Access All Areas with Richard Zilma, General Manager @ ADE

Words by: Polly Lavin
Posted: 7/11/11 10:57

Access All Areas with Richard Zilma, Event Organiser ADEIf WMC has become the ‘party’ conference and IMS is where the upper levels of dance music do their business, ADE appears to have found its niche market as a location for the burgeoning independent sector within electronic music to meet and do business. As one attendee informed me "sure you can sit in on the panels but ADE is really about doing business and that’s what draws me here every year”.

With over 3,000 attendees the fact is the primary word emerging from attendee’s lips was ‘business’ and ‘meetings.’ Founded as an initiative of the Dutch collection agency ‘BUMA’ to support music from The Netherlands ADE has been running since 1996.

Richard Zilma who originates from North Holland is the organiser behind ADE for the last 14 years. Having studied is career began at the pop centre in Groningan working on event production for jazz festivals, blues event for acts such as The Ramones. After producing a number of events he was asked to do production for ADE and after a few years was then asked me to run whole event.

Why did BUMA Cultur set up ADE?
ADE started as an ‘answer’ to WMC in Miami. The interesting thing was that that electronic music scene started over here during that time and major record companies did not recognise the scene so it gave opportunity for networking to the small independent labels, booking agencies, management offices. This grew and gave opportunity for an event like ADE to develop and it was necessary to develop an international network in the beginning. The business being done at first was folks only licensing tracks and there was a difference between the pop/rock scene. Later this scene became more single driven because of Itunes. Over the years I also tried to get the whole wide industry to come over, promoters, festivals etc. Its a chain from the moment somebody creates a track to the moment a consumer buys the track, everybody is working professionally in that development.

Sochi WMC in February, WMC in March, IMS in May, ADE in Oct? There is a lot of competition between all these conferences can you tell me why you feel there is a need for them all, exactly who they cater for? 
For a professional scene like the way the electronic scene is now its good to have meeting places all over the globe, to share knowledge and music and discover new developments in the scene. Some conferences add something extra on the calendar by organising a conference, still there are differences between regions all over the globe though the strength of the scene is that it is a global scene now. This music can cross many borders because there is no language barrier within it. The success of Dutch electronic artists is clear as it is still difficult for an artist who cannot sing in English, this is how the scene can grow from Holland.

Without looking to other conferences ADE tries to serve the whole range of electronic music so you will see all genres here that’s quite unique. Trance, house, techno it gives an extra vibe to the event and its fresh and open minded to see everyone working...What do you think ADE’s unique selling point has been over the years?
Without looking to other conferences ADE tries to serve the whole range of electronic music so you will see all genres here that’s quite unique. Trance, house, techno it gives an extra vibe to the event and its fresh and open minded to see everyone working. If you come to ADE you can set up business with 62 countries because we have people coming from all over the world everybody you will meet here is a potential business partner on an international level.

Compared to IMS their does not seem to be as much corporate involvement? Was that a conscious or strategic decision?
That is sometimes a struggle with the city supporting the event they want a logo everywhere but it’s already in the name. Amsterdam, the city sponsors this event, the success of this event is the success of the whole scene which is carrying this event to this level, there should not be one corporate brand claiming they own the whole scene. You can see it in the campaign is well and we have a lot of artists in the photo campaign. Of course we like to work with companies who are putting something extra in the event and if the brand makes the event stronger it will benefit the scene we work with. Brands like Pioneer or Mercedes who will do a free Modeselektor gig with free drinks at the Ocean Diva where else would you get that?

How much business do you feel actually comes out of conferences like ADE? Has there been a monetary value put on that?
We’re not able to put any value but people are investing a lot of time to come over from Australia, USA etc There are tickets sold for the conference and hotels booked. Big promoters, agencies, record promoters are all over here they are not in their office they are over in Amsterdam to do business, the strength of ADE is a lot of business gets done though but not everybody tells me the details.

How healthy do you think the scene is right now? We seem a little top heavy with older artists and there is not enough young talent coming in. Do you think the platform exists enough for young talent and how does ADE approach that?
We are really keen to serve the whole scene so ADE serves the whole chain from young talent to big DJ stars. We try to offer a place at ADE and also organise ADE Next a programme dedicated for upcoming DJs and producers. Let’s not forget the whole scene is about sharing music and the big stars are looking for new music in their sets, you would never hear Red Hot Chilli Peppers say the next song is from so and so artist. ADE is about sharing music and putting young kids in the right spot.

Can you talk to me about the event planning with the city and getting through barriers to hold the event? What did you have to go up against initially and what are year on year difficulties?
We have been on this road for 16 years now and right from the very beginning we tried to establish a good relationship with the city but these things take time and for the first 8 years we did not have any constructive contact or support. However, as time went on and the event grew year on year, I was able to show them the great opportunities and benefits the ADE brings to the city and after around 10 years or so of the event first taking place, the city was convinced and offered their support to us. Slowly from that point, and with the growth of the ADE it was easier to see what the opportunities were for all involved and we took it from there. Now we also get financial support from the city to make it all happen. There are always barriers about funding and money. It all looks really positive for upcoming years but it’s always really difficult to predict which can influence situations like this but the scene is getting stronger.

What are the future plans for ADE?
Our future plans are to stay as strong as we are now as a conference and festival. The platform is more the right word, ADE Next, ADE University, ADE conference and festival. The university has only started this year and we hope to attract students from all over the world to come to ADE.

How do you feel about conferences such as IMS where the content runs similar to ADE – which conference follows which in the calendar in your opinion? Also when the content has already been at IMS should it be duplicated at ADE or other conferences?
I see the ADE as more of a platform for the entire international electronic music scene, rather than being purely focused on the conference side of things. For the global electronic music scene as it is today, it feels natural to have several landmarks on the globe to meet and share knowledge. We create the ADE conference program with an international team and try to put together the best conference program possible. I’m very proud we were able to present such a strong program this year and also of the support we get from the scene to make this happen!

To produce a platform like the ADE is now means a lot of hard work & a strong belief that the scene really needs a place like ADE, as it looks today...Is there a better served purpose for the European conferences to connect with each other and to offer content that compliments each other’s program and to sell joint tickets etc? Or do you feel the promoters, agencies etc will only attend one conference per year?
To produce a platform like the ADE is now means a lot of hard work and a strong belief that the scene really needs a place like ADE, as it looks today. We have tried to work with other conferences over the years, but honestly this can be quite difficult. We are (and always have been) very much focused on quality and bringing the best that we can to each and every event in all aspects of the organisation, so that it continues to grow and improve each and every year. 

Can you tell me how you actually decide what goes into the content of the conference and what determines same?
As I mentioned previously we work alongside an international team to program the conference and this is important for us as we reach out to the industry all across the globe . It works well to have input from different corners of the world so we can ensure the program is as current, forward-thinking and comprehensive as possible. We also try to be creative and bring an element of fun to the event, so for example, this year we hosted this year the now already famous DJ Cook Off.

Richard ZilmaWhat linkages do ADE have with commercial companies and other countries etc – is there agreements etc in place – can you talk me through that and how they came about and how seriously is the corporate sector taking electronic music and events such as ADE? Is that a good or bad connection in your opinion?
We only connect with companies who can take the electronic scene to the next level. Also, as we are a foundation, we are always keen to re-invest any income back into the event to make the event better for the scene. We also take decisions on a year by year basis to make sure we are always on the right track deciding possible collaborations. 

What did the conference have to compromise for the city to become involved? Is there a compromise when public funding gets involved in more expressionist culture such as the electronic music scene and its associations to drugs and drug culture?
Honestly there is no compromise working with the city. Of course we want to work to present the scene in its best and professional way. They have faith in what we do now. Of course there are sometimes small issues like some of the flags of the festival were stolen this ADE but this is just a minor thing. I have never discussed drugs with them, why should we as this is not what the event is about.

Can you tell me about your preparation for ADE 6 months before the event, 3 months before the event, 2 weeks before the event and your day to day job during the event?
6 months for the ADE is the most nerve-wracking, with most plans on the table and the knowledge that we only have 6 months to go. So I think the period between 6 and 3 months in most crucial for the event. Funding money, setting the program, starting the promotion, all has to be done then. The 3 months before is more like a rollercoaster to make it all happen. But we do this with a great team. 2 weeks for the event I don’t know what to do actually, it is mostly out of my hands into the team who runs it like pros. During the ADE is it over the top hard working with 3000 delegates, trade, 15 networking drinks, matchmaking programs, lots of panels, 220 plus different nights at 52 locations for five days it is running. Shaking hands, doing interviews etc. but also I’m keen to see how ideas we had worked out. Like this year the start of ADE University, ADE Playground and DJ Cook Off for example. Also stuff like biking a delegation of the city around and explaining how great this scene is to be embraced by Amsterdam

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