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!

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