Category: Geen categorie

Shelter’s Merijn van den Heuvel on Starting Your Own Club

When Shelter opened its doors in 2016, it immediately struck a nerve in Amsterdam’s already bustling nightlife. First of all, the sound system blew everyone away. Secondly, the club’s atmosphere — a culmination of the team, the musical programing and its aesthetic — attracted a loyal following of dedicated clubbers and ravers.  We sat down with former Managing Director Merijn van den Heuvel to talk about all the things necessary to start a successful club.

Merijn has some valuable learnings to share with us, and answers all kinds of questions, like where to start: “You start by asking yourself what it is you seek in a club. What’s important for you? What’s important for the market? We put a few pillars on paper, which were most important to us. They were: sound, sound, sound, acoustic, acoustic, acoustic, because we’re a quality club, and that’s the thing. If that isn’t immediately well executed, you need to fix that while building.”

Find out more about the vision behind Shelter, and all you need to know before starting your own club, in the video below.

You can also find Shelter on Facebook and Instagram.

TSOH | Close-Up: DVS1 Explains How Big Festivals Are Jeopardizing Club Culture

Few artists in the techno genre are as outspoken as Zak Khutoretsky aka. DVS1. In recent years, the Russian-American DJ/producer has been the instigator of many a fierce discussion on electronic music’s most sensitive topics. His essay on dancefloor photography (2014) kickstarted a worldwide movement banning photography in clubs. Now Zak is questioning the festival culture, saying it is jeopardizing some of electronic music’s core values. The School of House sat down with him during one of his recent visits to Amsterdam to talk — amongst other things — about the devastating effect of big festivals on our culture.

Written by Aron Friedman

“These big, commercial style, ten, fifteen, twenty thousand person festivals, that’s what I think is destroying the culture. (…) The DJs are becoming used to playing 90 minute sets on these big stages to short attention audiences, which is then taking them out of the environment of being artists. Because when you have 90 minutes to play on a big stage to a bunch of kids who are not willing to sit through your left and right turns, you play in the middle, the bangers, and that’s all you do. Otherwise you’re going to lose everyone. When you play in a club for three, four, five hours, it tests your ability to move through time and space, and go up and down, and play with the vibe and the tensions in the room. And if everyone’s is focused on that one room on the one sound, they’re with you. They chose to come there and be a part of your experience for the night. So it challenges you as an artist.”

Watch the entire interview here.

“From the crowd’s perspective, you can imagine, you’re using the value. Let’s say a club wants to charge ten, fifteen, twenty euros for one DJ to play all night. But some young kid says: ‘Why would I pay twenty euros for one DJ, when I can pay forty and go see a hundred DJs.’ When the reality is, they’re not going to see a hundred DJs, they’re not going to hear a hundred DJs. They’re going to hear five to thirty minutes of ten DJs throughout the day. Because the moment one DJ bores them, they’re like: ‘In five minutes, so and so starts on that stage,’ and then them and their friends run over there. And then after twenty minutes: ‘Oh, we’ve got to go hear this guy, ’cause he’s starting in twenty minutes.’

“So it’s affecting so many mutiple ways, from the audience, I think the audience is their perception of value and attention, and respect for the experience. I think from the DJ again, they’re losing the being an artist and being creative. I think for the culture, it’s affecting the clubs and the independent promoters, who work on a monthly or weekly basis, and are taking a lot more risk for smaller audiences. For four to six hundred people. I just think it’s destroying this whole concept that I keep talking about of having a shared experience with a group of people in a room to one heart beat, to one pulse, to kind of one thing.”

Schermafbeelding 2019-03-07 om 14.01.01DVS1’s Wall of Sound.

“It’s getting out of hand. And I don’t think we’re part of the same scene anymore. We used to all be a scene, and a culture. Then it became an industry, and now even that industry is becoming split in two, where you have the club part of it, and the rave part of it. And then you have the festival side of it. And part of me doesn’t think they’re part of the same thing anymore. Even though they share the same music, and the same DJs, they’re becoming total seperate entities. And I’m okay with that. I just wish one didn’t affect the other so much.”

Find DVS1 on Facebook | Soundcloud .

TSOH | Close-Up: Armada’s Jeroen te Rehorst on Proper A&R Management

Jeroen te Rehorst is the A&R (artists & repertoire) manager for Armada Music, one of the world’s leading electronic music labels. He speaks about the traits an A&R manager should have, and the work that needs to be done when scouting for artists, guiding their careers and promoting their music. He also offers some wise learnings for unsigned producers about sending demo’s.

“A producer needs to make sure of a really good pitch towards us. They need to have a story ready: I’m this and that guy, I’ve made this track, I’ve had feedback from my surroundings. He can say that in a short story, and he can have a link to listen to that we can play immediately. Not that we need to download it or something like that. The less action we need to take to listen to your music, the better.

“Especially when people send us demos, I always ask: is this really the best track you’ve ever made? Because a lot of people send a track, and we say: ‘Well, this isn’t it.’ And then they say: ‘Here I’ve got another one, and here I’ve got another one, and another one.’ And then it becomes somewhat of a scattergun approach. So I assume the moment you send us tracks, you truly offer us the best work you ever made in your life.

“And then I want to believe that we’re the only ones you send the tracks to, because I’ve had it so many times where someone sends me an email saying: ‘Hello Spinnin, this is my new track, or ‘Hey, other label,’ you know, ‘here’s my new track.’ Well, then you usually get thrown unto the pile, because you didn’t prepare your pitch well enough.”

TSOH | Close-Up: Eric Keijer Explains the International Success of Sensation

Early November, Eric Keijer announced his resignment as the General Manager of Sensation, the world’s leading dance event for many years in a row. He has been part of a little under 120 Sensation events in over 20 different countries around the world. If there’s anyone in the world of Events & Organization who has seen it all, it’s Eric Keijer.

The School of House sat down in 2017 with Eric for a long and very insightful interview about managing a giant and internationally renowned event like Sensation. For a year, we’ve been using this content in our classes, but the content is so cool, we decided to make a publication out of it. There are some valuable learnings Eric is sharing with us. He has a very clear vision of the industry and all the people in it.

When asked which personality traits are most welcome at Sensation, Eric says: “Being open to other people’s knowledge. There are plenty of stubborn people of course. Especially project managers are great at minding other people’s business, but they need to understand that the technical team is more knowledgeable than the project managers. Put your trust in other people’s knowledge.”

And, as Eric stresses: “You need to like what you do, have a feeling for dance music, you need to visit those events in your spare time. That’s all, I think. And also be open to other cultures. When you’re touring internationally, that’s very important.”

Watch the entire interview here:

TSOH | Learning Curve: Tripeo champions the process of taking risks

Tripeo, also producing and DJ-ing under his birth name Darko Esser, has been one of the leading figures of Dutch techno for a while now. As a programmer for several authorative venues in The Netherlands over the years–most notably the legendary Doornroosje in Nijmegen, where he has now worked for 18 years–Tripeo has developed a broad and distinct vision on electronic music.

In the studio and on stage, both as a DJ and a live act, Tripeo has been able to manifest his quirky take on techno. We thought it was about time to ask him for some valuable learnings. He told us about his new live act The Leap, his Lyra 8 organismic synthesizer and his eternal love for electro.

Written by Aron Friedman

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve recently learned or discovered?
I’m working with my friend Han Frissen, aka Doka, on a brand new live show for our new joint venture called The Leap. It’s a wonderful learning proces. This live show is different from any other live show I’ve done before, because we’re taking a lot of risks between the two of us. The aim is to have more than 50% of the show become improvisation. It may take a while, but we’re trying to be as flexible as possible. And we can also use this process as the basis for new tracks.

One of the things we’ve done, is we both bought Maschine Mikro MK3. We load it with many of our own drum samples. This way, we can record on the fly, and make new patterns with the note repeat function for example. It’s a complete new way of working for me. I’m not used to live finger drumming, but I think it will enhance the live feeling, to physically make the drum patterns as we go along.

Is that also why you’ve called yourself The Leap, because of the leap into the unknown?
That’s definitely the idea. We want to live up to our name, which means taking risks. It can turn out fantastic, but it can also fail. By lack of a better word, I see what we are doing as jazz, because it’s all a bit more loose and more abstract. I find that fascinating. The tryout is in Merleyn end of December. A little pre-leap, before we really start touring.

Is there something you’d still like to learn?
Two things. I have modular synthesizers at home. I’d love to learn more about them, because it will make my understanding of my other instruments much better. I know how sound synthesis works, globally, but not very specific. I think I’ll get to understand the idea a lot better, because it’s such a physical process. You literally have to connect things with plugs for anything to happen.

The other thing I’d love to learn about, is this new synth I bought from a Russian manufacturer called Soma Laboratories. It’s called a Lyra8, and it’s something you really need to learn how to use. That’s something I’m having trouble with sometimes. I’d rather be creative than trying to figure out how something works. And I think I should try harder. Once you truly know what you’re doing, you can get more out of your machines, and you can create something unique, that no one else is doing. You want to have your own sound signature.

What’s your most valuable source of information?
I watch a lot of things on YouTube: tutorials, reviews of music instruments. Before I buy something, I want to know how it sounds. There are a few channels, like Sonic State, that delve deeper into things. And there are a bunch of tutorial sites, where you can learn something. For troubleshooting, I always just use Google, and it can take me to forums like Gear Slutz or Ableton and Elektronauts. I always end up finding a solution.

How important is a sounding board, and who’s part of yours?
I have a few people close to me, whom I send my music to. But a sounding board is not very important to me. It doesn’t change my opinion about my ideas. Once I like something, no one is really going to change my mind, I’m a very stubborn person in some aspects lol. And when I have my doubts, it’s usually for a good reason. Then it’s usually just to get an assertion of what I already know.

But I will sometimes get tips on production techniques that are very helpful. People like Han (Doka) and Jeroen (Cadans) are guys who really have valuable tips for me sometimes.

What’s your most recent musical discovery?
Genre-wise, I’m really blown away by electro again. I’ve always had a soft spot for it, but the last two years, I’ve noticed a real surge, new artists with a fresh take have made everything more current. And there’s a few key artists who’ve worked as a catalyst. It’s never been away, just off the dance floors, which I’ve always found odd. Now, thanks to people like Stingray, Helena Hauff and Objekt, it has emancipated also on the floor, spawning a new interest by many people who are noticing an entire world behind it, and a wave of producers with a different angle. Who are making it sound super fresh.

What’s the most important learning point you have for aspiring producers?
It’s a question I have answered before, and will keep standing by: don’t be afraid to fail, make mistakes. Try everything, it will help you find your own voice. Especially from the things that go wrong, something beautiful can emerge. If you play it safe, you’re only risking to sound like everybody else. Don’t try to sound like anyone else, do wherever your feelings and fantasy take you.

Follow Tripeo on Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

Audio Obscura: “When you’re passionate, there’s always a way to convince others.”

If there is one organization standing out at this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), it’s Audio Obscura. Having steadily manifested themselves as the Dam’s number one spotters of stunning off-locations since 2013—staging legendary events like Sven Väth at the Concertgebouw and Underworld under the Rijksmuseum—they are now stepping up their ADE game with a total of eleven events in four different locations, Central Station, the Maritime Museum, The Loft and a former prison called Bijlmerbajes. Some of dance music’s most revered artists are playing there, like Seth Troxler, Nina Kraviz, Joris Voorn, Stephan Bodzin. We sat down with owner Naut Donders to talk about convincing even the most reluctant believers of your ideas.

Written by Aron Friedman

The School of House: Audio Obscura is owned by you and your partner Jeroen Fontein. Can you tell us about both your backgrounds?
Naut Donders: “Jeroen used to have a bookings agency, and he has also worked in film and TV scores. I studied at Team Academy in Haarlem, a school for entrepreneurship. After my internship at GZG, I worked at Studio 80 for a while. Then I started as a manager and booker at Jeroen’s agency. By the time the company was dissolved, we had already launched Audio Obscura.”

TIMBUITING_5723Naut Donders (left) and Jeroen Fontein (right) (Photo: Tim Buiting)

TSOH: What was the initial Audio Obscura concept, and how has it developed over the years?
ND: “Our initial idea was to stage contemporary musicians in classical buildings like concert halls. We figured it made just as much sense for modern composers to play at concert halls as it does for classical composers. Concert halls are meant for music, and we felt we had to push the boundaries for electronic music in places like those. Pushing boundaries is still what we strive for, even though our scope has broadened. That’s why after two editions at the Rijksmuseum, we’re moving on to new venues.”

TSOH: These off-locations must be a challenge to produce; no infrastructure, no experience with music events?
ND: “Definitely. It took us a total of fifteen visits to the Bijlmer prison just to prepare our license application. The place was never built for mass gatherings, so we’re going to have to drill our way through prison walls to make sure we have enough emergency exits—a very costly endeavor.

TSOH: How do you even start convincing monumental institutions like the Rijksmuseum to throw a rave with you?
ND: “Well, that’s one of the hardest parts of our job. Throughout the year, we visit at least one location a week, and only two to four of them actually work out, or sometimes take years to work out. The first thing we heard when we sat down with the Rijksmuseum in 2010 was: ‘Sorry guys, never going to happen.’ But we weren’t let down. We persevered, kept on coming back until they were on the same page as us.

“As long as you’re passionate, convinced of your story, there has to be a way to convince the other person. But in order to make them see what you’re seeing, you have to start looking at things from their perspective first. In 2016, the Rijks wanted to promote their musical instruments, so we found a way to connect with Maceo Plex.

“Once the museum experienced the hype around the event (we had 66k attendees on Facebook that first year!) and saw how we took care of production, they trusted us, and we got a lot done more quickly. Everything became a lot easier the next year with Underworld. We just had to prove ourselves.

“Institutions like the Rijks are very careful about things like these. They don’t need to throw a rave, or at least they don’t think they do, haha. But in the end, the entire collaboration proved to be beneficial for both parties. Rijksmuseum became known with a huge younger audience, and we cemented our name further as an organization. Now that we have a track record, it has become a lot more easy to knock on other doors, like the Bijlmerbajes and the Maritime Museum.”

Audio Obscura ADE ©Katja Rupp

ADE under the Rijksmuseum (Photo: Katja Rupp)

TSOH: You have eleven events coming up at four different locations. How do you manage that with two people in one week?
ND: “Tell me about it… It’s going to be horrendous, haha! And that’s not even all, because we’re yet to announce more nights this coming week. Luckily, we’re working with a solid team of senior producers. They’re extremely skilled at making the best of these locations.”

TSOH: In earlier interviews, you hinted at an international expansion. What are the developments there?
ND: “It has long been our dream to take Audio Obscura abroad. Until recently, we hadn’t found a suitable location yet. We have found one now, but I’m still reluctant to talk about it too much. I can tell you the building something out of a fairy tale. But I want to make sure the conditions are exactly right before I make it public. We’re not going to do anything if we can’t make it work exactly as we envision it.”

Check out Audio Obscura’s ADE Agenda: 
18/10: Audio Obscura x Spectrum w/ Joris Voorn (Central Station)
18/10: Audio Obscura x Seth Troxler & Honey Dijon (Bijlmerbajes)
19/10: Audio Obscura x Charlotte de Witte (Central Station)
19/10: Audio Obscura x Stephan Bodzin (Maritime Museum)
19/10: Audio Obscura x Electric Deluxe & Dystopian (Bijlmerbajes)
20/10: Audio Obscura x Nina Kraviz presents Tрип (Bijlmerbajes)
20/10: Audio Obscura x Mariel Ito (Central Station)
(four more events to be announced…)

TSOH | Close-up: Poker Flat’s Steve Bug on how to run a label

Steve Bug has been DJ’ing and producing electronic music since the early 90’s. He has also been running his own labels Poker Flat Recordings, Audiomatique and Dessous since the late 90’s. His minimalistic house sound has been a great catalyst for the German minimal house wave of the 00’s. Today, Poker Flat Recordings is a label to be reckoned with. Here is Steve, talking about the do’s and dont’s of running your own imprint and releasing music: “A track has to sound much better now, than it had to back in the day.”

You can find Poker Flat Recordings on Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

Octopus Agents: “Bookers should stay in the background, artists are in the spotlight.”

One of the most renowned Dutch talent agencies in electronic music is Octopus Agents. They represent an impressive roster of international house and techno icons like Hunee, The Hacker, Donato Dozzy, I-F and San Proper. Octopus head honcho Dion Verbeek has been in the business for eight years now, and knows the industry like the back of his hand. He knows that being a facilitator is the most important task of any booker: “If you’d rather be in the spotlight, you should become an artist.”

The School of House: How did you get started?
Dion Verbeek: I started organizing parties in 2005. I was freelancing in B2B events for brands, but then my passion started to itch. In 2010, I started Octopus Agents, because I noticed most event organizers have a lot of knowledge of production and logistics, but artists were not represented very well. I came into contact with Serge from Clone and Marsel from Delsin. They were both looking for someone who could take care of bookings. I then merged their rosters. Before I knew it, I had an agency with forty names on the website.

Pressphoto-Donato-Dozzy-2Donato Dozzy

TSOH: How did you take it from there?
DV: I quickly realized I had to take care of gigs and productions myself. Within half a year, I had an intern, who took care of sending out the contracts and invoices. It was more of a band-aid solution at first, through Excel. But within a year and a half, we grew to three people, simply because I still had that freelance thing for the business to business events still going. I was making enough with that to be able to do this as a fun thing on the side. As soon as I could live off the bookings – even though it was only a fifth of what I was making with the other stuff – I continued with Octopus. Even though it hadn’t been my intention in the beginning.

TSOH: Hadn’t been your intention?
DV: Well, I never intended to start a company contracting ten people at the same time. You suddenly have to worry about things like the work atmosphere, keeping employees happy instead of focusing on content-related issues and evolving artist careers.

TSOH: What was your vision when you started Octopus?
DV: At the time, I believed that artists like for example I-F and Legowelt could be appealing for a much wider audience than they were actually doing at the time. At first, we were regarded as the heads, the niche guys. That has definitely changed, people have more of an understanding of what we’re trying to do. We still work with people who are close to our hearts, but also people we see are trying to develop themselves. We are also trying to bring more niche names to a larger audience. Thanks to platforms like Dekmantel and Trouw, this sound has gained a much wider appeal. These days, I’ll run into my sister at festivals, even though she has no idea who’s playing there.

TSOH: You run a management as well as a booking agency. What’s the difference, and isn’t it somewhat of a grey area?

DV: Well, you definitely have a point there: it is kind of a grey area. Management is taking it one step further, you really have to breathe what an artist represents. And as a booker, you’re a bit closer to the heat. You’re busy generating business for artists, but also taking care of the career planning: registering with the Buma/Stemra, developing products with a brand, label management; an agent has nothing to do with that. And as an agent, you’re mostly involved in PR. But I must say, both management and bookings agency are based around shows, because that’s how artists generate the most income these days.

TSOH: What are the qualities you need as a booker?
DV: I think you need some social skills. You need to be very determined. And you need to enjoy working with people and doing sales. It can sometimes be a bumpy ride with ups-and-downs, and you need to keep seeing the bigger picture. Being into music is also very important. Personally, I prefer it when people aren’t deeply involved in the music scene, because it creates a bit of a healthy distance. Lately, I’ve noticed that when someone is a real head and is looking up to artists, that isn’t much of an advantage. Artists are all people. The most fantastic musician can still be the biggest prick. The interaction between artist and booker is key. If you can create a good synergy, you can come a long way.

TSOH: What are the biggest mistakes you can make as a booker?
DV: I’d say: stay in the background. You’re already working with people who are in the spotlight. I think it’s very important to know your role. And that’s the role of the facilitator, making things possible. And you’re doing that during office hours, but are also expected to check out gigs on the weekends, so you need to make sure you’re not constantly working.

Schermafbeelding 2018-08-02 om 14.50.16Hunee & Antal 

TSOH: What are the biggest traps for a booker?
DV: Stay honest. You’re dealing with different interests. You might be talking to two different promoters in one town. If you play one out against the other, and you do that in a very unpleasant way, it’s bound to blow up in your face. That’s why we work with a moral compass: do as you deem rightful, without aggrieving anyone. You need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror, and then nothing can go wrong, really. Of course, Octopus has had its differences with others, but we’ve never had a conflict that couldn’t be resolved.

TSOH: How do you maintain longevity for an artist’s career?
DV: By staying as close to someone’s personality as possible, and harboring their personal motivation. Some people have a harder time to get motivated than others. I think every artist has had a moment where they were panicking in the studio. At times like that, you need to start with: “Who are you as an artist, what do you represent?” And then artists say things like: “I’m a techno artist, I come from Berlin.” Then you say: “Sure, but I can name a thousand artists like that. WHO are you as an artist, what defines YOU?” Some people say: “I don’t represent anything, I’m like a brick wall.” Others will say: “I want to bring peace and love to the world.” Or “I want to entertain people.” All very literal examples but all of these things can be integrated in the music, the artwork and the bio, creating the artist brand. That’s how a new brand evolves. It becomes tangible.

TSOH: Are you proud of things? And do you have regrets?
DV: I’m not the type of person who is ‘proud’ of things. But yesterday, we had drinks with the entire office, and I was filled with happiness about us being able to follow our passion, and make our money with it. Things I regret? In the past, I sometimes reacted angry and frustrated when an artist left our agency. You end up doing things you regret, thinking: this wasn’t worth the negative energy. In these cases, it’s best not to react to your first impulse. Emailing can be a really tricky medium for this, by the way. It’s best to send a mail after you’ve walked around the block first.

TSOH: Is there anything I forgot to mention?

DV: Well, we’ve been talking about agents and bookings, but at least as important is the production; booking the right flights and hotels, making sure the timetables are communicated. You can have an agent who is great at generating bookings, but then you need to make sure all the agreements are met. You need a stable team to make that happen.

TSOH: What’s the best advice you can give aspiring bookers?
DV: If you want to do this by yourself, start part-time. Tap into stable networks, and combine existing networks. My luck was starting to work with Clone and Delsin, giving me a roster I could really work with. It definitely kickstarted my business. If it’s possible, make sure you have a job for two days a week, and drop it as soon as you’re making enough.
Also: think about what your ambitions are, before you start in this business. Music is not glamourous. It’s about working your ass off. There are enough people who love to be on stage. If that’s your true ambition, you need to focus on becoming an artist for example. When people want to work at Octopus, but I notice that they’re mostly interested in gear and in production techniques, I tell them they’re better off at becoming an artist. If you love music, working with people, facilitating things and staying in the background, a bookings agency is the place to be.


Dion Verbeek

Find Octopus Agency on Facebook | Instagram | Soundcloud

TSOH | MC Gee: “We are always going to be the underdog”

If there is one person who embodies Dutch MC culture, it’s MC Gee. Traveling all over the world as the resident MC of Sensation, he has hosted some of the world’s biggest stages. We sat down with the Englishman in Amsterdam to reminisce about his early endeavors in the UK drum ’n bass scene, reflect on contemporary DJ-culture, and discuss what it takes these days to be a kick-ass Master of Ceremony.

It’s basically the art of shutting up, Gee explains: “If you work with DJs like Solomun or Eric Morillo or Deep Dish or Joris Voorn or somebody, you say one thing in 45 or 50 minutes, when the crowd needed a little pick me up, and they’ll look at you like: ‘That was nice, thank you. And now put the mic down and I’ll see you in another hour.’ So if you’ve got the skills, then you can hold the mic and run it and make the crowd go bonkers. But at the same time the discipline is can you shut your mouth. And less is more, so to speak. I dunno, I kind of enjoy that.”

Check out the full interview here:

MC Gee is on: Facebook | Instagram

Nadine Galle: “Festivals are ideal testing grounds for the circular economy revolution.”

Nadine Galle works for Metabolic, a sustainability advice agency, using systems thinking to tackle global sustainability issues. Festivals are fenced in, making them naturally closed ecosystems, ideal testing grounds for a circular economy. Nadine’s research for festivals like DGTL and Welcome to the Village not only helps them to become as sustainable as possible. The insights gained at these events will ultimately help her to tackle sustainability challenges of larger ecosystems like cities, municipalities and provinces.

Growing up in Toronto, Canada, Nadine became concerned with sustainability issues at an early age: “It’s the textbook case of urban sprawl. No more balance between nature and what has been built there. You arrive in Toronto, and you can drive for hundreds of kilometers, and see nothing but concrete. That disbalance in nature was what inspired me to study earth sciences, ecology and biology.”

Nadine found hope in the circular economy framework, in which a new and more sustainable system can be built for the future. She is now determined to accelerate this transition, starting with festivals. By investigating resources, power supply, waste and water management at events, she can develop a sustainability strategy for organizations. Thanks to people like her, dance music is at the forefront of a circular economy revolution.