In only five years time, Amine Ben Hamida has build his organisation Ignition / Inversion into one of the biggest players in the European dubstep world. Within the industry he shifts between many different positions, but above all is an event manager; a profession that suffers largely because of the corona measures. He tells us about the impact of the measures on his life, his internship at Gigstarter and much more in an interesting and deep conversation.
How did you come up with the idea of Ignition and Inversion?
'I once organised a very small party for about 100 people in the Flevopark in Amsterdam. That's where I met David, who later asked me if I was interested in taking it a step further and if I wanted to join his group. I had about 400-500 artists in my Facebook friend list and felt like it was time to do something with that. We sat down after that and decided to do an event. Ignition started out as a half-and-half event, but turned into a complete dubstep event.'
Amine Ben Hamida
With half-and-half you mean 50% drum 'n bass and 50% dubstep?
'Yes. Initially we wanted to do that, but soon found out that drum 'n bass artists were about five times as expensive as dubstep artists. That's because drum 'n bass has been around for longer and has a slightly healthier market. After learning that, we booked a lot of dubstep artists and added a few drum 'n bass artists as some sort of icing on the cake. That's how Ignition's focus on dubstep started.'
How many people are usually involved in the production of an Ignition or Inversion event?
'We started out with three men. We've done it like that for a year before we transferred to P60, a venue in Amstelveen, so we got the venue and its people as well. When we left P60 we hired four new people who also did our communication and marketing, a graphic specialist and some other extra people who just helped with the overall organisation of the event.'
Was P60 enthusiastic right away? Aren't they normally more about programming rock and pop music?
'We were record keeper for the most people inside the venue. In the first year we had an event with 650 people inside. It was the most visited club night, even though the cost of it was the highest of all the events they had. P60 considered it an investment and has worked with us for 2,5 years until they were cut by the municipality of Amstelveen. The municipality had to cut on more than 70 events and unfortunately we were one of them because we were a major expense.'
Can you tell us something about your average working day before the actual event, so the pre-production?
'We really work in spurts of creativity. I used to go David's house and at the end of the night we would have an entire plan for the event: the line-up, creative ideas, promotion. The only thing we had to do after that, was carry it out. That's pretty much how we do it every edition. The preparations are about one or two days. The rest is working towards it and carrying out what we came up with. We usually do that in our spare time. I still go to school and study Cultural and Social Education, so the hours I invest in my events are usually in the evening.'
Ignition Extreme | Official Aftermovie
Which edition of Ignition impressed you the most and why?
'I organised Ignition Extreme once. That was in the first year. It was our fourth edition and we thought: we've been organising events for a year now, we got this and we are going to organise the biggest dubstep event that the Netherlands has ever seen. That's what we did. It did cost us some money, but we had people from 21 different countries visiting our event, including China, Russia, Brazil; really from all over the world. We have also gained world fame for the amount of artists that attended the event. Even though there were only 900 people inside, people that weren't present thought there were thousands of visitors.'
Do you have any plans to expand abroad with Ignition and Inversion?
'Yes. What is very unfortunate is that we would have an event in Belgium on the day that corona caused them to go into a lockdown. We organised it because the biggest dubstep event in the world, RAMPAGE, was cancelled. We immediately looked for a location to organise an event with less than 1000 people with all kinds of RAMPAGE artists. That was successful. We sold out in less than three minutes with 650 tickets. The same day we were told to cancel the event.'
So the government told you to cancel the event?
'Yes. Within a day the Belgium government decided to change measures concerning the coronavirus and went from banning events until a thousand people to banning events up to 100 people. The nine other events, which were also organised as a backup plan for RAMPAGE, had to be cut off for the same reason. It is a shame, because many organisers put money into it to still be able to arrange something for the stranded people in Antwerp.'
In what other ways do the measures against the coronavirus affect your work?
'Our Ignition edition on August 22 has been cancelled. We had booked the biggest headliner in our entire career. Unfortunately it is out of the question now, because America has gone into a lockdown and he's not allowed to fly anymore. What it looks like for me right now: I don't have a job, I can't organise events anymore, I can no longer guide artists with tours, don't have any work at the venue TivoliVredenburg anymore and my internship at Stichting Dock has pretty much been cancelled as well. Something I studied for five years basically disappeared. What I build up in five years with our company is in danger of collapsing. It is uncertain if I can start again after this.'
What are your predictions for the music industry if the measures concerning the coronavirus become more flexible?
'I don't believe we can organise festivals with the social distancing measures. I see a shift to the virtual world, virtual reality. A lot of people even started organising events in Minecraft. About two weeks ago I bought Minecraft to get into a server where more than forty thousand people were listening to prerecorded sets of artists. They also live streamed it on Youtube so other people could watch it as well.'
TwoPhazed at the dubstep event 50HURTZ in Melkweg, Amsterdam
'Everything is getting more virtual each day and that also means that a lot of intermediaries disappear. For example, managers could take on the work of booking agents. That's what I think. I also think that the prices will go down. In the past, as an artist, you would've been able to ask a solid five thousand euros to play for 650 people in P60. If P60 would organise the exact same event now, they would need to make the tickets about ten times as expensive to be able to cover that price. This all means that the artists need to lower their prices or that the tickets will become much more expensive. It's one or the other.'
Are there any positive notes that you would like to focus on?
'It is very painful for everybody within the scene. I found some time to download all kinds of free things online, for example Ivy League courses. I now have 450 courses that are only a mouse click away and which I can start with. From coding to management, they have everything. That's what I'm putting my time into now. We agents, promotors, bookers and more; we have to look at where the possibilities and chances lie now. We need to be creative in looking for new solutions, because the reality is that it's going to be very difficult. The whole world as we know and have always known it, will change. That's why it's good to be prepared for all the uncertainties that can possibly rise. That's the way I see it.'
A few years ago you did an internship at Gigstarter, how was your experience and what did you learn?
'At Gigstarter I was able to get a proper look behind the scenes of the music industry. When I did my internship at Gigstarter I had never organised an event before and only had a lot of contacts. It all started at Gigstarter. Everyone at the office was being creative, was organising something or doing something with music. That's when I thought: I want to do something like that too! I traveled all over the Netherlands on behalf of Gigstarter and visited every club and bar. We also saw that in the statistics. There was an increase of 800% in the bookings for live music in one month. Gigstarter gave me the space to work on my dreams during my internship, otherwise I probably would have never started my events.'
You also make music yourself under the name Hamidox and TwoPhazed. This means you know the industry from two sides; as an artist and as an organiser. What advantages does this have in your experience?
'I understand some of the tricks people are trying to pull on me. I am actually on six different sides: I do bookings, I am an agent, I do partial management, I have my own events, I do label and I DJ / produce, so I can view a problem from many different sides.'
What kind of tricks do you encounter, for example, if someone wants to book you as a DJ?
'They often want me to come for free. If they are friends of mine, then sure. But when they are not friends of mine, I am aware that there is money being made anyway. Even if it's a small event, I'm not going to pay for my travel expenses. But people will often try to do it anyway because I'm a small DJ name. Another example is when an agent asks me, as event organiser, €6500 for an artist. They try to charge higher prices over the back of artists and only pay the artist a small part because they think the artist is already getting enough. A manager can get a lot of money when they pull this trick. They can't do that with me. I often address them about this with the question whether their artist is aware of what they are doing. At the end of the ride we sometimes end up at €1200.'
Dubstep and drum 'n bass are still kind of a niche. Do you notice this in terms of marketing or reach of the target group?
'When I look at history, for example, rock used to be massive. The children of the people who listened to rock, so the generation that followed, also listened to rock. We are currently experiencing that with hip-hop. Hip-hop is the biggest genre in the world right now. That's also because a lot of people listened to hip-hop in the 90s. I feel like something similar will happen with electronic dance music. Dubstep can be woven together with all kinds of subgenres that all ultimately fall under EDM. It is going very well in America. The scene is blowing up there. Here, in Europe, the biggest wave in the Netherlands has already left, but in Italy they play dubstep on festivals, in Spain they organise entire dubstep festivals and in France they are organising events as well. It may be a niche, but I think next generations will keep on listening to it, also because music is getting more electronic each day. I believe that in 20-30 years electronic music will have risen above hip-hop again.'
The line-up often contains large dubstep names such as Counterstrike, Funtcase, Mefjus or Audio. How do you get those names for your event?
'Nine out of ten times you need to be in luck. In luck of knowing the artist by chance, knowing the agent by chance or booking another artist with this agent and managing to get a deal out of it. Sometimes they're aware of you having a good event and it could happen that they grant you the artist for a lower price. It's always difficult to get the right artists. With bigger artists you work with managementteams, booking agencies and need to take the opinion of the artist in account. Then there are also restrictions imposed by other events, such as exclusivity. Managers do that very often and it means that an artist isn't allowed to perform in a specific country for six months, for example.'
How can an emerging DJ get you interested in booking them?
'I think it's very important that you don't just add someone on Facebook without sending them a 'hi' or something first and immediately start with: "This is a link to my mix! Maybe you can listen to it because I would really like to play at your party sometime''. Just try to connect like you normally would with a person after you've had a conversation with them. Of course fame plays an important role as well. The more famous you become, the easier it will be to book you. A starting artist usually has some trouble with that. My advice for this is: find yourself one unique selling point that makes people think: "Woah! We have to book you!''. One of the unique selling points of Cookie Monsta and Funtcase is that they used to fight on stage. They would have four decks and 'acted' as if they were kicking each other away.'
'Another important thing is, try to stay friendly to everyone in the scene. Never be rude to anyone, because it's a small world. Everyone knows everyone. And the better you know everyone, the better your chances are to become successful. Visit events and try to talk to the people there. You can tell them that you are a DJ, but only after you've had a normal conversation first.'
What are your future plans? You are currently doing a completely different type of study. Do you want to merge this with events?
'Yes, I've already done that. I organised 'Misfitters'. Misfitters is an event for the misfits, so the people who don't fit into the mainstream. I organised an event where I photograph the people who look the weirdest in the audience and use them as a mascot for the next edition. Like this I want to people to know that they should love and accept themselves, even though they're different. These people are special. They don't quite fit in, but not in a negative way because I see myself as a misfit as well. So yes, I try to merge what I am being taught in school and at my internship now with my events.'
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