At this very moment, roughly 400,000 dance music fans, artists and industry experts are traveling to Amsterdam. They represent 108 countries, with ages ranging 18 to 80. And Amsterdam Dance Event director Mariana Sanchotene is excited to welcome them all.
“In the industry, it’s like a pilgrimage,” Sanchotene says of the annual conference. “If you [were] a kid, it’s like Christmas week. You look forward to it the whole year.”
It’s a week of firsts and big milestones, as ADE marks its 24th year from Oct. 16 to Oct. 20. The event celebrates the past and present of electronic music while working to secure its future; by day, it’s a meeting of the minds with conference discussions, keynote speeches and educational demonstrations, and by night, the city comes alive with concerts, showcases and parties, as approximately 200 venues across the city open their doors to dancers from around the world.
“For our nightlife, it is is almost like a contest,” Sanchotene says. “They all want to have the best program. Everybody feels like, ‘I’m in the spotlight. It’s really my chance to impress.’”
Sanchotene has been a massive player in the dance music industry for decades, having previously worked at ID&T, the Dutch company that produces massive dance events including Tomorrowland. She’s been an avid attendee of ADE since 2011, but this year marks her first as director of the event.
Her role is made even more important by ADE’s recent distinction as an independent organization. The event was founded by Netherlands program Buma Cultuur in 1995, which finances events and organizations that encourage the success of Dutch musicians and culture beyond Dutch borders. ADE now operates as an independent organization, though it still receives an annual donation of an undisclosed amount from Buma Culture. It’s independent status takes the founding partner off any financial hook and gives ADE the freedom to expand its operations throughout the city and abroad.
“It is quite exciting, like leaving your parents’ home,” she says. “I hope that people enjoy [themselves] and see that it’s as well-organized, diverse and trendsetting as it has been in the past years.”
To that effect, Sanchotene and the ADE team have organized more than 250 panels and interactive conference events, tapping into everything from the rapidly expanding market in China to how labels can tap into emerging technologies such as VR.
“I love the discussion,” Sanchotene says, “the debate, the exchange of ideas and the topics that we are living in our day-to-day. You take a moment to discuss with other people, to listen to the ideas of different people. It’s something I’ve enjoyed since my first year coming.”
As director, Sanchotene takes a holistic approach, shining a light on all aspects of the industry, from the hot topic of mental health and physical wellness to ecological sustainability, international economic growth, visual arts and more.
“[It’s] not just the music, but the whole experience in itself,” she says. “Electronic music’s quite special in this sense. You go to clubs, you meet people, you dance, but It also has an almost primal need of introspection…I’ve been really digging into sound art and music that’s on such a level, it could also be in a museum. This is something that excites me. We hope to be as diverse as possible with all music genres of electronic music.”
Among the barrage of offerings, this year’s programming takes a close look at sustainability with ADE green initiatives, as well as an increased effort to encourage wellness. An ADE zen space offers attendees a place to unwind and relax, with scheduled yoga sessions, sound healing baths and meditation meet-ups.
“With how intense ADE is for everyone,” Sanchotene says, “we hope people manage to take half an hour to sit there and chill a little bit.”
ADE 2019 also plays host to its first writers camp, having invited 16 unsigned producers representing different sounds and styles to collaborate and jam while learning from professional sound engineers. Label representatives from across the industry will check in Friday to listen to their creations. For those not part of the camp, ADE 2019 has expanded demo pitch sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, where aspiring producers can get one-on-one feedback with label heads and other professionals.
On top of all this, ADE celebrates 100 years of electronic music instruments with special demonstrations and panels on the theremin, an instrument played with electromagnetic waves rather than physical touch that feels as futuristic now as it did upon its debut in 1909.
Above all, ADE lets Amsterdam do what it does best – shine on the dance floor. With hundreds of performances planned from Richie Hawtin, Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren, Steve Aoki, San Holo, Sophie, Bonobo, and more, it’s impossible not to find something you’ll love.
“The city really embraces the event,” Sanchotene says. “It is something that has always been part of our culture. I believe that countries have personalities … and if Amsterdam was a person, that’s the sound Amsterdam would listen to.”
Editor’s note: This story originally said ADE got no private funding, but they do receive an annual donation from founding partner Buma Culture. The story has been corrected.