Walking across the dusty grounds of Amsterdam’s annual 100,000-strong summer party magnet, Mysteryland festival, Martijn van Daalen and I chatted, switching between Dutch and English. We had just peeled off from the press tour group led by key organisers of the festival. They had taken us on a private showing of the magnificent grounds, set in Haarlemmermeer’s parkland, showcasing the multifaceted attractions within the festival. A large camp-site boasted tents, cabins, its own stage and pop-up stores. Adjacent to a small canal, we were overshadowed by a gigantic zip-wire line whisking daring participants from the top of a man-made hill, over a lake, to another area housing multiple stages. We were surrounded by endless food huts, attractions and stages, triggering the inner child in me to imagine Mysteryland as a virtual reality adventure come to life. However, I needed to get through the throngs of glitter-decked bodies to the main stage artist tent in time for my first interview of the weekend. A daunting task if Martijn hadn’t been there to guide me.
Despite the glaring summer heat, he emitted a tantalising energy of enthusiasm and passion as I asked him to talk about his work. He is the Commercial Director for ID&T, a Dutch entertainment enterprise known for organising the world’s biggest electronic music festivals. In other words, they throw the most epic parties for a living, which for the majority of people is the stuff of dreams! Yet the down-to-earth, humble, and humorous manner with which Martijn described his work would not lead one to assume the significance of his role. As the weekend festival unfolded, I could not help but watch in awe at the incredible feat this team of people had achieved. They combined the world’s greatest DJs with unique set visuals and flawless organisation of events, whilst also attending to often overlooked details that enable them to be one of the world’s most sustainable festivals. Perhaps one could describe their team as silent but deadly. In the best way possible, these people work behind the scenes to make the authentic Mysteryland experience possible. As we neared the closed off backstage area, he handed me a business card and instructed me to email him, so we could get it all down on paper.
Can you explain your role?
In our company we have different business units, each one being responsible for several event brands:
1. ID&T Events
3. Air Events
4. Back 2 School
6. Headliner & Platinum Agency (booking agencies)
The ‘holding’ company (i.e the company that owns all the smaller sections, in this case LiveStyle, Inc.) supports these business units and is responsible for the overall strategy.
Thus as part of this team, I am responsible for all the commercial deals, like our ticketing deal, and brand partnerships. These include sponsorships, media deals, etc.
[To give you an idea, Mysteryland partnered with Heineken and Coca Cola to implement the recycling of 50% of plastic discarded throughout the weekend.]
How did your journey in the Music Industry begin? How did you find your way to ID&T?
Totally by coincidence! My soccer trainer knew the former Commercial Director of ID&T. They were looking for a junior account manager and I had just graduated from University with a degree in business economics.
So I started at ID&T and was responsible for sales and account management for the ID&T magazine and ID&T radio. In 2004 we decided to focus on our events and digital strategy, so we ended both our radio and magazine.
Thus I became the sponsor manager for our event sponsorships. I have also been the general manager for Mysteryland and Welcome to the Future. However since January 1st 2019, I have been the Commercial Director.
You mentioned that your business model for music festivals is based upon three things: tickets, food and beverage, and sponsorships. Can you explain this in more detail?
Our ambition is to create the best event experience over and over again. All the effort we put into the creation and production of the festival is based on the fact that we want to give our fans an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. The creation of the festival is our marketing for next year.
Our main business objective is to sell all our tickets. Being part of a popular and sold out event is a large part of the experience. But besides the ticket sales, food and beverage is also an important revenue stream for us. We are focussing on a diverse and high quality assortment to include good personnel, no long waiting lines, cold drinks, different food caterers, and creative decoration of the bars and food courts. The food and beverage also contributes to the overall event experience but is moreover an important driver for our business model.
When you organise sold out events, have a high quality production, realise high sales on your food and beverage and - most important - have satisfied customers, then sponsors are interested in partnering with your event. Sponsoring is an important income stream for our company. Sponsors not only contribute with sponsor fees, but also with expertise and free production materials. For instance Heineken delivers the most advanced beer technique to cater all our visitors with cold beers. You have experienced the Mysteryland terrain and it is quite complex to build all the beer tanks and pipes!
Other business models related to our events are merchandise and travel, i.e with our camping packages. We are also experimenting with digital revenue streams like paid livestreams.
For merchandise it is important to build strong A-list brands so people want to identify themselves with those brands.
In the future we also expect more digital revenue, as our online and social reach is growing and as a result brands are becoming more interested in our branded content.
What is the key to brand partnerships?
The most important thing is that a brand fits with the specific event brand. Equally important is for the brand to be willing to create added value to the online and offline experience of the visitor.
Furthermore ID&T prefers long term partnerships so we can build a strong strategic relationships with a brand. The better we understand the brand’s goals, strategy and ambitions, the better we can integrate the brand in our platform.
We also prefer A-list brands as this contributes to our events’ brand image.
What is the most important thing about creating a unique and impactful music event?
The visitor must always be our first priority. As a company you need to step into their world of experiencing an event and figure out how you can surprise, delight and serve their experience. Thus improvement of the events should be the main goal, not profitability.
The sum of all the details makes it a unique and impactful experience. Working with the best experts and fostering a close collaboration between those experts is key.
Within marketing, creation, sponsoring, safety, logistics, production and finance: every aspect of the event should be perfect.
What do you love most about your work?
The passion and friendship between all my colleagues and the happiness and gratitude of our visitors during our events.
What are your words of wisdom, for someone aspiring to work in the Music Industry?
Work hard, play hard and make sure you create a network within the industry.
Stay humble, don’t be arrogant, but try to make a difference!