Year after year, the monstrous house and techno festival that is Extrema Outdoor seems to be getting bigger and bolder. Located on a truly enchanting lakeside location in Limburg’s Houthalen-Helchteren, this festival exclusively caters to the fans of quality dance music. Immersive stage design, powerful sound systems and a lineup that includes the likes of established names (Amelie Lens, Loco Dice, Tiga and Marcel Dettmann for example) and upcoming producers (Milo Spykers, Joyhauser to name just two) alike. While we’re counting down the days to June 7, 8 and 9, we spoke to a few members of the core team about Extrema Outdoor and its place in the Belgian festival landscape.
Extrema Outdoor Belgium has sprouted from a Dutch organisation, right? Tell us again how this festival was born and how it has evolved from those early years.
Extrema was one of the first purely electronic music festivals in the world, alongside Dance Valley. The Dutch edition was mostly a crossover event with big commercial acts like Afrojack or Swedish House Mafia mixed with more underground names on dedicated stages. From its start in 2011, the Belgian branch of Extrema did things a little different by focussing exclusively on house and techno. We’re proud to say that this has remained unchanged.
Your lineup is packed with major A-list names. Some say festivals like yours only make line-ups from a limited selection of artists that can guarantee ticket sales. Do you agree? If so, what can events like Extrema Outdoor do against this?
We always try to find a nice balance between the international artists and our national heroes. At least 50% of our headliners have to be ‘upcoming’ in some way. We don't want a lineup filled with just established names. Discovering and pushing new talent really is essential for us. That said, you do have to maintain a balance as you fill a poster with just niche names. Luckily, our visitors trust us to provide a complete experience. A good way to measure this are the pre-lineup ticket sales. Every year, we're selling a lot of tickets before we even drop the first names. These people already know it will be a good one.
From the very beginning we tried to keep the same vibe and protect the brand as much as possible.
For this edition, you’re expanding the capacity once again, aiming for 60.000 visitors. Doesn’t expansion endanger the genuine experience? What’s your take on this?
From the very beginning we tried to keep the same vibe and protect the brand as much as possible. We believe in strong relationships, that's why our sponsors and partners haven't changed since day one. In this way, everyone involved with the festival knows the brand, the concept and the team inside out. We also like to keep our team members on board: everyone involved in our core team started as an intern once.
The Belgian festival circuit seems to be reaching a level of saturation. Do you believe there’s still room for growth or will we see the bubble burst eventually?
Billy Paul once said "only the strong survive" and we firmly believe there's a certain truth in that. We've got a lot of cool festivals in Belgium, but many of them don’t have a real personality or soul. We believe these kinds of festivals are slowly disappearing. Only the ones with a strong identity will remain. If you go to Tomorrowland, you know you can expect some ‘madness’, right? If you're going to Extrema, you know you can expect a crazy family feeling, a unique production and world's finest house, techno and everything in between.
We believe social media has done an awful lot of damage to the club circuit over the years.
You guys run a club edition, Extrema Noir, after the festival season too. It’s said that young people don’t go to clubs anymore and rather save money for festivals. Is this something you’re experiencing as well?
(Young) people aren't traveling to clubs on a weekly basis anymore. Almost every weekend, we have the option to see an international headliner in Antwerp, Ghent or Brussels. There are plenty of choices, we just pick the event with the most Facebook responses. We believe social media has done an awful lot of damage to the club circuit over the years. We always always hear the same thing: "This event only has 300 people on attending? I'd rather stay home". Nowadays, promotors have to pay thousands of euros to convince people to press that damn ‘interested’ button. It’s great to think about the golden era of clubbing, when people go to a venue for the music without knowing who would play, just because you know it will be good.
As for Extrema Noir, we've been working hard on the coming edition already. Some major changes are coming. More info on that soon!
What are the biggest challenges ahead for Extrema Outdoor?
Currently, our first day of festival is not reaching its full potential. The festival starts at 5PM on Friday with 4 stages open for business. On Saturday and Sunday, the number rises to 7 stages – and the music starts a lot earlier. In the future, we hope to extend the duration so that we have at least 3 full days of festival.