Dance goes Boom: Belgium’s massive Tomorrowland festival opens

The dance music festival Tomorrowland, touted as the world's biggest and most popular music festival of any kind, opens Friday in the Belgian town of Boom.
(Tomorrowland 2011)

While electronic dance music festivals are making big inroads in the U.S., numbers for Belgium’s Tomorrowland are off the charts. Back in April, some 2 million electronic dance music fans were sadly turned away while trying to secure tickets to Belgium’s much-adored three-day music festival. At one point, the sheer volume of panicked buyers put the ticketing site on tilt – quickly registering more than 100 million clicks – from consumers desperately refreshing their browsers. But just like that, in a matter of seconds, 180,000 tickets had sold out.

Boom, indeed.

The impact of the Tomorrowland festival, which starts Friday in the Belgian town of Boom, just 30 minutes north of Brussels, is fairly unprecedented. Yes, the eighth edition of this mega-festival has a great lineup, including headliners Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, Skrillex, Martin Solveig and Afrojack. But it is also set up as a colossal storybook fantasia, a Candyland of neon colors and amazing food and drink, and its producers, ID&T; Belgium, modestly suggest that they’re putting on the biggest, most popular and most comprehensively staged music festival of its kind in the world.

Its social media following online seems to back that up.


“The worldwide popularity of Tomorrowland is truly astounding and is leading the pack in terms of its online presence across all genres of music,” said Toby Andrews, director of publicity for Get In! LTD out of London, which handles Tomorrowland’s international promotions. “The numbers are staggering and unmatched by any other music event in the world.”

On Facebook, the official Tomorrowland page has drawn just shy of 1.4 million likes, while its official 2011 Tomorrowland video has racked up more than 44 million views on YouTube since last year’s festival.

“The population of Belgium is just over 11 million ... it’s the equivalent of every person in the country watching our official 2011 Tomorrowland movie four times over. We’re still seeing tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of additional views per day,” added Andrews.

Coachella, for example, has only half as many likes on its Facebook page and barely a fifth as many total YouTube views. Tomorrowland has hosted 50 million-plus viewers on its YouTube channel in the last year alone.

Aside from its arresting social media and online presence, Tomorrowland prides itself on having the most elaborate and thoughtfully designed presentation of any music festival in the world. Amid the whimsical sea of fairytale decor adorning 75 hectares (185 acres) of flora-filled, candy-striped grounds are 16 stages (including a gargantuan main stage weighing 138 tons and featuring lighting and design that required nine months to build), a gigantic dance space, a VIP campground dubbed “Dreamland” for preferred guests and a specialty dining area where three Michelin star-rated chefs from around the world -- Wout Bru, Sergio Herman and Roger van Damme – are preparing signature dishes and a special collection of desserts from inside a real-life gingerbread house.

That attention to detail has made Tomorrowland the summer holiday destination for the EDM crowd, pulling in a huge international following.

People from more than 70 countries are set to attend this year’s event. With such overwhelming worldwide interest, Tomorrowland has partnered with YouTube to launch Tomorrowland TV, which aims to stream live HD video at the festival each day from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. CEST (Central European Summer Time) for the entire duration of the three-day fest. This will hopefully be some solace for the 2 million buyers who were turned away in April.

“We’re delighted to announce a partnership with Tomorrowland whose dream lineup of electronic and dance music acts will now be made available to anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection,” said Patrick Walker, senior director of YouTube music, Europe, Middle East and Africa, in a news release earlier this month.

The streaming content will feature live deejay sets, exclusive interviews and access to special backstage happenings.

“We really hope to give our online following the best experience possible this year with the addition of Tomorrowland TV,” said Andrews. “We’re going live for seven hours every day and creating a never-done-before experience for everyone around the world who will be able to enjoy the festival experience with us.”

Stay tuned here for dispatches from the festival over the next three days.


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