Exclusive Interview: Nick Royaards discusses life as manager of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Lost Frequencies
Behind every superstar DJ rests a creative brain responsible for marketing strategies, tour logistics, bookings, release schedules and so on. In the modern day, those things can become both pretty relentless, and consequently – fairly exhausting. In the case of Nick Royaards, life can be crazier than most. Managing a jam-packed roster of talent, including Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, and Lost Frequencies, Nick – like Ash Pournouri or Amy Thomson – is the latest in a line of dance music managers who are starting to form a reputation of stardom in their own right.
The Belgian boss sat down with We Rave You to discuss a triumphant DJ Mag Top 100 campaign, the highly successful ‘Garden of Madness‘ shows, Tomorrowland, and much more.
Nick! Tell us how your life took us to the career you’re in now…
“I started out owning a company called Blue Flame. We were one the largest organisers of parties and night time concepts in Belgium. I had known the brothers behind Tomorrowland for a while. It was around the time that they were setting up their early editions of the now mammoth festival that is Tomorrowland that they asked if we would like to host a stage at the festival.
As promoters we ran some very big and successful parties in the country and we were amongst the first to bring artists like Yellow Claw, Sebastian Ingrosso, Chuckie, Dadalife, Bingo Players, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premier, A-Trak, DJ Kool and many others DJs to Belgium.
The stage we hosted turned out to be a wild success at the festival. After I sold the company, Michiel and I began talking about ways in which we could work together on future projects. This then kicked off the idea to co-manage Tomorrowland residents Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. And after a few years of successfully working as a team, all together we collectively signed our next artist: Lost Frequencies. The journey with him as an example has been crazy. In 4 years, what we’ve achieved is truly staggering and I am incredibly happy to see him reach so many of his goals already and we still have so much more planned for the years ahead!”
Dimi & Mike famously won the DJ Mag Top 100 in 2015. What were the marketing strategies behind such a campaign to elevate them to that level?
“The guys main focus has always been to give the fans the best show experience you could ever have. Both Dimitri & Mike are incredibly passionate about their fanbase, so all our strategies were built around what we can achieve on the road and with the music from the studio. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of super cool campaigns like a pop-up store totally in the theme of our Ibiza residency “Garden of Madness”, people were able to get a taste of the experience – and even fly people over to join one of our shows and look behind the scenes.
The main focus for Dimi & Mike is fostering relationships with their fans that matter and that’s the fans on the dance-floor and at home, who are listening, supporting, sharing and most of all loving their music and DJ show. As everyone knows, reaching your fans on social media is becoming harder and harder – so it takes creativity to reach your fanbase.
We just finished our annual Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike Madness Arena shows, this year we did yet again 4 shows for 84,000 party. Making it the 19th arena show we did in just 6 years in Belgium for over 350,000 people. Besides those the guys sell out shows worldwide, have chart climbing hits and engage with millions of fans online, so for us our focus was more towards a worldwide approach.”
Many DJs now are self managed, so what are the benefits of using a manager, and how can doing so aid an artist’s career?
“I don’t really believe you can self-manage your career if you want to play on the highest level, there is just so many things to deal with which you just can’t and shouldn’t want to deal with when you are on the road. It’s also not always so that an artist has interest or knowledge of the business side of what we do. For me an artist should be in the studio or on stage doing what he loves and when he is not doing that, unwind and catch up with family and friends.
Besides my active role working to outline their future. I am also streamlining their schedule to ensure we have the right balance of studio time, to make sure they’re able to play the high volume of shows they like to play without burn-out. They are hungry for it but my job is to ensure their health and wellbeing is always in good shape and never compromised by their desire and passion to give the fans what they want.”
How much of a say do you get in the actual musical side of your artist’s careers? What tracks to release next or if certain tracks are good enough to make a big impact etc.
“We discuss everything as a team, the guys send over demos and ideas and we collectively discuss which direction would be best from the creative side to release planning wise. It’s a great way of working and building milestones together.”
Tell us about the Tomorrowland link up and the idea behind “Garden of Madness.” How did that come about?
“Well everybody knows the guys are the residents for Tomorrowland and the productive team behind the festival put their craft and magic into the big arena shows each year, which has had phenomenal success! We decided to transform our Ushuaia residency into Garden of Madness in Ibiza and the response to that residency was truly mind-blowing. The energy and atmosphere of that party is amazing. After the success of the summer we felt it was time to do something new and bring the concept indoors for our annual arena shows but first we made a quick stop in Liverpool to bring Garden of Madness to Steel Yard which rapidly sold out and was a monster success. This year was another amazing year, the crowd reaction we got was unreal. We are so happy we are allowed to keep doing this year after year.”
The life of a modern DJ – and manager – involves lots of flying around, hectic schedules and very little sleep – how do you ensure you maintain a healthy lifestyle and routine?
“We are very conscious of this. We try to work on schedules to ensure we’re never pushing ourselves to the limit in regard to touring and travelling. Which isn’t so easy as there are always amazing opportunities somewhere. On the road we try to eat healthy, keep fit and whilst we like to party and enjoy the shows with the fans, we are effectively working to give the fans the best experience possible, so we’re always maintaining 100% focus on our goal.”
Finally, what makes you decide you want to work with an artist? What are the important elements in spotting rising talent, and in such a saturated market, how can one act distinguish themselves from the next?
“Well I have to love what they’re doing. I have to believe in them and their music. There needs to be a connection between us and their vision is something I need to share with them. Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike are like brothers to me and Felix (Lost Frequencies) is like a son. I am truly inspired by their enthusiasm, passion for the music and their eagerness to get up and work. Their drive is a big part of what drives me.”