As I type this, sitting on a transatlantic flight returning from a visit to Europe that included a trip to Amsterdam Dance Event, I come to the realization that ADE is one of the most, if not the most, organized festival I have ever attended. Putting together an event of that magnitude involving 140 different venues, one-day festivals, conferences, panel talks, workshops, day and club nights and a myriad of other activities that involved over 2,200 artists and 375,000 visitors is definitely no small feat. Yet ADE’s staff and volunteers, in true Dutch fashion, made it all seem easy from the minute we checked into the conference to the final day we said goodbye at Schiphol airport.
Part of the experience was the true feeling that ADE, as an entity, truly cares. It cares about Amsterdam, it cares about the dance music industry and it cares about the people that matter most to our industry: YOU.
Think about it, would there be producers, DJs, nightclubs and festivals without you? That is to say, if you weren’t there on the dance floor listening and enjoying the music would there be a scene at all? The answer may be obvious maybe, but it has always lead me to ask one important question as a member of the DownBeats team: if music is so important to each and every single one of us, why is it that so few people value the importance of hearing protection?
Make no mistake, in the last 3 years I have seen a massive increase in the number of people using ear plugs at shows and festivals. But it’s not enough, and that becomes always more noticeable when we do sponsored giveaways at events and still run into people that refuse and even mock us when we are giving away ear plugs for free. It makes no sense, so why is that? If you truly value the music you so dearly claim to love, it would reason that you’d do anything to protect the one organ that enables you to listen to it: your ears.
The moment I stepped foot into the first venue in Amsterdam I immediately knew that things were different there. As a conference member I was greeted with a welcome pack that included hi-fidelity ear plugs (but I still used my DownBeats of course), and signs were visible at every ADE merchandise point letting people know that ear plugs were available for sale. Furthermore, ADE made a point of including ear safety and the usage of ear plugs in its list of tips on how celebrate the week safely. Signs were posted at every venue encouraging people to use ear plugs and to party far away from speakers to avoid ear damage. I also noticed that most venues sold foam ear plugs for €1, with signs amply visible for all to see just in case they had forgotten to bring their ear plugs.
“I love my ears:
A party without music is like soda without pop. Because you want to enjoy the music as long as possible, it is important to be careful with your ears. Here a three tips to prevent hearing loss:
Listen as safely as possible; find a place where you can enjoy the party but still have enough distance from the speakers. Standing too close to the speakers can damage your hearing.
Wear earplugs! When sound levels are higher than 80dB’s it is wise to use earplugs. Like this, you can still hear the music well, you can communicate easily with your friends and you protect your ears.
Let your ears rest for a while. Look for a quiet place to give your ears a ‘pause’. When you do this, your ears will recuperate and you will be able to enjoy the music for a longer time.” – CELEBRATE SAFE at ADE
I paid careful attention to each and every crowd at the nine venues I went to and noticed that contrary to most festivals and nightclubs I have visited in the States, at least 50% if not a majority of those partying in Amsterdam were wearing ear plugs. Generally the crowd seemed more mature in the way they partied, and by that I do not mean in age, but rather in the understanding that partying and listening to dance music is an inherent part of their culture and has been for decades. To them clubbing is a way of life, so wearing hearing protection is not only important but becomes a vital necessity. I noticed definite similarities between the crowds at ADE and festival-goers at Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit: a generally more mature crowd that parties more responsibly and is thus more aware of the importance of keeping their ears protected. It is a fact that I see more people wearing ear plugs at Movement than at any other festival in the United States, and by a long shot.
Oftentimes I hear young people in the States claim that ear plugs are — for lack of a more appropriate word — for losers and that they defeat the purpose of being at a show. I keep hearing from kids that they want loud bass in their ears, with some going so far as to claiming that they do not believe they risk tinnitus or permanent hearing loss if they do not protect their ears. I usually shake my head silently or laugh, hoping that one day they realize the mistake they are making before it’s too late. The academic studies connecting loud concert music to temporary or permanent ear damage is not only extensive, but undisputed. There is just no argument against it whatsoever and in this case ignorance is far from bliss.
On the business side of the spectrum, if you’re a club owner or festival promoter you should take a leaf our of ADE’s book and make ear plugs available at every show. It’s a no-brainer: you will ensure your patrons’ ears are protected while making some extra money on the side too. Further, you will also be sending everyone in attendance a very important message that is often undervalued in our industry: that you actually care about those coming to your events.
Simply put if you love music you should love your ears, period. And if you love your ears you should protect them to ensure you’re able to hear music and the voice of your loved ones for decades to come without the fear of tinnitus or permanent ear damage. I suffer from the former and I tell you, moments of true silence are hard to come by and are often unappreciated until you realize they are gone forever.