If there’s one man who’ll be breathing a huge sigh of relief now that the COVID-19 pandemic is seemingly behind us, it’s Sander Groet.
One of the Netherland’s most successful entrepreneurs, Sander has carved out an incredible career in music and entertainment over the years. Having started out with the founding and running of some of the countries most popular festivals, including the iconic Mysteryland, he’s since opened a series of nightclubs, restaurants and, perhaps most famously, transformed the A’DAM Tower into a world-beating hub of entertainment offering uninterrupted views of the city.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Sander this weekend, as he took time out from the long-awaited return of Amsterdam Dance Event to talk festivals, career highlights and let us in on his dream next move…
Hi Sander! Could you start by telling us a little about your work?
I created a lot of festivals. When I was younger, I started the first dance festival in the Netherlands. It still exists – it’s one of the leading festivals in the Netherlands. The most famous festival was, of course, Tomorrowland, which was actually smaller than Mysteryland but much more famous worldwide. After my festival career, I started the club – AIR – and festivals like Open Air and Milkshake Festival, and in 2012 won the pitch for the Shell head office in Amsterdam. We transformed that into A’DAM. A’DAM means Amsterdam, of course, but also Amsterdam Music. It’s a building completely dedicated to music with a lot of different activities, like clubs, a hotel, offices for music companies like Sony Music, festival organisers… my whole life is about entertainment and music. That’s my business.
What does an average working day look like for you?
I have a good team around me, so I’m not doing much! My main goal is to be creative and keep my day-to-day business free as much as possible. I don’t get involved in the day-to-day troubles really – I like to keep my head free. It’s difficult to explain my working day because I don’t really have a fixed routine.
We can imagine it’s very varied.
Yeah, I’m an entrepreneur and I’m not leading the company, you know? Of course, I’m the owner, co-owner. I have people who are doing the day-to-day operations, so I’m not involved in those things!
What’s it been like to bring events back after the pandemic?
Well, now ADE is happening of course – Amsterdam Dance Event – and it’s super nice to see all the happy faces. People are so enthusiastic that they’re able to dance and party again! I’m super happy that we are living that now and that COVID is a little bit behind us.
What would you say is the most rewarding thing about your work?
Making people happy. It’s not about the money, it’s always the feedback from people and making them smile. In all my businesses that I’ve created, people come to have fun and to be entertained. That makes me happy.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
It’s a difficult one, because we’ve done so many things. I think if I have to pick one, I’d say when we won the pitch on the tower! All the big real estate developers of the Netherlands were pitching for this tower because it’s in such a brilliant spot – it’s next to Central Station on the riverbank, overlooking the city. We were the only group without a development background, so when we won this pitch as non-developers, that was a huge career highlight. I couldn’t have imagined how it would be now, either – it’s so much better now than the pitch that we originally won with because we’ve had time to develop it more and more and more. There’s so much to see and do, so many different activities. I think there’s no building in the world like it.
It sounds like something that you should be super proud of.
So proud! It’s everlasting. With festivals, you have to build everything up, this whole festival city, and everything is going on for a few days – when Monday comes, you shut it down and have to rebuild again next year. This building is everlasting, you know? It’s there for hundreds of years. That’s super cool. It’s really your legacy.
How’s Amsterdam Dance Event been this year?
Different, but good! Of course, we’re not allowed to go into the night so at midnight, we have to stop, but all of our organisers and clubs are super creative! A lot of parties start at six in the morning. The international crowd is not as big as it usually is, but there is still a lot of people from abroad. I’m super happy with it.
Finally, what’s one thing that you want to do before you die?
It’s a difficult one! I’m super happy with everything I did before. The only thing I’m still really wanting to create is kind of a living community – I want to develop a community where people live together and share things in a really cool and open way. That’s what I want to create in the future if I have the land and the opportunities.
That’s a really great aim to have.
Yeah. For lots of people, whether you’re in the big city or not and especially for young people, it’s too expensive to have your own house. You have to share, you know? I mean sharing in a very general way, of course – you’d have your own bathroom and rooms, but there could also be sports facilities, a room where you can have an after-party so you don’t disturb the neighbours, all kinds of things like that! But to share your car, share a boat, share your bike, I think that’s the future for big cities, especially.
Thanks for catching up with us, Sander!