Amsterdam Dance Event 2013: In a year of monumental change, global industry moves forward
Over the course of the last week or so, Dancing Astronaut (along with hundreds of other media outlets from around the world) descended upon Amsterdam for the industry’s largest gathering of the year — Amsterdam Dance Event. Not just a conference in the traditional sense, ADE is more than a networking opportunity for dance music’s power players — it’s also a festival that attracts a staggering number of fans to the charming Dutch city. We had our ears to the ground for the five day event, gathering insights and information about 2013 in retrospect and the future of 2014 and beyond.
ADE keeps getting bigger
In ADE’s eighteenth year, over 300,000 festival attendees stepped through the security lines of one party or another, and over 5,000 delegates participated in the conference. There were exactly 2,156 artists to see during the five day event — at 300 different events in 115 different and often quite unique venues. Although it was easy to groan about the sheer number of options presented to you in a single day’s timeframe, the most surprising thing among all these parties and panels to us was just how well-attended everything was. In our minds, this year was bigger but it definitely wasn’t too big.
Mainstream or underground?
If there was one thing that was clear during this year’s ADE — both the “commercial” and “underground” sides of the electronic music aisle have a seat at the proverbial dance table. While mainstream dance music’s popularity continued to rise by meteoric proportions both in the US and abroad over the past twelve months, it is clear that the popularity of deeper and darker house and techno sounds have also found themselves on the rise. From the range of chosen panelists to the array of genres represented each night at the festival’s parties, ADE represented the disparate sounds equally and respectfully.
The big business behind electronic music is only getting bigger
On the same week that SFX announced a 100% stake in ID&T, the big business surrounding electronic dance music became a staple subject amid the conference. From sturdy acquisitions and partnerships with such brands as Q-Dance in tow, long-serving members of the dance music profession and late-rising investors alike gave their two-cents as to the big bucks exchanging hands throughout the industry. For Shelley Finkel, Head of Acquisitions for SFX, the game was humorous anecdotes and recurring assurance that the big money behind the beast was not out to stir creative integrity. For such bonafide industry veterans as Matt Adell, the message was simple – a wallet full of cash will never replace an ear and understanding for good music and positive promotion of it. With only half the financial armory spent and further speculation as to the next big spend in this recurring trend, this is a subject of which we are unlikely to have heard the last rumblings.
Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers are here to stay
This year’s conference featured a star-studded lineup of panelists, but it was difficult to find any who could compete with Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers in terms of sheer popular appeal. Their back-to-back panels “The Gamechangers” (alongside fellow heavyweights like Ableton CEO Gerhard Behles and MIDI inventor Dave Smith) and “D.I.S.C.O. How Deep Are Your Roots” were both delivered to packed rooms.
“As far as changing the world, I think we were all in our own worlds back then,” said Rodgers as the first panel kicked off. Moroder played the role of elder statesman to a tee, chuckling when Rodgers described how a specific change up in Moroder’s “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summers changed his life.
“It’s amazing how much you know!” Moroder responded, bringing laughter to the room. “I didn’t know about the change up.”
Rodgers was also extremely candid in discussing the grim details of his past disco-fueled drug use, recalling an incident where he nearly died in an elevator. “My heart had stopped eight times,” Rodgers said. “The doctors explained how hard they worked to keep me alive. I took their words very seriously…for all of two weeks.” Ultimately, it was embarrassment that drove Rodgers to come clean after hearing a recording of his own shoddy performance under the influence. “I love music more than I love drugs,” he concluded.
Rodgers was equally focused on the present and future, gleefully discussing the ease and efficiency of his collaborations with artists like Avicii, Tensnake, and Chase & Status, as well as a couple famous French robots. “There is such an energy among electronic music producers right now,” said Rodgers. “I haven’t felt this excited in a really really long time.”
The genre debate is not going anywhere
As many of the panels focused squarely on the present and future of dance music, new genres and stylistic crossover were hot topics of discussion.
In the kick-off “Artist Debate” panel, Dutch tech house star Joris Voorn opened the roundtable with a hard-line assertion that there were simply too many genres in present-day dance music. New York house legend Danny Tenaglia seemed to disagree, arguing that the evolution of new music styles was a natural development in the course of dance music.
“People say ‘this isn’t techno,” said Tenaglia. “I say, ‘Well, that’s techno now.'”
Fellow panelist Tommie Sunshine reflected on how dance music’s present differed from his the past he experienced firsthand, explaining how he spent a good deal of time every week sourcing tracks from blogs and other online resources as opposed to traditional labels. “Going forward, I think the pop side is gonna get much bigger,” predicted Sunshine. “The underground is gonna get much deeper and more serious.”
“I just pray there’s less cheese,” a grinning Tenaglia quipped to standing ovation.
The South African talent pool is not to be ignored
If Amsterdam Dance Event is good at one thing, it is spotlighting dance music’s regrettably overlooked enthusiasts. This year, it was the turn of South Africa to take the spotlight, with recent album mongers Goldfish taking the time to speak on behalf of their home land and its ripe offerings to the world of electronic dance music. Using the Bridges for Music platform as a gateway to young artists and disadvantaged enthusiasts, a series of panels and events saw the cutting edge and the cream of SA’s national crop unite to break barriers and celebrate a universal swell in enthusiasm for electronic music. With Luciano rocking up to join some of the nation’s finest for a one-off Boiler Room session, South Africa leaves the conference. Goldfish’s Dominic Peters commented: “The country has so much to offer and has held such a positive scene for years now. Events like this are a key part of breaking down these assumptions and ensuring that talents from even the most underprivileged and socially stirred backgrounds are given the opportunity to be a part of this amazing movement for dance music as a while.”
The world’s top DJ is ready to work on his album…
Taking the week’s red-carpet documentary premiere, a packed-out panel and a number one spot on the DJ Mag Top 100 polls, Amsterdam Dance Event was an incredibly positive wrap-up to Hardwell’s year of reckoning. With an uncanny count of Beatport number ones, live global landmarks and illuminating label offerings via his Revealed Recordings, talk of Robbert Van De Corput’s impending footsteps was in heavy rotation. After playing a snippet of a previously unheard and unlikely to be released Diplo collaboration to the packed out Felix panel room, the Dutch titan confirmed that he would be making headway on his debut artist album for the new year. Though unwilling to confirm any solid collaborators, but speculated that there was likely to be a few surprise entities found on the record. We already knew Hardwell was on a winning streak, but Amsterdam Dance Event confirmed that the action doesn’t stop here for the newly crowned DJ Mag victor.
Hard dance anticipates an explosion for 2014
There is little denying the influx of hard dance hallmarks now making their way into the universal dance spectrum. Behind the scenes, however, the genre has been making considerable headway on a global scale. Speaking at HDE, the conference’s dedicated focus on all things hard dance, Q-Dance GM Rogier Werver offered a positive insight into the leaps and bounds of the festival and its ongoing mission to bring hard dance to the masses. He spoke of the personal experience that its artists and fans have utilized to date, the mixed responses to their American ventures and the double-edged potential of high-profile EDM artists embracing the sub-genre. During the one-on-one panel, Werver explained: “They can utilize the sound as much as they want, but this doesn’t mean they understand the culture or the personal connection that the music and its followers bring to the equation.” Thought showing the utmost respect for popular dance music and the rapid festival explosion, a record occupancy of HDE and Werver’s closing remarks just about said it all: “Hard dance is here to take over the world.”
Photos courtesy of Amsterdam Dance Event
Dan Carter, Cara Daley, and Matt Medved contributed to this post.