Exclusive Interview: Tomorrowland co-owner Michiel Beers speaks on US expansion; ‘This will be unlike anything else in the States’
From its humble beginnings as an 8000 capacity one-day festival in the small town of Boom, Belgium in 2005 to becoming the most international event on earth in 2013, Tomorrowland has set the high watermark for what it means to be a music festival. With awe-inspiring attention to detail and an environment that literally transports fans to another world, there is no other event quite like it.
Earlier this year, ID&T announced that the Tomorrowland brand would be expanding its offerings, moving across the Atlantic to the stretch of land along the Chattahoochee Hills River in Georgia. The announcement was met with an equal amount of enthusiasm and skepticism. Many expressed fears that the festival’s magic and charm would be lost in the move and that America would receive a second rate version of the European festival. In an exclusive interview with Dancing Astronaut, Tomorrowland co-owner, Michiel Beers dispels any concerns: “It is our duty and promise to make sure that TomorrowWorld has the same spirit and atmosphere as the one in Belgium.” Adamant about TomorrowWorld’s expansion, the excitement in Michiel’s voice could be heard over the crackling international conference line. “I think that everybody who will be part of this will be astonished by it. On one hand it is an American event, but on the other it will be a international gathering as well.”
With 2013’s festival boasting almost 2 million unsatisfied Tomorrowland hopefuls, the expansion was a necessity, but until organizers could find a location that captured the magic of Belgium, they were hesitant to expand. At a maximum capacity of 180,000 attendees, the original location in Belgium could no longer accommodate the festival’s booming popularity. “I see the expansion as an extra chance for a lot of people to experience the magic. It won’t ruin the charm of the original,” Michiel discusses, “we are going to build and create that same fantasy world for thousands of new fans.”
The decision to move to the USA may have seemed like an obvious choice given the current dance music climate here in the states, but Michiel asserts that the move was more serendipitous than that.
“Over the past two years we’ve been getting countless requests from sites all over the world to work with us. During our search for a suitable expansion spot, we looked at more than 100 locations all over the world. It’s a very long list of minimum requirements before a venue is suitable for hosting an edition of Tomorrowland. What we found in Chattahoochee Hills was more than perfect, that’s why we also call it our second home. We always said that if we ever expanded the festival, the venue needed to have at least the same uniqueness as in Belgium. Every festival should always start with finding the perfect location. If this [Chattahoochee Hills] would have been located in Brazil, we would probably be having the first TomorrowWorld in Brazil “
According to Michiel, TomorrowWorld will be nearly identical to Tomorrowland with the addition of some new experiences unique to the USA. While many of the most important elements from Belgium will be shipped overseas to Georgia, a portion of the festival will be built specifically on site for Chattahoochee Hills – some of which may be carried over to Tomorrowland 2014. This cross-pollination of festival assets embodies the ID&T mantra of always improving on perfection. “People often underestimate how much work it requires to do what we do, it’s not a touring U2 production with one big stage, we create a complete city for 5 days. It’s very complicated.”
Beyond the music there is a team of die hard dance music fans employed by ID&T, all of whom have been working tirelessly to ensure that the brand’s expansion to US soil captures all of the magic and grandeur of its European counterpart.
“We are doing this step-by-step. Taking it very seriously. We don’t see this as a ‘Hey let’s move to America, here is our name’ sort of thing. We have a duty to create something outstanding — there are over 50 people dedicated to TomorrowWorld full time and I am constantly astonished by the passion of this team. I am confident that this will be unlike anything else in the States.”
The expansion is not without its list of concerns. Michiel acknowledges that the festival bubble the market is experiencing “will probably burst at some point,” but also asserts that it only means that “every person organizing something should be doing it with passion and purpose. Every festival will need to add something unique to the market. If organizers do that, they will be successful.” With the American festival market beginning to feel a bit homogenized, TomorrowWorld comes in at the perfect time to shake things up a bit.
Scheduled on September 27, 28, and 29th in Chattahoochee Hills, tickets for TomorrowWorld will go on sale tomorrow at 11am EST; starting with Global Journey, 35 travel packages from around the world including return flights, transfers plus a hotel room or camping pass. On Saturday April 27th, 50% of the ticket allocation will go on sale to US residents only, followed by the final sale to the whole world on May 4th. Preregistration is required and can be completed at www.tomorrowworld.com now.