ADE 2020 Goes Digital: A Chat With Co-Directors
To call 2020 an unprecedented year in the music and event space would be an understatement. The global Covid-19 pandemic cancelled all concerts, festivals and large gathering of any kind. Some musicians haven't made a dollar in eight months, not to mention promoters, venue owners, bartenders, bouncers and everything in between.
Perhaps more than ever before, the industry's leading minds must come together to discuss, collaborate, even commiserate a little, just to get the ball moving on what we do next. That's where the Amsterdam Dance Event, the world's leading electronic music industry conference, comes in.
The five-day annual event usually lights the streets of The Netherland's capital with neon business. Every concert hall, club, coffee shop and hotel bar hires and DJ and transforms into a dance floor. This year, the city-wide conference and concert series must pivot to digital like everything else, but rather than organize a series of livestream DJ sets and a few zoom panels, the ADE team saw an opportunity to expand what the conference can be for years to come. Co-Directors Meindert Kennis and Jan-Willem van de Ven hope that message of innovation shines in all ADE's programming.
“We don't want to be naive about it,” Kennis says, “but people know it's a shit show. We don't want to lose ourselves into this echo of doom. We want to bring at least the hope that we can find and deliver; to, as far as we can, make it a hopeful message.”
ADE's team first took Covid-19 seriously in March, as did most of the entertainment world. There was a lot of hope that things might be better by ADE's mid-October dates. After all, Coachella had rescheduled for that month, but a few days into The Netherland's lockdown, Kennis and van de Ven realized such hope was a delusion.
“After a week or two weeks we thought, 'okay, this is not going well,'” Kennis says. “Still, you don't know what to expect because you don't have a crystal ball. We had a period until early June that we started to to brainstorm how would we do it, what were we doing and what will the future look like?”
The team studied the work of other festivals and events, then asked themselves “what is it that makes ADE so unique?
“From our perspective, when you enter Amsterdam, it's one big, black and yellow monster, where electronic music is everywhere,” Kennis says. “If you go to one party, for instance, you know you're going to miss 10 others which are probably better – or this is what you're thinking.
“From the conference side, we have the panels and discussions which are obviously very important, but maybe even more important is the feeling of connection,” he continues. “We had to make sure you can really network, have lots of meetings and have the unexpected meetings with people you never thought you'd meet.”
To capture the frenzy and opportunity of the real event, the team took a two-pronged approach. On one side, they'd flood the internet with quality on-demand video content, and on the other, they'd bring all the industry’s professional minds into one interactive space.
Attendance is likewise broken into two tiers. Video content, concerts, documentaries and the like are free and viewable to anyone who visits the website for the duration of the conference. A special ADE social network is accessible to pros only via ticket purchase, which guarantees access to the site and its content for a full year - until ADE 2021 rolls around.
Free-access content covers everything electronic super fans could ever want to see. It's the event side of the conference, brought to life on your laptop or mobile device via ADE's website, ADE Online. The full program features more than 150 sets, Q&As, masterclasses, workshops, exclusive rebroadcasts of past music festival performances, and more – with additional programming yet to be announced.
Fans can watch Carl Cox jam a live performance (one of his first ever recorded), get in the studio with San Holo, have a “Drinkee” with Sofi Tukker, relive Noisia's insane Outer Edges set from Roskilde 2017 and way more – and that's just the first day.
“The difference between a real ADE and this one is that we don't want to recreate a festival,” van de Ven says. “We want you to have this immersive feeling with all kinds of content around electronic music, especially [created and formatted] for on screen.”
Each piece of programming will premiere at a designated time, and fans can watch alongside each other in one ADE-centric main chat. Once each show has premiered, it will be available on-demand until ADE wraps Sunday night, Oct. 25. It's a rather magnificent offering, considering even fans would usually pay for concert admittance during the real deal.
Those who do pay gain annual access to ADE Pro, a special social network and meeting site that's been live for about a week. Meant to recreate the conference's very-real gathering of inside players, the site centers around one main wall of news posts and conversation with the option to search members by company, direct message, and attend in-site video conferences.
A side panel to the right of the main post wall plays Pro-only video content in line with premieres. Access to the site lasts a full year, with the promise of new content, masterclasses, panels and more throughout the calendar.
This year’s programming focuses on the three major themes of mental health, activism in music and Covid-19. James Blake will be joined by his therapist as they discuss what it means to be an artist and why that can so often lead to depression and anxiety. Femi Kuti and Neneh Cherry will discuss how they've kept social activism at the heart of their careers and how fellow artists can do the same.
Fieldlab Events presents Roadmapping the Future, while Nicolas Bonard gives a keynote on New Opportunities for the Live Industry. There will also be talks on how to handle sexual misconduct, the ins and outs of music clearance, and more.
“We are really happy with how all these panels are evolving,” van de Ven says. “It's our first time doing an online conference, obviously, so like the rest of the world, we are exploring ourselves, trying to look at all these new opportunities and find ways to have additional features for the coming years.”
Without being naive, that is the message of hope ADE 2020 hopes to offer; a chance to get outside the monolog of what is wrong and gather with peers to find ways to make things at least okay. ADE kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 21, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 25. Learn more at ADE's website.