Posted by Gosia Mrugala
On June 1, the international EDM event SENSATION, presented by Bud Light, will make its Canadian debut. An estimated 30,000 fans are expected to “Light It Up” during the eight-hour experience at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. 50 cents from every ticket purchase for Bud Light Presents Sensation will go to the dance4life charity, which is dedicated to helping empower young people around the world to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, with event organizers matching donations dollar for dollar.
Founded in the Netherlands, Sensation went international in 2005, and is now in some 20 countries worldwide. Among the distinctive features of this licensed 19+ event: the all-white dress code, which — in conjunction with the show’s undersea theme — will transform the Rogers Centre into what the organizers have dubbed “The Ocean Of White.”
At last week’s launch party, I had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Hekking, commercial director for Amsterdam-based promoter ID&T and Bud Light brand director Todd Allen to talk about bringing Sensation to Canada.
GOSIA: For those who are unfamiliar with ID&T, can you give us a little background on the company and your involvement with Sensation?
MICHAEL HEKKING: ID&T is an electronic music experience company, so what we do is produce shows: festivals like Tomorrowland, Mysteryland, Sensation — we have, like, 40 different events. But Sensation and Tomorrowland are the most famous ones.
ID&T was founded in 1991 by a group of friends. I was part of the founding group, although I was very young at the time. We started throwing parties in Amsterdam, just having fun, and then the moment came when we decided to rent a big venue. It was just before the summer, when everyone has their big exams in school, and we just tried to get everyone in one place. We thought there would be maybe 2,000 or 3,000 people — but 11,000 people showed up! It was our first big break, and that’s when we decided we have to do this for a living.
We grew and grew, and plus electronic music was booming at that moment in Amsterdam and Europe. So from around 2005 we moved to Germany and Belgium. Nowadays we have offices in New York, Belgium, Sao Paulo, Sydney. It just doesn’t seem to stop. EDM is growing worldwide, and we’re still enjoying it the same as 20 years ago. We’re still those young guys that enjoy throwing parties.
GOSIA: Can you tell me how Sensation White started?
MICHAEL HEKKING: Sensation started because close to our office there was a new stadium built for the football club in Amsterdam, and we thought how great it would be to throw a party there one day. They always said no to us because they were afraid of having a rave in a stadium. But at one point we had some good connections with the mayor, we talked to him, and he put in a good word for us. So we had a try at the stadium and it was a success — and so Sensation was born in 2000.
It wasn’t an all-white event at the time. But after the event, one of our friends — one of the founding group — died in a car crash. He was really the inventor of Sensation: it was his idea about the stadium. So we decided to celebrate his life, and asked everyone to come to the funeral in white or a Hawaiian shirt, just to make it a celebration. Then at the next Sensation in 2001 we asked everyone to dress up in white as a tribute to him — and 80% of the people showed up in white, which surprised us. So that was when Sensation White was born.
GOSIA: Why did Bud Light decide to connect with Sensation?
TODD ALLEN: We feel it’s a beautiful opportunity for us, especially because the electronic dance music scene is exploding and growing. We’re all about momentum, living life to the fullest and seeking adventure … and there’s no better expression of that then Bud Light presents Sensation. They’ve been an absolutely great partner and we feel we will bring an unbelievable experience to Canadians that they have never seen before.
MICHAEL HEKKING: All around the world we have partnerships with different beer companies. It’s a logical fit … For us also to come to countries like Canada — I don’t know the market, I don’t know the people, I don’t know the culture, so I really need local people to tell me what’s hot and what’s not and what I cannot do and can do. The Bud Light team are behind the scenes working their asses off to make this a success. Because we are flying in the show and doing the show, but all the preparations are done here. It’s half the importance to ensure success for the show.
GOSIA: Why was Toronto chosen as the city to host Sensation Canada?
TODD ALLEN: The venue is the biggest thing, with the Rogers Centre. The production that Sensation brings needs that indoor stadium feel, so the venue is a large driver of the decision.
GOSIA: Why did it take this long to bring Sensation to Canada?
MICHAEL HEKKING: We at Sensation and ID&T are all around the world, currently we’re in 20 different countries with Sensation. It’s not like Canada was never on our list — it definitely was. But the momentum has to be there, we have to find the right partners, and for them it has to be the right moment. You have to have the negotiations with the venue, which is always difficult … because it’s not a small two-hour show — it’s a whole night experience. So there’s a lot of things that need to fall in place before we bring Sensation to a city … We were also trying to work in China for the past three years, but it’s not working. Sometimes you have to give up on certain dreams and move to other markets. But Canada was definitely on our priority list, and we are really excited to finally come here.
Tickets go on sale tomorrow Friday, March 8 at 10 am ET through www.ticketmaster.ca and www.sensation.com. More information about Bud Light presents Sensation is available HERE and HERE www.budlight.ca/sensation.
For a glimpse of what’s in store, check out the official trailer: