s split the effort – you do the pitch deck, you do code, I do the final design”
  • “We all code”
  • “We all code and enjoy it in a very perverse way”
  • “Somebody messed up the commit”
  • “Oh crap, the Jury comes in and preliminary pitches start”
  • “This place is now a nuclear reactor of creative energy”
  • “Guys, hacking stops in 15 minutes”
  • [7 minutes later] “Guys put everything down and commit finals”
Preliminary pitches, Finals, and Winners of ADE Hackathon 2017

At 3 pm, we start pitching our ideas to the Jury. We need to show at least something and know there’s going to be some time to do some final_final_final touches. Bruno is doing the pitch for our team, and I’m commenting, mostly related to UI. I try to be funny with lines such as “look, there’s this Melkweg venue you’ve possibly never heard of, with a young prodigy Armin van Buuren setting the decks on fire”. Yeah, in our jury group, there are people from Armada and they don’t seem impressed. Dammit.

You’d normally be stressed as hell when doing this kind of pitch to an investor. In a hackathon setting, it’s pure excitement. There’s nothing to lose, and so much to win!

The hacking for ADE Hackathon 2017 stops, everybody does final commits and we all move out of the hacking space into the lobby. Guys from JokR hijack the decks, playing techno. I love it. We’re chilling out while we wait for the jury to decide 5 finalists. Maarten summarizes the past 24 hours in a slide deck. I hope the picture of sleeping hobos never makes it out of MTV HQ.

We are not part of the top 5. The finalists present their final pitches to all of us and it’s all amazing products. It’s no surprise that the most daring product wins. AngelApp – a drug consumption app that can save lives. Having seen intoxicated people collapse on the dancefloor a lot of times, I can only agree.

Little did I know

I have mentioned team JokR numerous times throughout this post. Their product was about “re-living the musical journey of yesterday’s party”. Which means: you open the app, lock your screen, dance. And in the morning, you get an e-mail with the playlist of tracks you loved so much, yesterday. Might be a nice cure for whatever stupid thing you did through the night 🙂

The technology is based on your phone’s motion sensor, which is an awesome idea indeed. The guys apparently tested it in the morning while I was taking over the MTV booth. Now we know, that Orkidea – Nana (Jerome Isma-Ae Remix) is the most banging tune. (And it is, for real). So yeah guys, enjoy your KPN special prize! 🙂

ADE Hackathon: An experience I never want to miss again

I’m bailing out of DGTL x Kompakt, even though we have free access thanks to participation in the ADE Hackathon. I’m calling my wife while floating on the ferry. I need to sleep and I need to sleep badly. And my head is buzzing from all the beer with creative energy. I know I need to sort my head now; the only thing now I’m sure of is that I need to resign from my day job to do stuff like the past 24 hours (which I ultimately did and built Discover DB as the first of many). I just had the time of my life.

(Of course, I did not sleep, at least not right away)

Obvious question is obvious: #TeamDarkBeauty on ADEHack 2018, let’s do this!

Money is what it’s about… until it isn’t (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.5)

It’s few hours later after the most amazing party ever. Martin is already gone and a lonely can of RedBull is staring at me from the hallway. I am due for a meeting early on, but luckily – the sad alarm clock sound is soon followed by a happy mail notification. My counterpart cancelled the meeting, so I can sleep more, and dream more, about today’s topics: Brands and Money.

The meeting cancellation was most appreciated, but still didn’t get me my 8 hours of sleep. Way past noon, I’m making my way to the DeLaMar Theatre, in a post apocalyptic state of mind. Cheeseburgers didn’t make me feel better, but a triple espresso did. Yep, the coffee at ADE venues was amazing. I get a text from Martin and follow to the main panel room to hear about…

Marshmello and Alan Walker

I learned about Marshmello not so long ago thanks to the parodies of CVNT5. Obviously, the brand for him is mostly represented by the bucket on his head 🙂 I was not really sure about Alan Walker, though. Until I heard his track, Faded.

How much money does Marshmello make?

I have to kinda admit – I was not the best in paying attention to the panel, still trying to shake off past night. What I can tell, though, is: you can build a sustainable brand with something special, or something really authentic.

“I need to start doing shows, making music no longer provides enough money for my living”

A panel called “Best and Worst of how to run a record label in the 21st century”  started with a very obvious statement: Doing music and selling tracks is not going to cut it. It possibly does not ever since the end of 90’s. As a specific example, Stephan Bodzin was brought up as a producer, who needed to start DJ-ing and doing live shows to be able to live off music.

Need income? There’s a ton of opportunities out there. Writing music just isn’t really a viable one, if you’re not Maarten Vorwerk. You can still build empires of your own, but as business 101 states very clearly: don’t focus on just one revenue stream.

The final panel for me at ADE 2017 is very interesting, because I’m facing the people I look up to with huge respect – especially Nadine from Armada. What they say makes perfect sense: You’re an Artist, and Art needs to come first. Of course, Music is not a non-profit industry, but there’s people who can help with business if your Art is perfect. Heck, Business is an Art in itself for many of them – and I proudly include myself here.

Having watched the Deadmau5 Masterclass (a million times) recently, I did have that itch. To reach for the mic and dare. Dare to ask the most influential people in the industry:

“Are demos the only thing you consider when signing an artist, or do you look for an artist with a brand already built?”

The panel responds (also including Tommie Sunshine, Austin Jacobs, Luke Solomon, Jennifer Cardini) almost identically: We live in exciting times, where music is just enough to get signed to labels, even top ones like Armada. To be honest, I was surprised. Mau5trap, based on Joel’s words, does look for the whole package. A big pile of money. Is Mau5trap missing out?

No time for any more talks unfortunately. My alarm rings. I need to leave in order to meet the other 99 brightest minds in today’s music industry.

Found (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.4)

I’m sitting in an Uber. The way over to Q-Factory is kind of complicated for me tonight, so I’m spoiling myself (as I do the whole ADE). Since Martin is not with me tonight, I’m enjoying speaking to Imad, my driver.

Uber Drivers are quite happy about ADE. The business is good, especially when the night falls. We’re speaking about lives of musicians, about moving to the Netherlands (not necessarily Amsterdam), about the Dunes and the beach. As soon as I mention Haarlem as the city I love and want to move to, Imad’s eyes shine. He’s from Haarlem.

Coat check and security done, and I make my way up to the rooms. The locker service is a bit expensive for my taste, but I go for it, since there seems to be no cloakroom. As soon as I lock all the stuff I won’t need, I feel relief. Expensive lockers are a good thing. You have control, there’s no queue to get your stuff afterwards.

The fam is already here (“The all-black family you never thought you had”). I hope it does not sound careless, but… At Lost&Found events, you don’t really need to care where your friends are. Everybody is your friend here.

Since I plan to spend more time here than yesterday at WU, I’m buying more tokens. As I learned few minutes later, the pricing is a bit different to yesterday. I’m destined to drink tonight. A lot.

The room is packed. I’m vibing to the music I love, mostly with my eyes closed. I don’t really care about who’s playing. It’s official. I’m not “mostly into trance music” anymore. It’s a feeling of relief. I feel like I found my new self.

Flash forward two hours later. I recognize Khen behind the decks and realize this is the side room. The embarrassing part of the evening ends when I confuse Guy Mantzur with Sahar Z. It’s all ok. Everybody smiles. Lost & Found is a true family. Behind the decks, on the floor, around the venue. DJs who are not playing at the moment are behind the DJ booth, dancing and enjoying themselves. I’m so grateful that this lineup came together for ADE.

I was already tired, but still having the time of my life. Bumping into Linda, one of many fellow ravers I regularly see around the world, makes me come to reality for a bit. I grab a bottle of Desperados (my new go-to drink), and start to recognize more familiar faces. It’s quite full and quite loud in the main room (yes, I managed to find it), so I decide to enjoy myself instead of talking. I’m challenging myself to go to the front.

The 2nd frontline experience at ADE

You are never coming back from the frontline experience at Lost & Found. I’m almost at the front row when Guy J starts setting up, preparing to take over from Chicola. I’ve seen those guys play so much recently, and yet it’s never the same. The music is not so loud anymore, since I’m in a blind spot. Most of the people in the front row seem to know each other for a long time, so it comes as a surprise they start interacting with me in just a few minutes.

Being nice is not punished here, which is awesome (since I tend to come along as the guy who behaves well). Guys are nice, because they know you’re not hitting on their Ladies – you are just being friendly. Ladies are nice, cause they enjoy the unobtrusive attention. For some reason, there’s a lot of respect overall. It’s a homeostasis, except for the moments when the pyro a flames hit. But even after that, you unite in… burned eyebrows. I see Emiel nearby, a party buddy I know for a long time already, and decide to say hi. My new friends seem upset, but hold my place in the front row and act relieved when I’m back.

Did I mention that I bought a lot of tokens? Well, you obviously can spend those with your new friends. Unfortunately (for me), expect that this kind of small favor is always going to be returned. Everybody feels like gifting. May it be drinks, or smiles. It almost feels like what I imagine Burning Man to be.

Lost & Found ADE 2017 by Lieke van Kalken
Lost & Found ADE 2017 by Lieke van Kalken


The music is pure magic

Guy J is playing and people are so immersed in the experience, they barely breathe. It’s the standard mix of percussions, hypnotic bass lines, and beautiful melodic breakdowns. The time feels like standing still, but flies fast as hell. It’s the time, where both Guys are supposed to switch, but seem to have slight tech difficulties. Guy J gets an extra 30 minutes and steps on the gas pedal. The vibe gets harder and we all enjoy it.

As soon as Guy Mantzur and Sahar Z take over, I check my mobile phone to realize I missed my tram. There’s so many things I need right now, most notably a bit of fresh air. There’s an itch in my right ear, so I’m pulling out my earplug to immediately lose it on the floor without any hope of recovery. It looks like it’s the sign to leave, but it’s not going to be easy. I need to high five, hug, and kiss hands of (while I do this only to people I feel to respect, this might be the ultimate icebreaker towards your sudden crush on the dance floor) my new friends. Some 10 minutes later I’m out of the main room, in the hallway.

I realize I did not pee for the whole evening. I’m getting rid of one more token, yay! I’m opting in to listen to the main room from the hallway for some more time. It’s still so good!

This is to shed light on the story of the lonely open can of Red Bull

It’s 6:13am. I have few tokens left. My tram is due in about 5 minutes, so I’m opting to invest into the treatment of what is expected to come when I get up in about 3 hours from now. I’m ordering a can of Red Bull. The 3 seconds afterwards come to me in something like a slow-motion: the bartender picks up the can, grabs the seal, and while I try to breathe in to tell her to not open it, she pulls. Pssst… My plans for the morning seem ruined. I want to go to sleep…

So: Can a lonely open can survive a 50 minutes trip to the hotel room? Answer: Yes, it can! I see my lovely friend Betty online on Facebook, so I’m sharing the story as I walk. She seems annoyed when I ask her why she’s not sleeping. Today, I live in an alternate ADE reality, where there’s no such thing as getting up to go to work. But Betty is a good, understanding friend. My story of the night made her morning. And in a flash, I found myself opening the hotel room…

My best party at ADE (and possibly, ever)

The statement is true. I had an experience that possibly redefined how my next 5 years of rave-life are going to look like. I’m pretty sure we see each other. Latest next year, same place, same party, front row. Promise! ❤️

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!

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.