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IMS Ibiza unveils new home for 15th edition

IMS Ibiza has revealed a new destination for the 15th edition of its electronic music summit.

Co-hosted by BBC Radio 1 broadcasters Pete Tong MBE and Jaguar, the annual conference will be held at the newly opened Mondrian Ibiza and Hyde Ibiza hotels in Cala Llonga from 24-26 April 2024, with programming to take place across both venues.

In a rare keynote, Tomorrowland founder Michiel Beer will share insights into the festival’s evolution in Tomorrowland: 20 Years of Innovation, which will also look at the impact of the Tomorrowland Foundation.

Other panel highlights announced so far include Ninja Tune: Unveiling The Wizardry Behind One Of Electronic Music’s Greatest Independent Labels with the label’s co-founder Matt Black, while Rebuilding Our Community: How To Bring Back Peace, Love, Unity & Respect will examine how the industry can respect and restore its values.

Elsewhere, Amplifying Amapiano: The Journey of a Genre From The Township to the Global Stage will unpack the genre’s cultural influence as it transcends borders, and Defected Records CEO Wez Saunders and founder Simon Dunmore will reflect on the journey of the label in 25 Years of Defected: Life After An Acquisition. IMS is also bringing back its Market Focus format to take a deep dive into the scene in Germany.

“Now that the industry has (mostly) enjoyed its bounce-back, this is the real test of stability as consumer habits settle down”

“IMS continues with our third and most important edition since the pandemic, but also our 15th event in Ibiza,” says IMS co-founder and lead curator Ben Turner. “Now that the industry has (mostly) enjoyed its bounce-back, this is the real test of stability as consumer habits settle down. It is also a moment where global events have impacted the unity of our scene, presenting many with challenging decisions to make.

“IMS also moves to a new property in Cala Llonga, a stunning part of our magical island that is now home to the new Mondrian Ibiza and Hyde Ibiza hotels, and now IMS. We can’t wait to host everybody again and continue to help set and drive the conversation.”

Delegates will also be able to experience parties and events on the island, including the IMS Dalt Vila closing celebration.

IMS Ibiza is partnering with climate action partner EarthPercent, with 1% of all IMS Ibiza 2024 delegate badge purchases to be donated to the charity. The levy will also be applied to all event sponsors.

“We’re delighted that IMS have made the pledge of 1% contributions to EarthPercent,” says artist and EarthPercent co-founder Brian Eno. “The funds will go towards some of the most impactful climate and environmental solutions around the world.

“We’re in the middle of the most challenging crisis we will ever face and the music industry has an amazing opportunity to champion action. It’s hard to know what to do but we know that uniting voices, values, and funds can make a huge difference so we’d love others to join IMS in the movement too.”

 


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Rave reviews: Electronic music report

With the annual IMS Report noting that electronic music revenues grew by more than one third to reach $11.3 billion in 2022, and that nearly half of all dance music revenue came from festivals and clubs, the genre’s impact on live events has never been greater. DJ Mag editor-in-chief Carl Loben reports.

The rise of electronic music has been embraced – some might argue facilitated – by festival organisers the world over creating dance arenas as part of their annual offerings to the masses.

The recent International Music Summit (IMS) Report found that 39% of all festival bookings are electronic music artists. This stat was up from 33% in 2021 and indicates that the electronic music industry is riding high, coming out of the pandemic.

At the same time, electronic acts such as Prodigy, Bonobo, Orbital, Leftfield, Fatboy Slim, Hot Chip, and Overmono are currently on the road touring both indoor and outdoor venues, while the likes of Chemical Brothers, Rudimental, and others have plans for later in the year.

“Yeah, if you look at the live figures, electronic music is about 30% up – it’s really strong,” says Maria May, head of electronic at CAA. “It’s a genre in itself; it’s a serious business. They can’t pretend it’s just a party anymore. Electronic music is worth being a part of and investing in.”

May credits early dance music festivals in the UK around millennium time, such as Creamfields and Homelands, as being barometers for what was to come. “The desire for people to meet in a field and dance under the stars is pretty tribal, isn’t it?” she says. “Now there’s lots of organised gatherings for everyone – young people are always going to need to come together and let go.”

“Incorporating a visual element into my shows has been an essential aspect of my artistic expression”

Time was when electronic dance music was thought of as a bit of a joke by the mainstream music industry. Dance acts were made to mime their hit rave tunes on the UK’s Top Of The Pops television show, and there were mutterings from the rock quarter that dance wasn’t ‘real’ music played by ‘real’ musicians.

The DJ has now been elevated from the music provider in the corner of a dark club, more or less on a par with the glass collector, to bona fide mainstage superstar. A DJ act – such as Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred again.. – can now headline Coachella and doesn’t always need eye-popping visuals to carry a show.

However, many DJs positively embrace the multimedia aspect of their art. “Incorporating a visual element into my shows has been an essential aspect of my artistic expression,” Irish producer and artist Rebūke tells IQ. “I am trying to find ways to evoke emotion and create a unique atmosphere, and by adding visuals, I can transport fans into another world. The visuals I create serve as an extension of my music, allowing me to tell a story and evoke specific moods that complement it.”

He continues, “Each visual I design plays a part in the story that aligns with the theme of the music. The aim is to engage fans on multiple sensory levels. This year, in Mexico City, we depicted a TV head man with glass shattering, symbolising the breaking of societal norms and inviting fans to question their own perceptions. In the second visual debut at The Brooklyn Mirage in New York, the story continues as the man walks through a portal into a new world, representing a transformation and the exploration of uncharted territories. These visuals are sync’d with the music in real time, allowing me to fuse sound and imagery.”

Breaking Down Barriers
There is still some resistance from some areas of the music industry to booking headline DJs for mixed-genre festivals, however. “It’s an ongoing battle for agents and the more conventional rock & roll promoters to get them onside, and in the most part, the general vibe is to not let a DJ on the mainstage,” says May. “But when you have a DJ who is selling more records than all the live acts put together on the festival, there is an argument to say that if a DJ is putting on a really
good show – visuals, all the rest of it – then it can be on a par with a rock band. I’m sure people who play guitar music will kill me for saying this, and it’s not the same – but it’s still valid entertainment.”

“As a result of the pandemic, people started realising that night culture is more than dancing at night — it’s a way for young people to experiment and explore who they are and find their identity”

“The rise of electronic music has broadened people’s perceptions of what music is and how it’s experienced,” says Monty McGaw, head of electronic at Untitled Group events company in Australia. “DJs can be captivating; people love witnessing skilful mixing and track selection. Electronic music events often carry a broader message or theme, such as political messages, equality, or the importance of community. Balancing these diverse elements requires careful planning, coordination, and creativity to deliver a compelling and memorable live experience.

“Electronic music emerged from communities that were often marginalised and underground, which initially limited its acceptance and recognition by the mainstream music industry,” McGaw continues. “The cultural and societal factors surrounding its origins and early development played a role in the industry’s initial resistance to accepting it as a legitimate genre deserving of equal status.”

Meindert Kennis, co-director of the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) – the biggest annual gathering of the electronic music industry – reckons that the prevalence of electronic music on daytime radio in the Netherlands and the UK over the past 30-odd years, and in the USA over the past 15 years after the David Guetta-spearheaded explosion, has led to electronic’s widespread acceptance.

“Also, as a result of the pandemic, people started realising that night culture is more than dancing at night — it’s a way for young people to experiment and explore who they are and find their identity,” he adds. “It’s something you do preferably under cover of the night and is a real important part of the development of young people.”

Kennis additionally makes the point that when the pandemic took away young people’s opportunities to go out and gather together at music events, mental health problems began to accumulate. “Especially in the cultural and government worlds, they started realising that once you took it [away], problems started to appear with young people, and they realised that this is playing a really important part [in] young people’s development,” he says.

“Electronic music, unlike some other genres, has the ability to transcend language and cultural differences”

ADE began in 1996 as a way of bringing the Dutch electronic music scene together and has grown exponentially into the largest gathering of the electronic music industry in the calendar year.

“ADE has become a tentpole moment – the whole industry has a big red circle around October, when it’s going to be here in Amsterdam,” Kennis says. “So at least for those days, Amsterdam is the centre of the electronic music world.” The existence of conferences such as ADE, IMS in Ibiza, WMC in Miami, plus BMC and AVA in the UK, and others, helps strengthen the industry and also aids the local scene where those events are based. “If you have such a moment, that’s very beneficial for a local artist,” Kennis says. “And for night culture as a whole in general.”

International
Electronic music has found it easier to find global appeal than most other musical styles. “Electronic music, unlike some other genres, has the ability to transcend language and cultural differences,” says Monty McGaw, noting that it is less dependent on lyrical content. “I think this has helped to facilitate its global appeal and contributed to its profitability,” he says.

And it comes in many guises. One glance at leading digital download platform Beatport’s sub-genre categories – from tech-house to amapiano, drum & bass, dubstep, trance, techno, and more – gives an indication as to the variety on offer.
“Electronic music is prone to different genre popularity waves,” concurs McGaw. “One year this genre is popular, another year another genre is popular, but what remains is the experience — which is also a link to the live sector.

“It’s more skewed towards the experience of being at a festival or being at a live electronic music event, which is different to a more traditional rock or pop concert,” McGraw continues. “That experience has a really profound influence on how people spend their free time. So, it doesn’t really matter which genre is popular at any one time — that whole feeling of being yourself just stays.”

“The mainstage artists are the ones who sell the tickets, and we’re now building strong headliners who are creating legacies”

Drawing parallels with artists and musicians who make the majority of their revenues through live performance, experts acknowledge that since the bottom fell out of record sales in the early noughties, producers have had to become DJs, helped in their efforts by the growth in the number of electronic music events, as well as the festival business mushrooming internationally.

“Festivals really added to our business – a lot of artists’ careers are based on festivals that take place throughout the summer,” observes CAA’s May. “There’s still room for the DJ in a dark tent with nothing but lasers as well: that still creates a moment at a festival. If you’re a young kid stumbling into that and discovering it for the first time, it could be as magical as the mainstage. But the mainstage artists are the ones who sell the tickets, and we’re now building strong headliners who are creating legacies.”

Many electronic artists now incorporate audio-visual elements into their shows. “Everyone – such as Peggy Gou and Solomun at Sónar this year – is bringing a big production show. They want to express themselves musically but also visually, so that’s very natural, and the facilities are better than ever,” says Enric Palau, co-founder of Sónar, the specialist electronic music festival that’s set a gold standard for discerning bookings since its inception in Barcelona 30 years ago.”

Indeed, Palau observes that the electronic scene can offer a more sustainable approach to touring. “Festivals such as ours provide the equipment for [artists] to come with their shows with very little equipment; sometimes they only need to bring the content, because we provide the set-up for the live show,” he says. “So, with Bicep and Aphex Twin, for instance, they really want to bring the live visual aesthetic of their show. It’s important for the artists.”

Sónar is obsessed with sound quality, Palau adds, and makes the point that many pop acts, such as Beyoncé and The Weeknd, are now 90% electronic.

“If we like the music and think it’s bringing a new thing to the scene, we’ll book them no matter if they’re underground or commercial”

Sónar booked the Beastie Boys and a newly rebooted Kraftwerk in its early days and has often been the place where a lot of international artists, like Goldfrapp and M.I.A., played their first shows out of the UK. But otherwise, they haven’t been tempted to go down the commercial route and book more mainstream dance stars such as Tiesto, Swedish House Mafia or David Guetta. “Probably the closest we got to that EDM phenomena was bringing Steve Aoki at the very beginning,” says Palau.

“If we like the music and think it’s bringing a new thing to the scene, we’ll book them no matter if they’re underground or commercial,” says Palau’s colleague Ventura Barba, Sónar’s executive director. “We’re happy that we’ve discovered a whole raft of artists that then became really big players – whether it’s Daft Punk or other artists where we did their first international shows at Sónar, and they went on to become superstars. This has happened quite a few times.”

Global Appeal
With multiple editions all around the world, Sónar encapsulates the boom in demand for electronic events.
In addition to traditional hubs such as Ibiza and Las Vegas, Berlin has a huge electronic scene, especially for techno. Amsterdam is also a recognised capital, while in the Czech Republic there’s an annual drum & bass festival called Let It Roll, which attracts international attention.

Spain, meanwhile, is big on breakbeat, Australia and New Zealand have big tests around New Year, and back in the northern hemisphere, Croatia has myriad dance festivals in the summer, while EXIT in neighbouring Serbia has been part of the genre’s makeup since the year 2000.

More recently, Israel has grown in stature, Egypt has hosted many events, including a recent show by Carl Cox at the Pyramids, while some of the huge investments pouring into Saudi Arabian nightlife have been targeted at the electronic community.

“The importance of inclusion and diversity is being listened to more, from Ibiza to festivals globally”

And as one of the fastest growing genres for events, China and India have become emerging electronic markets, Japan is already a big player, and other hotspots like Singapore and Thailand are on the rise, too.

Basically, electronic music is everywhere; it’s gone global.

Steven Braines of touring polysexual club brand HE.SHE.THEY. reveals, “We’re now in 40 cities, which is 20 more than we were pre-pandemic, with more territories planned especially for next year. The importance of inclusion and diversity is being listened to more, from Ibiza to festivals globally.”

Braines believes that experiential events such as Elrow, Defected’s glamorous Glitterbox brand and HE.SHE.THEY. – which have a lot of performers as well as quality DJs – are particularly doing well, as are events for “Instagram moments, like Tale Of Us’s Afterlife or Eric Prydz’s HOLO show with 3D visuals.

High-end Production Values
Event production in the dance areas at festivals, such as Boomtown and Glastonbury in the UK, not to mention behemoths such as Tomorrowland in Belgium and the travelling Elrow Town, has become next level, designed for an immersive, awe-inspiring experience. Even though many music fans choose to face the DJ – and sometimes, annoyingly, film them on their phones – the emphasis is on participating in the event, rather than passively watching on. This communal way of consuming electronic music could provide the answer to the question as to why electronic music acts – specifically DJ-led ones – don’t transfer very well to TV.

“Consumer confidence and buying trends have been a challenge. A lot of people have shifted their spending priorities due to financial constraints”

This alternative way of consuming music explains why the pandemic – when the events industry ground to a halt – was somewhat catastrophic for the electronic music industry. No manner of livestreams from unusual locations could make up for the fact that music lovers weren’t able to gather together in real life.

“You cannot beat that wonderful experience of being surrounded by your peers – from every generation, across the board,” says May. “At more events I go to, there’s older people mixed with younger people, and it can be the nicest vibe. It can be three generations appreciating electronic music together.”

Untitled Group’s McGaw thinks the Internet and streaming services have had a huge influence on electronic music. “The ability to connect with people over the Internet so easily has facilitated the growth of subcultures and has exposed electronic music to a wider audience,” he states.

Everyone interviewed for this article agreed that there have been challenges coming back from the pandemic, such as people leaving the industry; a shortage of infrastructure (festival staging, portaloos, fencing etc); increased costs all round; and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

“Consumer confidence and buying trends have been a challenge,” says McGaw. “A lot of people have shifted their spending priorities due to financial constraints. We’ve been navigating these changing consumer sentiments by adapting our strategies to regain and maintain the confidence and interest of our audience.”

“As long as we’re still being creative and don’t forget that at the heart of everything is the rave, then we’ll continue to do really good business”

But there’s no doubt, in general, that the electronic sector has bounced back, in many cases stronger than ever.

“We came back really healthy,” says Sónar’s Barba. “It was a little difficult to start the engine again because a lot of professionals from the industry were doing other things. But we came back very strong, reconnecting with our loyal fans but also with other audiences who we had the luxury to connect with through online channels during the pandemic. The 2022 edition was one of the best – the second-best year in terms of figures.”

The IMS Report states that the live sector in 2022 grew by $16.7bn – a huge amount. “Growth was skewed by the fact that 2020 saw a significant dwindling of live events during lockdown, rallying slightly in 2021,” the report also states.

To crunch some more numbers from the IMS Report: only 15% of all electronic festival bookings were for female DJs, a figure that is growing but is still a way off the parity that equality and fairness demands.

Overall, dance music live revenues were up 65% on 2021, reaching $4.1bn, and nearly half of total revenues came from festivals and clubs.

The future is looking bright for the electronic music live sector, then, although CAA’s May warns against complacency. “Things go in circles,” she says. “At the moment, we’ve got electronic music flying high, but are we in the lead-up to the next big indie band coming through because dance music is so everywhere?

“People’s tastes change. The future is definitely bright, because I’m not seeing a lack of young people who want to experience electronic music. As long as we’re still being creative and don’t forget that at the heart of everything is the rave, then we’ll continue to do really good business. Because young people just want to go out and dance.”

 


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Agent vs Promoter: the presidential debate

IMS Ibiza resurrected its “presidential debate” at this year’s conference to pit Wasserman Music agent Tom Schroeder against leading promoter Richard McGinnis.

Schroeder represents artists such as Fred Again.., Disclosure, FKA Twigs, The xx, Raye, Kaytranada, Nia Archives, Overmono and PinkPantheress, while McGinnis served as head of talent at MAMA Festivals for nearly a decade and is a founding partner of Warehouse Project and Parklife Festival.

Their conversation, held at Ibiza’s Destino Pacha Resort in May, explored the ever-changing dynamic between agents and promoters. Moderated by the Association for Electronic Music’s interim CEO, Finlay Johnson, it can be revisited in full below.

“The way I see the industry is it’s much more collaborative… We have to look after each other a little bit more”

Here is a selection of some of the panel’s key talking points:

The agent/promoter dynamic…

Tom Schroeder: “I think it’s changed. The way I see the industry is it’s much more collaborative, it’s much less secure. We have to look after each other a little bit more. We need everyone to win. Yes, I am here to represent my clients. But that means to make a success of a festival, it doesn’t mean just to take the most I can get out of it. Live music, particularly electronic music, was built [to be] quite combative, but I think everything’s changed and we’re here to make this ecosystem good again.”

Richard McGinnis: “I think the days of drum and bass agents ringing you up and threatening to burn your house down because you’ve not paid the deposit on time have passed! Certainly, pre-Covid, the merging of a lot of the agencies, and the professionalism that the American [companies] brought to the table, alienated a lot of that kind of culture. That kind of street level agency behaviour has slowed down, it’s not as prevalent as it used to be. It certainly used to be a problem.”

“I think it’s good as a promoter to go to an agent who’s given you a headliner and offer them up X, Y, and Z slots”

Leveraging support acts…

TS: Different strokes for different folks. At my company… we don’t really do that. Or I like to think we don’t do that. I don’t want to leverage acts on to Parklife that aren’t suitable for Parklife and are going to play to no one – no one wins.”

RM: “I think it’s good as a promoter to go to an agent who’s given you a headliner and offer them up X, Y, and Z slots. That’s basic etiquette in terms of, if someone’s giving you a big act, you should look after them. But equally, from a promoter’s perspective, that can work both ways. [There are] acts that we’ve booked for a couple of grand as a favour for a big agent, and they’ve played an early slot and hated it. And then 18 months later, they’re the biggest act on the planet and you want to offer them [a slot] and they’re just like, ‘We’re not going back.’ That favour that we did ended up biting us in the bum, because they didn’t have a great time. In the old days, independent UK-based agencies might have tried to shoehorn every single act of theirs onto a lineup. That doesn’t happen [anymore], because the agents rep the acts on a pan-European or a global level, they’re not just reliant on this small bit of England. So it’s definitely changed.”

“When you have 100 acts on a bill, billed A-Z, you’re not getting value for money as a promoter”

A-Z artist billing at festivals…

TS: “When you have 100 acts on a bill, billed A-Z, you’re not getting value for money as a promoter if it takes me a long time to see a headline act. And actually, promoters need to stand up to these idiots and say, ‘This is what’s going to sell my tickets for my festival, this is how my artwork has to work. If you don’t want to buy into that then come off the bill.’ I would support people 1,000,000% doing that. From my end, I can lay out my stall from the start and say, ‘I would only consider it in this position. If you don’t want to book it, you don’t want to book it.’ But this A-Z thing is hurting everyone, and it’s a cop out.”

RM: “It’s a cop out, I completely agree. The human brain looks at the poster and reads the first line from left to right. Those acts there are going to sell the tickets. That is the basics. Once you lose a big act to an A-Z… you might as well not have them on the bill. No one’s read that far.”

“What promoters expect of acts in terms of promoting a festival is not working”

Marketing collaborations…

TS: “I think what promoters expect of acts in terms of promoting a festival is not working. Where it works is when an artist explains to their fanbase why they’re playing a festival and what to expect, so that there’s some ownership. These artists don’t have a lot of ownership of the festivals and I’m telling really important people, like Rich, to watch this for the next few years because it’s a problem. My artists want to play festivals, but they’re not as desperate to play them as they might have been a few years ago. The rite of passage thing has slightly come away as we’ve come through Covid and they don’t want to spend their entire time plastering one poster – of which they’re A to Z with 100 acts – on their socials. And you know what? Their fans don’t want to keep seeing that poster appear. So we’ve all got to work out a much cleverer way of my artists helping to sell your tickets.”

RM: “There are so many shows that we’ve worked on together where the artists who’ve created the show, from Annie to Disclosure… And the symbol of authenticity that comes from that is undeniable. Where I see the difference is, it’s all right if you’re Fred Again and he’s on this path that he’s on, but what about the kids in the mid tier? Those kids that are grafting doing three shows a week for £2,000 need to start pushing these shows. Their shows need to be busy. They haven’t got all these opportunities like the big acts have, so there’s another side of it.”

As part of IQ‘s enhanced coverage of the electronic music business, check out DJ Mag editor’s Carl Loben healthcheck here, or in our latest issue.

 


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Live sector fuels dance music industry growth

The resurgence of the live sector has helped power the global dance music to new heights, according to a new report.

Presented during today’s opening day of the International Music Summit (IMS) in Ibiza, the IMS Business Report 2023 is authored by MIDiA Research’s Mark Mulligan and puts the valuation of the electronic business at $11.3 billion (€10.2bn) – 16% higher than pre-pandemic and 34% growth year-on-year.

Festivals and clubs represented nearly half of all dance industry revenue in 2022, while Ibiza club ticketing revenue reached €124 million, up from the €80m generated in 2019, as ticket sales rose 25% to 2.5 million. However, live revenues of $4.1bn still fell short of the $4.4bn garnered in the last pre-Covid year.

“The pandemic shone a harsh light on the industry’s heavy reliance on live,” notes the report. “Now, that reliance is even higher because of live’s huge growth.”

The publication describes 2022 as “a big year overall” for the live industry, as the top 100 global tours reported a 276% increase in revenue, while Live Nation revenues soared 166%. Elsewhere, bookings for the top 100 DJs increased by 314%, according to Viberate.

“After a couple of pandemic-impacted years, the global dance music industry is back in top gear”

Electronic music artists made up 39% of all festival bookings, up from 33% the previous year, although female DJs saw their share of the top 100 DJ bookings fall from 21% to 15% in the same period.

“MIDiA Research is proud to have compiled the 2023 edition of the IMS Business Report, building on the great work of its previous authors,” says Mulligan. “After a couple of pandemic-impacted years, the global dance music industry is back in top gear and this report reflects how growth has returned across all the various aspects of its thriving business.”

The dance sector’s increase in value has also been attributed to a resurgent creator tools sector, plus music publishing, which grew more than two times faster than recordings in the previous year “underpinned by steady improvements in rates paid to publishers and songwriters”.

“Overall the indicators are positive and the future is bright, with more recovery in live still to come as well as future growth in the publishing sectors,” it states. “In addition, the long term growth of creator culture is set to make dance music even more influential on wider music culture in the immediate future.”

“We’ve always been very transparent about the business report – every year it needs to get better and better, more robust and more bulletproof”

Discussing the report with IQ ahead of publication, IMS co-founder Ben Turner predicted it would highlight a “strong bounceback” for the scene, adding that what began as a “bit of fun” had “turned into something very serious”.

“The value has become quite a talking point in the industry and the business world, with so many eyes on electronic music and so many big companies invested into it,” he said. “We’ve always admired the work that MIDiA do around music and data, and Mark’s come at it with a fresh approach.

“There are two elements to the report. One, last year’s report was a return but was based on 2021 numbers, so I expect a big uplift in terms of the actual valuation. But MIDiA have also integrated some new metrics in there based around creative economy and even music publishing, which was [previously] very lightly looked at in our business report.

“We’ve always been very transparent about the business report – every year it needs to get better and better, more robust and more bulletproof.”

Around 1,500 delegates are expected at this year’s IMS, which runs until Friday (28 April).

 


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IMS’ Ben Turner on the future of electronic music

International Music Summit (IMS) co-founder Ben Turner has urged the business to look at the development of artificial intelligence in music as an opportunity rather than a threat.

The debate has dominated the conversation since a song that simulated the voices of Drake and The Weeknd was removed from streaming services due to a copyright claim.

The complexities of AI will be a leading topic at the 14th edition of electronic music conference IMS Ibiza, which returns to the White Isle’s Destino Pacha Resort from 26-28 April. And Turner believes the rest of the industry could learn a thing or two from the genre’s willingness to embrace technological innovations.

“The reason electronic music seduced me was its independent spirit and culture. That spirit of independence has been a big part of what we do,” Turner tells IQ. “Electronic music has always been about embracing new technology by its very definition, and it’s had first mover advantage quite often as technological shifts have happened because of that independence: Web 3.0, metaverse, NFTs and now AI.

“Electronic music has never shied away from embracing technology when a lot of the music industry just pulls the shutters down”

“Electronic music has never shied away from embracing that technology when a lot of the music industry just pulls the shutters down, like we’re seeing now with the Drake and Weeknd thing. It’s just remove-remove, takedown-takedown, block. And I get it, I understand that millions are invested in these artists, but AI is going to eat us all alive unless we learn to play with it and we learn to control it, and collaborate, experiment and educate.”

He adds: “There are many people within electronic music playing with AI and enjoying it. So I think the rest of the music industry should learn a lot from what the electronic space is doing. Equally, I’m also nervous about what this means on many levels.”

IMS’ Understanding The Unstoppable: AI and Music Unravelled… panel will seek to demystify the issue by bringing music executives together with “some of the best brains from the AI world” – including lawyers.

“There’s a big saying around the music industry now about AI, which is that the lawyers are going to make all the money for the next few years and have fun trying to stop it,” explains Turner.

“People are not booking these artists trying to tick a box, they’re booking them because they sell tickets and are bonafide headliners”

Speakers at IMS will include Grimes, Warner Music Group’s Max Lousada, Tap Music co-founder Ben Mawson, YouTube Music’s Dan Chalmers, CAA’s Maria May, UTA’s Hannah Shogbola and Tom Schroeder of Wasserman Music, with around 1,500 delegates expected.

The summit, which will also see the unveiling of the annual IMS Business Report, will conclude on 28 April with seven-hour open air party IMS Dalt Vila, which marks the opening of Ibiza’s summer season. Acts will include CamelPhat, Anna, BBC Radio 1’s Jaguar and IMS co-founder Pete Tong. On a related note, Turner suggests that mainstream music festivals’ attitudes towards booking dance acts have evolved over time.

“I feel like there was a long period of time where festivals felt, ‘Okay, we need a DJ on the stage. Who shall we book? We need to show some recognition of DJ culture at big festivals,'” he reflects. “But now, I don’t think people book Calvin Harris because he’s a DJ, they book Calvin Harris because he’s one of the biggest and best artists in the world, and I think that’s the shift.

“People are not booking these artists trying to tick a box, they’re booking them because they sell tickets and are bonafide headliners. It just happens that they’re a DJ, but they’ll put on as big a show and as great a show as any other act headlining the festival. It’s become so immersed into mainstream culture now that it’s a less marginalised genre, it doesn’t really work to keep it in a corner anymore. It’s just what young people expect to see as part of the blend of going to a crossover festival.”

“Africa and the Middle East are the final two parts of the world that are only really beginning to truly embrace this music in a huge way”

In closing, Turner identifies the Middle East as a key emerging market for the dance music scene.

“The Middle East region is fascinating, inspiring, and exploding at a high speed in terms of events and festivals and now production,” he says. “There’s just so much excitement and energy coming out of that whole region. What you’ve seen with the festivals in Saudi Arabia is this huge growth of young people embracing this music and hearing DJs for the first time in their lives.

“We used to say the final frontier was Latin America, and then the final frontier was Asia, but actually, Africa and the Middle East are the final two parts of the world that are only really beginning to truly embrace this music in a huge way.”

 


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