‘Is Tomorrowland the world’s best music festival?’ This was the question Forbes posed, as Tomorrowland at De Schorre recreational park in Boom, Belgium, has become one of the world’s best known music festivals. Not to mention it’s won numerous awards, including ‘best musical event of the year’ at the International Dance Music Awards five times in a row.
DJ Mag named Tomorrowland the world’s best music festival in 2022, commending it especially for ‘pushing the boundaries of production, imagination and creation’. So, what makes it so special?
The Origins of Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland history dates back to 2005, when brothers Manu and Michiel Beers, inspired by their love of electronic music and desire to create a unique and immersive experience, had the idea for a large-scale EDM festival. Mysteryland had been captivating fans in the Netherlands, but the brothers had to struggle to build their reputation from Tomorrowland’s humble beginnings. The first year, they hosted around 10,000 party-goers; mainly locals, it’s even rumoured that the organisers gave out free tickets to fill the venue. How times have changed…
Performers at that first festival included Push (M.I.K.E.), Armin van Buuren, Cor Fijneman and Technoboy. David Guetta is the only producer/DJ that’s played every year so far.
What really started to put Tomorrowland on the map worldwide was its FOMO-inducing YouTube roundups after each festival. They were the first dance music brand to successfully capture high quality after-movies, and now have 10.5 million subscribers to their channel.
Watching the evolution of Aftermovies in terms of their production values is like watching EDM festivals grow up in front of your very eyes:
A decade ago, the 2013 Aftermovie had added style, a story and a voiceover:
This Official Aftermovie from 2022 shows just how far the festival has come – it’s an absolute epic:
Tomorrowland expanded to two days for the first time in 2007 and the Main Stage size and design also started to get bigger. In 2008, there were over 100 artists on the lineup and over 50,000 attendees for the first time.
Growth and Global Recognition
As you can see if you watch all the Aftermovies, over the years, Tomorrowland has grown from a start-up to a global brand, with EDM fans from all over the world desperately trying to be one of the chosen few. Now? Over two million log in to buy tickets, despite the fact that the festival grounds can only hold 60,000 people per day. These days, only Glastonbury sells out faster.
In 2014, to celebrate the festival’s 10th anniversary and to meet the high demand for tickets, Tomorrowland was held over two weekends in July for the first time. MTV announced that it would produce two hour-long MTV World Stage specials featuring performances from the festival. And even composer Hans Zimmer joined the party, producing a classical hymn that would premiere there.
The ten-minute-long composition took listeners on a magical journey embodying the mythical qualities, atmosphere and international character of Tomorrowland. Zimmer worked with a symphony orchestra at the world-famous AIR Studios in London to create the anthem, bringing different cultures together with tribal drums and stirring strings.
The 2019 edition welcomed 400,00 visitors over two weekends and featured an astonishing 1000 artists on 18 stages spread over a massive 38-hectare area along the Rupel River.
And it’s not only expanded to become a two-weekend event, but also to other countries. After mastering the art of creating a huge spectacle in Belgium, Tomorrowland’s creators decided to bring their party to the US. Sister festival TomorrowWorld was born, taking place in Atlanta Georgia for the first time in 2013. TomorrowWorld set up camp in Chattahoochee Hills, 48 kilometers southwest of Atlanta, which was specifically selected owing to the similarity of the site to the original Tomorrowland in Boom.
Dance world domination became the name of the game for the fondly-named People of Tomorrow (i.e. Tomorrowland fans) – in 2014, it was announced that Sao Paulo in Brazil would be the next city to host a Tomorrowland super-party.
Tomorrowland: More Than Music
Tomorrowland’s fusion of music, art and technology creates a multi-dimensional experience. From 2009, the festival introduced a theme; ‘Masker’ was brought into the main stage design, with performers inside the Masker’s mouth.
The festival now boasts hugely elaborate stage designs, with breathtaking visual effects. Each stage has its own theme – there’s the fire-spewing Dragon stage; the Freedom, Rose Garden and Elixir stages, and the gigantic Main stage with mind-blowing audio visuals, floating dancers, epic lightshows and fireworks. Lakes are filled with fake fish that look as though they’re breathing fire; water jets and fog machines are installed; lamp posts have been replaced by ones covered in golden flowers – it’s a visual festival as much as a music one.
Plus, don’t forget to see who’s playing the Rave Cage and Youphoria, The Library and Crystal Garden.
Want to blow the budget on some amazing food while you’re there? Inside the main stage, there’s a two-star Michelin-rated restaurant, which seats just 12. Its tasting menu, at over $1000 a plate, donates its proceeds to charity.
Iconic Moments and Milestones
After the pandemic shut down the festival for two years, the 2022 edition of Tomorrowland was extended to take place over three weekends and registered a record 600,000 visitors from 200 countries.
The festival also managed to up its game by creating a unique mainstage called the ‘Reflection of Love’, which was reproduced in Virtual Reality, using the Horizon Worlds app; creator Jake Donaldson launched his creation in the metaverse. Will Tomorrowland also become the world’s biggest online festival?
The Legends of Tomorrowland
Some of the now legendary Tomorrowland sets include:
- 2010 – Swedish House Mafia – could the Swedish trio have imagined their impact on the world of dance music? The SHM juggernaut helped to propel Tomorrowland into the spotlight thanks to this set – which has amassed nearly six million YouTube views:
- 2012 – Nervo – Aussie twins Liv and Mim are Tomorrowland regulars and the girls stormed it on the Main stage with a sensational edit of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ and Porter Robinson classic ‘Language’:
- 2013 – Nicky Romero X David Guetta X Afrojack – bringing three of the world’s biggest-hitting DJs together and kicking off with 2013’s biggest summer track from Fatboy Slim, ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’? Still regarded as a legendary Tomorrowland moment:
Taking Tech to New Heights
Tomorrowland were at the forefront of innovation during the two years when the pandemic meant they had to cancel in-person festivals. Tomorrowland Around the World in 2020 coupled ultramodern video and entertainment technologies with an artist line-up that featured Katy Perry and Steve Aoki to attract more than a million fans.
Its second virtual concept launched on New Year’s Eve 2020, with Diplo, Major Lazer, Tiesto, David Guetta and Armin Van Buuren. The digital experience was adapted for all 27 time zones around the world, with more than 25 artists performing in an immersive digital entertainment venue called NAOZ on four digital stages, enhanced with state-of-the-art 3D technology, video production and special effects.
Michiel Beers, founder of Tomorrowland, pointed out that the festival has always been looking for new ways to connect with fans and elevate their experience: ‘For more than 15 years, Tomorrowland has proven to be a solid innovator in the global festival industry. New technologies, perspectives, and ideas – in fact, the modernisation of the ‘festival’ concept, has often originated at the event in Belgium.’
This year’s Tomorrowland festival takes place, as ever, in the small town of Boom, which is in the province of Antwerp in Belgium. There’s a custom-built site specifically designed for the event, which includes plenty of room for camping.
From 22nd-24th of July, and the 29th-31st July, there’s an incredible lineup, with some of the industry’s biggest names, including headliner Armin van Buuren, a regular since Tomorrowland’s earliest days, Martin Garrix, R3HAB, W&W, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso and Afrojack as some of the stand-out names. Plus, K3RN3L and MYU:SA are worth checking out – Tomorrowland’s famous for unknown acts making an impact and gaining a whole new set of fans overnight.
With party-goers from over 200 countries coming together, Tomorrowland is also a celebration of diversity and a melting pot of cultures, languages and backgrounds: a global community like no other.
Tomorrowland is known for being an incredible immersive experience and has become a symbol of unity, creativity and the power of music to overcome boundaries. Transcending the usual experience of going to a festival, it’s become a cultural phenomenon and a must-visit event for electronic music enthusiasts. Not to mention the amazingly creative and innovative stage designs, featuring breathtaking visuals and mind-blowing special effects. Towering structures and interactive installations underline the links between music and other artforms, redefining the way that electronic music is experienced and shared.
Last year, Coca Cola launched an EDM-inspired flavour and an AR experience in partnership with Tomorrowland. Fans could scan a Dreamworld package on their mobile to access the Coca Cola Creations Hub, where they could unlock AR music experiences. Tapping into Gen Z’s ‘passion for the infinite potential of mind by exploring what a dream tastes like’ – the drinks brand also partnered with designer DressX, enabling fans to download exclusive, Dreamworld-inspired digital fashion to wear in the metaverse.
Tomorrowland’s influence also extends to its own fashion label TML by Tomorrowland, the radio station One World Radio, and launching the Tomorrowland Music label, in partnership with Virgin Music. Michel Van Buyten, Music Manager for Tomorrowland, said that, ‘Tomorrowland Music will work closely together with artists to help create strong stories around their releases. With the combined forces of our dedicated label team, Tomorrowland’s broader Media House, and the different Virgin Music teams worldwide, our aim is to introduce fans in every corner of the world to the most exciting projects in electronic music.’
Nowadays, even the announcement of the festival’s lineup is a massive event: for 2023, Tomorrowland treated fans to a star-studded nine-hour digital concert featuring the likes of Armin van Buuren, Afrojack, R3Hab and many more, offering fans an exclusive reveal of ‘the story of Adscendo’ (this year’s theme).
Plus, The Night Before Tour Opening grants you early access to the festival grounds for a tour of the whole venue – complete with fascinating insights into the festival’s history, its iconic stages and the experiences that await you…
On the other hand, if you want to get away from it all, then you can make a reservation for a hot air balloon ride on ZEPHYR II – which is a real exclusive, as it has a capacity of just eight people. Float high above the rest of the People of Tomorrow for a unique view and experience of the festival.
Tomorrowland festival 2023’s full lineup, laid out across the two weekends, is available at Tomorrowland’s official website. Start your magical festival journey at The Gathering, Tomorrowland’s official opening party.
Missed out on tickets this year? The Tomorrowland story continues in 2024 with a winter festival (the fourth), from March 16th-23rd in Alpe D’Huez in France. Tickets go on sale in September, so keep up to date if you fancy blending your music with skiing and snowboarding on the slopes.
Or catch the Tomorrowland live stream, which has performances via One World TV and One World Radio.
This year, TikTok has become the official content partner, and will feature TikTok LIVE broadcasts of headline performances from the main stage, as well as behind-the-scenes and video on-demand content from artists and creators, including Steve Aoki, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Amber Broos and Lost Frequencies.
Michael Kümmerle, Business Development Lead, Global Music Content & Partnerships at TikTok, said that, ‘Tomorrowland is the perfect festival partner for our flourishing community of #ElectronicMusic lovers who congregate on TikTok. As our relationship with the genre deepens, we’re incredibly excited to help grow the festival even further by giving our community 24 livestreams and a truly 360 degree experience of Tomorrowland on TikTok.’
#ElectronicMusic was announced last year as TikTok’s latest genre campaign. With 6.9 billion views, it’s the central place for music fans on TikTok to celebrate the content, culture, artists and music across electronic and dance.
Tomorrowland, from its roots as a small local festival has become not only a world-beating event, but a pioneer in tech and design and the place to break new acts and experience dance music at its very best.
Tomorrowland caters for fans of all electronic music genres, from progressive house to techno, trance, house, chill, trap, hardstyle and more. Get that festival feeling with our hand-picked playlists and collections, including electronic, and the biggest hits from our EDM albums. And remember that EDM is perfect for licensing for any kind of content, from digital to advertising and TV.
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