Dutch Jazz & World Meeting Amsterdam, The Netherlands October 5-6, 2012 With Jazzahead! 2012the annual European jazz trade fairdemonstrating that jazz is, if not exactly big business, then certainly bigish business, it's no surprise to find that The Netherlands' biannual Dutch Jazz & World Meeting is making the same salient point, albeit more narrowly focused on a single country's contribution to music that may be niche in relative terms, but remains significant enough to warrant this kind of attention. An event that brings hundreds of presenters, media, management, publicists and other industry folks from around the world to Amsterdam for an intensive two-day/three-evening mix of seminars, information market and showcase performances, the organizers of DJ&WM 2012Music Export Netherlandsclearly took criticisms of the 2010 edition to heart, and made a number of welcome changes. As good as DJ&WM 2010 was in terms of exposure to the surprising breadth and depth of a music scene in a country of just under 17 million, it was organizationally a bit of a nightmare, and for a number of reasonsall of which seem to have been addressed. First, the event took place in early December, 2010 and, while that shouldn't have been a problem in the relatively temperate Amsterdam, the freak snow storm that shut down much of Europe, including London's Heathrow Airport for over a week, turned it into something of a travel disaster for at least some of the attendees. Moving the meeting to early October ensured that, while fall had certainly set in and there was plenty of rain to keep attendees indoors for much of the time, it was far less problematic.
The daytime programmingwhich included the two-room, 60+ booth information market, two keynote addresses, a series of seminars focusing on specific countries including the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium and Germany, and the first of each day's showcase performanceswas moved from an older venue to the newer, Conservatorium van Amsterdam. An open, spacious building, it eliminated the congestion of the previous venue, as well as offering a more appealing restaurant area for meeting, eating and hanging; two performance spaces that, while not necessarily absolutely ideal for sound, were a major improvement; and two large basement rooms that were perfect for the information market. The venue was also a relative stone's throw away from Bimhuis, the legendary Dutch jazz venue (well, the second, opened in 2005 to replace the original structure), another major improvement for DJ&WM 2012.
2010's Melkweg Cinema may have had more rooms than Bimuis (which really has only one, though a second space was used on the second evening to allow two staggered performance streams), but despite more actual shows taking place, difficulties in navigating through the congested hallways and staircases meant that less music was actually heard than in 2012. Bimhuis also offered better sound (at least in the main room) and better lighting/multimedia possibilities, allowing a group like Tin Men & The Telephone to put on a musically compelling but thoroughly hilarious performance on the final night.
If there was a misstep for 2012, it was the accommodations provided to delegates. While the idea of using boat hotels on the canal that abuts Bimuis sounded like fun, they turned out to be anything but. The rooms were smaller than small (beds too small for a six-foot person), with wet-style bathrooms that took hours to drain and a single power outlet, so high on the wall that those without extension cords had to be creative in order to use them; the breakfasts were barely average; and, most importantly (everything else could be forgiven), no WIFI was available. In a time when most delegates simply need to be connected, the lack of web access in the hotel meant that time had to be spent doing emails and other business at the Conservatorywhere delegates should have been more exclusively focused on DJ&WM.
But, in relative terms, the accommodation issue was minor, since delegates weren't spending a lot of time in their rooms. What was, perhaps, the more distressing issue for DJ&WM was news that, as of January 1, 2013, Music Export Netherlands would cease to be. The overall feeling, amongst foreign delegates, was that a newer, smaller replacement organization, already in the works, would present some challengesincluding whether or not a DJ&WM of this scale could be put on again in 2014but that the passion that drives the jazz industry in The Netherlands means that some way, somehow, the scene will continue to exist.
Recent economic troubles in the European Union may be challenging business as usual for the arts, but the clear support of DJ&WM 2012's delegates made it clear that this music will continue to be made, that the artists will continue to find outlets for that work, and the fans which drive the industryfans that include the industry professionals, since nobody is getting rich on this music and, therefore, must be doing what they're doing for other reasonswill continue to bring Dutch artists to festivals, club dates and other events in countries ranging from Canada to Indonesia, the United States to Japan, and locations all around Europe.