Irfan van Ewijk made his entry into the music industry at a young age with immense ambition and execution. Irfan is often regarded by being the “I” in ID&T, the global event organization originated in The Netherlands alongside his lifetime friends of Duncan Stutterheim and Theo Lelie, formed in 1992 from an idea to throw parties for graduates at the collegiate level. ID&T has been responsible for organizing the most immense dance music events in Europe and across the globe for over 20 years, including Sensation, Mysteryland, Q-Dance and Tomorrowland.
Irfan is no longer at ID&T, and since then ID&T’s 100% acquisition from SFX Entertainment in late 2013 for $130 million turned the controls over to the U.S.-based company. Irfan’s mission is to empower uprising, innovative companies and the younger generation of entrepreneurial individuals to find their way and achieve success in the dance music industry. Irfan is also involved in revamping the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands as mentioned in the interview. Follow past the break to see what the dynamic businessman has up his sleeve for the future.
What was your vision, from a young age, building upon your desire to produce world-class events?
I always tell people it is not difficult to make a choice, just follow your heart. If you like playing with car toys for example, you may probably end up in the car industry. I was always fascinated from a young age by creating things, building something without having a clue where it all ends up, but just starting something to build, create, or think about.
When I started to chase my own identity and started going out, I ended up in bars and discotechs and found myself always [phsyically] in the back or in the corner – I was fat, didn’t have the budget to dress properly and not very popular among the girls. Not that it depressed me – but when I ended up at a real house party, I felt that there was a homogenous energy among the people that were there for the love of music, dance, and go through the night. It touched me, and that was the moment.
When I then entered the rave and house/warehouse party scene, we had broke in and set up an event – it was exciting to deal with the police and being proactive. Everyone was like-minded and no atmosphere that was brutal amongst the men vs. women or competition.
As an entrepreneur, what is the biggest obstacle that you’ve had to face to reach your success?
For a lot of people it is a very hard obstacle, but my friend Duncan and I, who I know well and for 37 years, have a strong synergy of working together while knowing each other from a young age. Because we had a background of real friendship and always used to be open and straightforward with each other, it was always pretty easy to find a middle ground [in business], without always debating about the financial consequences. It was always about the concept, idea, and feeling, which direction we want to go.
Of course, that led to our divorce at some point, more on Duncan’s side as he was focused on the music industry – and I kept my focus more on events and bringing people together, marketing, branding etc. The hardest obstacle like you asked, was to think about some of the financial consequences first, instead of building a plan then thinking about the financial consequences.
What are you up to now?
I decided to take a break since I left ID&T in May 2014, spend more time with my family and myself, etc. And now after a year and a half of being quite relaxed and inactive, I am lecturing again and trying to motivate as many young people, companies to find their way in this [entertainment] industry. I am also doing something completely different now like restyling the Chamber of Commerce here in Holland.
The child in me hasn’t left yet – I’m still playing PlayStation, but it’s not like I want to keep young by botoxing my face, but the child in me still lives especially now that I have my own kids.
You have an endless amount of energy when you just do what you like. Then it isn’t work and there are no hard challenges – you face everything as it comes – that is the way I feel people should live.
What is one piece of advice that you would offer the rising generation of young professionals?
It’s easy – never ever compromise your gut feeling. Follow your instincts. As you grow up, your teachers, parents and others teach you to be sane instead of following your feeling. Just like you start in diapers and end in diapers, you have a super-strong intuition from a young age but are then conditioned to follow rules. Then when you’re successful or even around 40, you see people start going to Yoga and start trying to find themselves again – just never leave yourself!