AMF (Amsterdam Music Festival) is Amsterdam Dance Event’s biggest showcase. This year it features DJs like Armin van Buuren b2b Hardwell, David Guetta, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and many more. It’s also where the number 1 in the DJMag Top 100 for 2017 is officially announced. We had the privilege of speaking to two of AMF’s most important organizers: Patricia Berkhof (ALDA and Lizzy van Baaren (ID&T). We asked them about their collaboration and everything that goes on behind the scenes of a huge event like AMF.
Written by Aron Friedman
TSOH: How did you get where you are today?
Lizzy: “I didn’t study for this. I started working for ID&T in 2004. I’ve been a project manager ever since, first as an employee, later as a freelancer. I’m also the project manager for AMF.”
Patricia: “I’ve been working for ALDA Events for five years now. Before that, I was following an internship at the beach bar Bloomingdale. But pretty soon, I took care of the back office. The girl I was running the bar with at the time, started working for Alda and she would involve me in many jobs there.”
TSOH: Alda and ID&T have joined hands for AMF five years ago. Is it complicated to work together, when you both have your own company culture and you both have an equal say?
Lizzy: “We have a 50/50 say in everything, but it really helps that we’ve divided the tasks clearly between us. Alda takes care of creation, marketing, artist booking and artist handling. The site production, technical production and the crowd service management are ID&T’s job.”
TSOH: What was the idea for AMF when you started?
Patricia: “When we started in 2013, we were thinking of major events like Ultra at the Miami Winter Music Conference. The Miami Music week is more about that than anything else these days. Duncan Stutterheim from ID&T and Allan Hardenberg from Alda Events agreed that ADE should have a similar event, where big DJ stars perform on a huge stage. They were two of the biggest companies in the business.”
TSOH: Weren’t you two arch-rivals?
Lizzy: “Sure, we weren’t the best of friends before this collaboration. But we’ve definitely come closer together by keeping it professional from the beginning, and later because we also became friends.
Patricia: “Both our companies share the same goal: putting on an awesome night. But we both have different ways to go about it.”
TSOH: What was the most important differences to overcome?
Lizzy: “I think the biggest difference is that Alda has always built their shows around artists. And ID&T has always promoted brands like Sensation, Mysteryland and Thunderdome. I wasn’t used to give an artist the key role. For me personally, that took some adjusting. We’ve always been more focused on the concept. But I think we’ve found a good form for AMF, in which both the brand and the artist play an equally important role.”
Patricia: “I think we both learned a lot from each other. We had some discussions in the beginning, because you obviously feel that the way you’ve always taken care of things is the right way. But if you open up to each other’s views, you can really learn from each other and grow.”
Lizzy: “We’ve really become a solid team over the years.”
TSOH: What’s the most important thing you need to know when you start a collaboration like this?
Patricia: “Outlines and communication are the keywords. The first year was about exploring those cadres, and we were lucky that we sold out immediately. We’ve had some good discussions later on, but always kept the communication lines open.
Lizzy: “Actually, the only times when we’d have any trouble, was when we weren’t keeping communications open with each other. We now have a management team with whom we discuss everything.”
Patricia: “One golden rule applies to decision-making: when arguments for an opinion are weak, we leave it be. But when the arguments are strong, we go for it.
TSOH: How do you go about an immense production like AMF?
Lizzy: “We have one big challenge, and that’s the fact that AMF is always taking place during the soccer season. The draw for the poule takes place end of August. In the worst case, Ajax plays Thursday before the show. That means that we only have 48 hours to build up the entire Amsterdam ArenA. That’s a lot less than the seven days ID&T normally has for Sensation. So we have to have two scenario’s ready: one for when they play on Thursday, one for when they don’t. This year, we’re lucky that Ajax is partaking in neither the Champions League or the Europa League.
Patricia: “That’s a bummer the guys at Alda and ID&T – all of them diehard Ajax fans. But since both me and Lizzy don’t care much for football, we’re actually really happy about it. The two day scenario really offers less time to build something spectacular.”
TSOH: When do you start communicating your event?
Lizzy: “That’s tough sometimes: you can’t really start promoting in the festival season, since everyone’s still got summer on their minds. But you have 35 thousand tickets to sell, so you need to launch before the season, and pick up at the end of the summer. The best way to go about it, is communicating the biggest names at the beginning, and phasing the rest, to keep the tension going throughout the months.”
TSOH: How do you keep an event like AMF fresh, when you’re working with DJMag Top 100 artists?
Patricia: “AMF is an event with the most popular DJs of the moment. But we need to confirm our line-up at least a year beforehand. That takes some looking into the future. This year, we’ve got Marshmello. In 2016, he was by far not as big as he is now. But we kind of knew his name would blow up as 2017 would proceed. You have to be one step ahead.”
Lizzy: “And we’ve also got the II = Iconcept with Armin van Buuren and Hardwell playing back to back. That’s a nice way of presenting two household names in a new context.”
TSOH: What’s the thing you’re looking forward to the most?
Patricia: “AMF has more than one hundred nationalities visiting the event. I love to see all the different flags side by side in the crowd. The feeling that we’re drawing all those different people always gives me goose bumps.”
TSOH: And what’s the moment when you can finally relax?
Lizzy: “Managing 35 thousand people is a huge responsibility. I’m only just relaxing, the moment I know everyone has left the building, and has returned safely to their homes and hotels. I can really start breathing again the morning after.”
AMF Amsterdam takes place on Saturday 21 October 2017 at the Amsterdam ArenA.[:]