Fine-Tuning The Frequency Of The Transmission Series – An Interview w/ Transmission’s PR Martijn Van Den Berg

*written by A’Damaged Pro for Electronica Life

You’ve probably seen some photos from this event before and not even known. The photos were most likely under a heading or hashtag of “Destroy Them With Lasers.” The Transmission Event Series is steadily gaining ground and has already established itself as the largest indoor dance event in Central and Eastern Europe. This year marks a seminal moment in this event’s history, as 2014 will be the first time the event migrates, beyond the boundaries of its home in Prague, and ventures internationally. You guessed it. It’s passport time.
“Music brought you here together. Music is the spirit that connects us all. Music is: The Spiritual Gateway!“ These profound words are the guiding principle behind the brainchild of United Music’s “Transmission – The Spiritual Gateway” that came to Bratislava on 3/15/14 and will be the first international edition of the Transmission concept. This concept, which began from humble origins, is now the biggest indoor dance event in Central and Eastern Europe. Their lineups feature a showcase of both local up-and-coming DJs as well as globally revered megastars. If the music, alone, was not enough, the Transmission team is proud to deliver one of the most visually spectacular presentations that you can find at an event, regardless if it is independent or mainstream. Martijn Van Den Berg, who handles the event’s international PR, spoke with me about: how the concept has grown, what goes into producing these events, and some prospective plans for the future.

A’Damaged Pro – When did the Transmission event series begin?

Martijn Van Den Berg – 2006, on the 18th of February. We were at the Tesla Arena back then. The first year we had three editions. The first one brought in about 3,500 people. The second one brought in about 5,500, and the third one brought in about 8,500. Because we were growing we decided to move to a larger venue, the O2 Arena, which had just opened the previous year. From 2007 on, we have been in this venue. We’ve limited the series to one event (usually) in November each year instead of having three events throughout the year.

A’Damaged Pro – Was it originally crafted as a “trance-centric” event?

Martijn Van Den Berg – Yes, it was, and I would say that it still is. I think that trance is the main focus of the event.  Luckily, it has risen with contemporary trends, giving us some flexibility in programming. Sometimes we do incorporate some progressive and some electro so we can reach a wider audience and still keep the flow of the night. Nights usually start out with more trance and then move to a “big-room” sound, with Markus, and then we have, for instance, Djs like Orjan Nilsen and Umet Ozcan who play electro and electro-house. Then usually we finish the night off with trance.

A’Damaged Pro – Since you guys are locally operated, does your team have a space on the roster to provide some exposure to local up-and-coming artists?

Martijn Van Den Berg – Well, of course, we try to help the class of up-and-coming artists, both local and international. We do find it very important to support upcoming talent and to give them a platform, literally, for them to perform. Traditionally we have a Czech warm-up Dj. In the last edition this was Thomas Coastline. A few years before, it was Michael Poliak, I believe. We have some big names involved but we always like to make room for fresh talent to have the opportunity to play in the Czech Republic. I think a great example would be that during the last edition, Tomas Heredia, from Argentina, didn’t have many performances yet in Europe. Same for Grube & Hovsepian, who were having their European debut. They are from Markus Schulz’s Coldharbour Recordings. We try to find a mixture between the stars of today and the stars of tomorrow.

A’Damaged Pro – How big is the Transmission team?

Martijn Van Den Berg – The concept takes about six months to plan. Of course the last few months are more intensive than when the event is still half a year away. There are seven core team members, comprised of Dutch, Czech, and Slovaks. That is strictly office personnel that are focused on: ticket sales, marketing, travels, partnerships, etc. Our boss leads the production side, so he is the one coordinating with the individuals responsible for the technical drawings and such. On an event night, the number of people coordinating is much larger. There are a few guys from Funktion One in charge of the sound system. There are people for the lasers, fireworks, confetti, CO2, as well as the Dj teams. All together we are looking at around thirty people. Here’s a little fun fact for your readers: the voice that: introduces the artists, narrates each new time slot, and connects each small story into one massive theme for the evening belongs to Alan Dale, from the TV show, “Lost.”
A’Damaged Pro – Who is responsible for curating the production (stage design, lasers, and such) of these shows?

Martijn Van Den Berg – My boss’ name is Anco van der Kolk. He is in charge of stage design. He comes up with the initial idea, like which shape stage we will have (we often work with triangles, circles etc.), as well as how much LED screen will be used etc. Then, this drawing (just a sketch on paper) is transformed to a technical drawing and all the lights, lasers, etc. are included. Usually, the green lasers are in the center, as they are used more often during the show night and also because the green laser light has the strongest effect and impact. The other lasers are divided equally over the 1000m2 stage surface, in a way that will have the most impressive effect. Other special effects like co2, fire cannons, confetti, etc. are scheduled and programmed for when we want them: for instance during intros, and sometimes just decided on the spot when it fits a certain track or moment.

Here’s something interesting to know: The Transmix all runs on time codes. This means that on the signal of the show director, everyone presses the button they’re in charge of and all pre-programmed things like: visuals, lasers, fireworks and other effects start running. This sync needs to be very precise and if someone is a few seconds late, those of us behind the scenes can definitely tell. Lucky for the show, it’s not readily apparent to those in the audience and doesn’t take away from the overall experience.

A’Damaged Pro – Is there a story behind the iconic emblem that is central in the stage design and used as the logo of the event?

Martijn Van Den Berg – There isn’t a story or any symbolism behind the image. It was designed by our VJs. We work with Vision Impossible, which is a team of three Dutch guys. We’ve cooperated with them since the very beginning. My boss, who is Dutch, used to have a club in The Netherlands, and that’s how they came into the picture. While this level of visual quality is more commonplace among Europeans, those who travel from outside Europe are normally quite impressed. The visuals that are part of our program have become quite legendary.

A’Damaged Pro – Markus Schulz has been dubbed “Mr. Transmission.” How has his involvement with this organization grown over the years?

Martijn Van Den Berg – Definitely. He is an amazing ambassador for the whole concept. We really see him as the face of Transmission and the link between visitors, the fans, and the concept. The concept can be viewed as something quite abstract so an evolution within seems appropriate. It’s been a wonderful experience to see him grow as an artist as he saw the concept grows as well. It’s like two friends going through puberty together and growing up to adults. We are still staying faithful to one another and I think we have a good marriage.

A’Damaged Pro – In the spirit of evolution, does this mean that there is a possibility to see New World Punx at a future edition of Transmission?

Martijn Van Den Berg – There definitely could be. We wanted to do something extra special for the last edition, the tenth edition, but unfortunately Ferry Corsten was not unavailable because during the same time there was a “small party” in Australia, called Stereosonic 😉 It’s not something that I’m going to promise but it is definitely something we are looking into making happen.

A’Damaged Pro – The series expanded to Bratislava. Will this be the first move in a perpetual expansion of the program?

Martijn Van Den Berg – This is a logical step for us. It’s abroad but still, like, kind of home since Slovakia used to be part of Czechoslovakia. Our expansion event could have just as well been in Poland, considering we have over a thousand visitors from there for each of our editions. This year we are hoping to announce one more show in Europe this September, and then we will have our newest edition in Prague at the end of the year.

We might have to change the date to 10/25/14. In 2015, anything is still open and possible. It really comes down to whether we have an experienced and reliable promoter stateside, who is willing to buy or invest in the concept and if there is a suitable venue. We need a proper stadium or indoor hall with sufficient height for us to build the stage in a way that fits Transmission. We have also been asked to host a stage on several outdoor festivals but for us that simply doesn’t feel right, yet, as we are not sure if we can create the same feeling and show. Maybe Transmission should just stay indoors…

A’Damaged Pro – Several European and global EDM event giants have expanded their markets to include the United States. Any chance to see a Transmission event, stateside, in the near future?

Martijn Van Den Berg – Who knows? Of course it is a wish of ours, definitely, to expand stateside. Right now we are taking things one step at a time. For us it’s a whole new way of organizing because we coordinate with a local promoter that buys the license, the whole brand, essentially the whole show. We take care of the production but the local promoter is responsible for  the local PR, securing the venue, the local promotion, ticket sales, and so on. Organizing an event in the USA from Europe is not an easy decision or a small step to take. Let’s see what the future will bring.

A’Damaged Pro – Are the events streamed live?

Martijn Van Den Berg – Yes, we usually do, at least on the radio. This last edition, for instance, we were featured on After Hours FM, which is one of the biggest online trance radio stations. In the future, I would like to cooperate with DI FM, among other stations. We also had live video streaming as well for the tenth edition. The video streaming is not a fixed aspect. It was something we did with our presenting partner on this last edition.

A’Damaged Pro’s final words…

As the global EDM scene continues to face the rigors of expansion and privatization, it’s refreshing to see, that for some, the music and the experience (for the event-goer) are still paramount in their motivation for putting on events. Although this event series is still in its relative infancy, they are steadily gaining exposure and momentum. The crew behind this momentous occasion may possess some very lofty dreams about the potential of this series, but they are taking things one step at a time. The music, the experience, and the masterful execution are the primary focus. If the only harm this group of gentlemen want to cause is to “kill” the audience with lasers, then so be it.

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