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An important –– albeit, simple –– lesson Dutch DJ Martin Garrix has learned in his rise to fame over the last year: Never. Read. The. Internet. Comments.
“The bigger you get, the more people talk [expletive],” he says over the phone from Amsterdam. “I spoke to Steve Angello, who was part of [electronic group] Swedish House Mafia. He told me, ‘Dude, for the last nine years, I have never opened the comments section. You should not be looking at those comments.’”
Even if there were 99 positive remarks and one negative, the bad one would rattle around Martin’s head like an errant marble. It took him a while to realize that what matters most is the work he puts in –– how many great moments and memories he creates for others, how many listeners his music touches, how many tickets he sells. He just wishes he had learned that before he became a star.
Most internationally recognized artists aren’t plucked from obscurity and transformed into headliners overnight. In 2013, Martin, whose real name is Martin Garritsen, was just another face in the crowd. At the time, the aspiring DJ and producer had arrived in Miami to enjoy a weekend of tunes with his friends at the annual electronic music festival Ultra. Soon after, his breakout hit “Animals” lit up the electronic dance world, charting in more than a dozen countries, as the then-17-year-old Martin became a hot commodity at festivals all over the globe. (For proof just check out his photos, where he’s often seen standing in front of massive stage designs composed of colorful lasers and strobing lights.) Twelve months after attending Ultra as a fan, Martin found himself back in Miami, this time on the main stage, performing for the crowd he was once standing in.
“There were so many people from different countries around the world,” says Martin, about playing Ultra Miami in 2014. “There was one moment where everybody put their flags up in the air. There were [people] from India, people from Australia, people from the U.S., lots of flags from Europe. Also Brazil was there, Mexico. It was insane.”
For that first Ultra performance, Martin was understandably nervous. His intro music came on, the crowd began to roar –– a year ago he was in the crowd’s position, waiting for the next performer to hit the stage. Now he was about to be the center of attention for more than an hour. But then he popped up from behind his turntables, threw on his headphones and hit play, letting the adrenaline take him.
Today, after more than a year of performing for thousands of fans all over the world, Martin has been able to transform his nervousness into pure energy. His job is to get the crowd to reciprocate it.
“Every country is different, every show is different, and that’s what I like,” he says. “For me, a perfect crowd is a crowd which surprises me in a good way –– with flags, with energy, when I play a new song and they go completely crazy. Because then the reaction of the people is earnest.”