How the City of Amsterdam is Planning to Destroy Its Legendary Festival Scene

New regulations requiring festival organizers to wait until the end of 2024 to get permits for 2025 events threaten to cripple Amsterdam's legendary festival scene.

Amsterdam Photo by Chait Goli from Pexels:
Amsterdam Photo by Chait Goli from Pexels:

For decades, Amsterdam has been world-renowned as one of the premier destinations for music festivals and celebration of arts and culture. The city’s name is synonymous with vibrancy, open-mindedness, and progressivism – values embraced and embodied by the countless festivals that take place here every year.

From the bass-thumping electronic dance parties like Awakenings to the eclectic multi-genre offerings of DGTL, Amsterdam’s festival calendar is a year-round showcase of boundary-pushing creativity. These events don’t just attract attendees locally but draw massive audiences from around the globe who flock here to experience the Amsterdam vibe.

More than just economic drivers, festivals are an integral part of the social fabric and cultural heritage of the city. They are the places where people celebrate art, music, self-expression, and free thought. They are monuments to the progressive ideals and individual freedoms that we in the Netherlands hold so dear.

Amsterdam’s new festival policy

That’s why the municipality’s new policy towards festivals is so misguided and threatens to do irreparable harm to Amsterdam’s international standing and community spirit. Under these new rules, festival organizers would have to wait until the end of 2024 to find out if their 2025 events will be approved and permitted. This extreme uncertainty makes properly planning and staging festivals a practical impossibility.

Any experienced event organizer will tell you that putting on a major festival requires at least 12-18 months of lead time. Holding dates, booking artists, securing venues, arranging suppliers, contractors, security personnel and countless other logistics is an incredibly intricate process that can’t just be thrown together a few months out. Having to work under a cloud of doubt whether all that time and money being invested will be for naught is untenable.

Why this new policy is just bad

As a result, this policy will likely force many long-running, established festivals to cancel or scale back dramatically leading to major economic impacts. The festivals unable to secure permits will lose out on millions in potential revenue. And all the auxiliary businesses – hotels, restaurants, transportation providers, etc. – that benefit from the tourism spending around festivals will take a major hit as well.

But it’s not just about money – this policy represents a body blow to Amsterdam’s culture and civic identity. Amsterdam has always pride itself on being a place that values free expression, progressivism, and pushing boundaries. Festivals embody and celebrate those ideas, bringing people of all backgrounds together in a spirit of unity, adventure, and uninhibited creativity. Allowing bureaucratic red tape to disrupt that grand tradition is anathema to what Amsterdam is all about.

Of course, it’s not like festival operators have been bad actors. Event organizers go to extensive lengths to be good neighbors and partners with the city. They have robust systems in place to limit noise, crowding, and environmental impact while stringently following security protocols to ensure attendee safety. This avoids any undue burden on surrounding communities.

Taking an arbitrary, indiscriminate approach to instituting new policies penalizes organizations that have consistently demonstrated a commitment to operating responsibly and providing a positive cultural impact. It’s doubly concerning that experienced organizers are the ones being most threatened by having to acquire permits at the last minute. Their hard-earned institutional knowledge around safety planning and operations will be tough for less seasoned groups to replicate under rushed timelines.

But why this policy?

You have to wonder if this policy is being driven by the misguided assumption that Amsterdam is becoming over-saturated with too many overlapping festivals. That’s an extremely short-sighted view that fails to account for festivals’ unique offerings and target audiences. There’s zero risk of cannibalizing fanbases when events lean into distinctly different vibes and programming.

Diversity of experiences is what strengthens scenes and drives more tourism. Amsterdam shouldn’t be in the business of arbitrarily picking winners and losers, but fostering an environment where creativity can flourish across different mediums and scenes. That growth mindset is what cements Amsterdam’s global relevance and makes us an aspirational destination.

Tampering with the festival economy could have far-reaching ripple effects beyond just events themselves. Many artists, DJs, vendors, and creatives rely on the income from festival circuits to sustain themselves. Jeopardizing those revenue streams weakens the entire infrastructure that powers Amsterdam’s artistic community.

Let’s save Amsterdam’s festival scene. Sign the petition!

People in Amsterdam have been the beneficiaries of the city’s progressive, open mindset that embraces different cultures and modes of creative expression. Don’t let this regressive policy destroy a civic legacy the city has rightly earned and enjoyed for generations.

Sign the petition and demand the municipality stop waging war on festivals and the values they represent. Amsterdam’s identity depends on it.