“Miami’s Winter Music Conference is mostly about fans and turns almost everyone into a drug mule for five days and nights. Whereas ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event) is music business people getting real music business done. You can leave ADE with solid deals and you pretty much only leave WMC hung over.”
Nowadays clean-living electro/ house legend Tommie Sunshine flew into Amsterdam last week to appear as a guest speaker on various panels; to DJ; to promote his upcoming single 5AM; and to launch new label Brooklyn Fire, and admits he’s pleased with what he’s achieved.
“I am an artist, so taking meetings and scheduling things isn't exactly my forte but I bullshitted my way through it quite well, I felt,” he chuckles.
“I also met lots of great people at ADE and actually spoke to people I have been writing to on Twitter and AIM all year long,” he says.
One such character he could be spotted chatted animatedly to on Saturday afternoon was Trunkfunk owner Fredrik Nyberg, better known as one half of ubercool electro-tech outfit Stuffa. That the pair happened to meet by chance in the bar of the Felix Meritas Hotel (ADE’s central location) highlights ADE’s key advantage over Miami or anywhere else; its size. With 2,100 delegates mingling at two close-by hotels over 4 days of workshops, panel discussions and star interviews (including Richie Hawtin and Mike Banks from Underground Resistance) it’s small enough to be able to approach anyone, and big enough to attract people you actually want to meet.
“For the last 8 years I've been going to at least one big music conference every year to have some meetings and to get some inspiration from the parties,” Fredrik confirms.
“Four years ago I changed my priority from WMC to ADE and I'm still glad I did. ADE is much better organized; especially when it comes to the pass and the conference.”
Like Tommie (who he’s met before), the nowadays Berlin based Swede is here to meet friends and find new contacts though is a little concerned the 90,000 clubbers in town for the 700 artists and DJs on show are starting to edge out delegates.
“The clubs seem to have reached the tipping point of the ‘WMC syndrome’ where you can’t automatically get into the parties with your ADE pass,” he says.
“But it's still not as bad as the WMC where the doormen totally ignore the guest-list to use their ‘South Beach spring break radar’ to make sure fake breasts and steroid muscles are let in,” says Fredrik, “Sometimes in Miami even DJs playing at parties can be stuck in the queue for over an hour. That's just ridiculous,”
One of the most over-subscribed events is Dave Clarke’s annual event at the Melkweg at which well over 1,500 cram inside to catch Dave spinning alongside the likes of the Hacker, Laurent Garnier and Joris Voorn. Dave, who’s nowadays based in Amsterdam is closely involved in ADE in general, hosting various panels (including the Demolition panel, on which he invited Tommie Sunshine, Stacey Pullen, Niels Brands and me). A keen fan of Amsterdam in general (he’s even ditched luxury cars and taken up cycling) he’s distinctly chilly about WMC.
“Miami is a paid for holiday under the false premise that business will be conducted by European agents,” he says, “Whereas in reality most European agents are not allowed to book artists in the US anyway due to protective anti trade clauses.”
Long renowned for being one of dance culture’s most outspoken and opinionated commentators, Dave’s hosted the Demolition panel for years, in which invited guests review in public tracks submitted in advance by delegates from the floor.
Surprisingly sensitive to the producers’ feelings, he warns me to be constructive ‘and not to do a Simon Cowell’, beforehand, a message he’s also delivered to Tommie Sunshine.
“I told everyone to not be mean, actually,” Dave confirms.
“One year I had a panel and two artists were incredibly hardcore on these people's music,” he explains.
“I think it takes guts to have your music played in front of a whole room full of strangers and have your music ‘judged’ by your peers. That is intimidating enough already, and then for someone to put the hammer in when they are tired from the night before; that could destroy someone's confidence completely. I also asked you to be nice; not because you are not but to take these people's feelings into account,” he says.
In the event, almost every track played is of impressively high quality, making constructive criticism both appropriate and easy with winning track Lexander’s Kubrical so good that its selection is by unanimous decision.
Combining elements of Daft Punk, Felix Da Housecat and a slamming instantly infectious beat, the track wins the Dutch/ Venezuelan production duo an ADE bike plus a spin of the track on Dave’s Radio show.
ADE itself finishes on Sunday with parties across the city leaving thousands of exhausted clubbers mingling with the Amsterdam’s regular tourists. For me personally, ADE’s been a revelation: extremely well organized and produced, I’ve meet numerous digital friends in the flesh for the first time and encountered all sorts of serendipitous networking moments and opportunities. And with the music business becoming increasingly virtual (both literally and digitally) the need for events like ADE is certain to grow.
This year’s event (like the previous two) sold out in advance. So would I recommend 2010? Absolutely. I hope to be hanging round the Felix Meritas (and throughout Amsterdam) for three or four days too- come say hello if you’re there.
Article by Jonty Skrufff (http://skrufff.com): Follow Jonty on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jontyskrufff