EB Live: The Success Story of Backbone

The roots of Backbone International go right back to 2007. At that time, Joris Joosen was working as a freelance producer for, among others, Marcel Elbertse, who was the Operations Director at ID&T at the time. In 2010, they decided to start their own production company, Backbone. “Our ambition was international right from the beginning,” explains Joosen. “When we started up Backbone, we took on a number of great people to realize our dream: creating a worldwide production network where we match people with the same energy and the Backbone-DNA. It has never been our ambition to build a large business, but just to be the best in the world.”


The timing was good. Dance was becoming more popular worldwide, and particularly in North and South America, the demand for large and professionally produced EDM events was growing. And on the wings of ID&T, which was organizing dance events across the world at breakneck tempo, Backbone grew as well. “With Sensation, we were active in eight countries, and in a very short space of time, this grew to 19 countries. With the expansion of ID&T to North America, we also managed to get a foothold there.”

Europe and North America

2013 Backbone took a big step by merging with Live Republic, which became famous in Holland for B2B events for companies such as Tele 2, Sara Lee, Heineken, Hugo Boss, Tribe (Beach Festival Sand), and consumer events such as Liberation Pop Haarlem. Backbone International had arrived.

“It is still a perfect marriage,” according to Joosen. “With Backbone, we had made a national and international name in the EDM live industry, while Pieter Lubberts, the founder of Live Republic, had a background in the corporate world and in the live market, and at the same time also had international ambitions.” Due to the arrival of Lubberts, who became managing director of Backbone Europe, it became possible to take the next logical step onto the international stage. Backbone enlarged its sphere of operations. Backbone merged with BPM International, which resulted in a Backbone office in North America. With managing director Rutger Jansen at the helm, the company also grew into a well-known brand on the other side of the ocean. Jansen owned the production office BPM International and was touring the world as production manager of, among others, Armin van Buuren. Joosen: “Rutger had a passion for the United States. One plus one made two: Rutger went to ‘The Big Apple,’ and that was the start of Backbone in North America.”

Backbone Asia

Yet, Backbone's ambitions were even further. Joosen: “Since 2012, we have also been active in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and India. A few months ago, we opened an office in Hong Kong. That was not without difficulty. The fury over the Panama papers and all the stories about people evading tax meant we were scrutinized from top to toe. We managed to come out the other end without any problems, and now we start on the task, similar to Europe and America, of gathering people with knowledge, curiosity, and the drive to expand their expertise.”

Hardware and software

Joosen explains that there remains quite some work to be done in Asia. “The hardware is available, but there is a lack of software. And by hardware, I mean the lamps, the speakers, and such. The term software refers to, for instance, the sound people, the electricians, and the designers. What we would term “knowledge.” For us, it is normal to think about these matters and arrive at creative solutions, but in Asia, there is still a lot to achieve in this regard. There are a lot of opportunities. That also applies to issues such as fencing, mobile water installations, and facilities such as toilets. In Holland, we are at the forefront in professionalism and creativity, measured worldwide. How will I find the right people? I speak to my network of contacts. In this way, we contacted someone in India who has potential and carries the Backbone DNA. We will bring him to Holland for a few months, and we’ll let him look around our kitchen.”

Big shows for China and Japan are being drawn up and prepared in the Amsterdam office of Backbone. “The drawings and plans form the basis of every event and are developed in Holland, often in combination with our office in New York, where the time difference means it is six hours earlier. In this way, we can be active 24 hours per day. Then we arrange for the completed sets to be built, for instance, in China or Japan.”

Think global, act local

Can Backbone be considered to be an ‘ambassador’ for the Dutch festival industry? Joosen reacts modestly. “Not really. Fantastic things are also being achieved in England and Australia. I strongly believe in ‘think global, act local.’ In every country, you will find excellent producers. By sharing knowledge and experiences, we build our worldwide production network while, at the same time, we try to increase the quality levels everywhere. However, there are indeed opportunities for Dutch suppliers. Here, you should think of products such as rigging and site materials; we are already in talks with various parties who may be able to play a role in these areas. Chances to enhance the facilities market are definitely on offer”.

The future looks rosy for Backbone International. Dates in the diary include UNITE and Tomorrowland in July in eight different places simultaneously, and collaboration is in progress for the Star Wars Celebration in London. In addition, planning for September includes Sensation, while November is the turn of Dubai, and in October, Backbone is involved with the AMF festival as part of the annual ADE. Work is ongoing for the new Sensation Show Angels and Demons in the Amsterdam ArenA, while Backbone is producing the Mirage project in Brooklyn. Recently, the company took care of technical and site production at the request of King Canary in Sugar City, the erstwhile sugar factory in Halfweg. This formed part of the Heineken Global Commerce convention. At the same time, the Backbone team was busy with the SunSets Festival tour, which took place last month in Mexico.

Both large and small

Joosen emphasizes that Backbone does not only produce significant events but also smaller, exclusive shows. “We are regarded as a company that carries out large-scale projects, but we also concentrate on new markets and small, but often very complex, B2B projects. While we carry a festival badge, we also organize small events, such as the opening of The Edge and the new Deloitte office on behalf of Hadimassa. We were also involved with SAIL Amsterdam (we took care of 80% of the total production, including the hospitality area), the Ronald McDonald Children’s Fund Gala in the Okura Hotel, and the Red Bull Bar Staff Challenge, which took place in Amsterdam last month.”

Looking ahead, Backbone wants to progress steadily and keep working on special projects. “Our focus must remain on quality, and from within that quality, we must grow. Making beautiful things happen together with beautiful people makes us happy!”