, - on 6/5/11
The International Music Summit returns to Ibiza for the fourth year, building on the success of 2010's summit which confirmed the IMS role as the leading event for professionals in electronic music. Kristen Marconi speaks to one of the pioneers, along with Ben Turner, who passionately describes what the initial concept of a 'Back to Business' conference has grown in to, and explains how the IMS is now a seven day intensive conference successfully connecting and educating people. Subsequently changing and pushing forward the industry.
Pulse: Tell us about how the International Music Summit came about, What was your initial concept? Ben: IMS had been regularly discussed by my partners Danny Whittle, Mark Netto, Simeon Friend and Pete Tong, I was invited by these guys to consider an involvement in the project. These four characters are people I have worked with regularly over the years, I know how they work and I really admired their vision and foresight wanting to create an Electronic Music Conference in Ibiza.
Hardly a difficult to sell to me, considering my long history with the island. I think what I added to their vision initially was the concept of where we could be uniquely positioned in the electronic music conference landscape – inspired by an amazing experience I had just had at Sat Bisla’s Muse Expo conference in Los Angeles. It came down to one word, intimacy. It’s the intimacy that makes high-level operators feel comfortable taking time out of a heavy schedule to network and meet with their peers. That’s what has worked. We keep it to a limited group of delegates, which means it’s quality not quantity. However, we didn’t want to appear elitist. I don’t think that’s what we are. We just feel that the industry needed to refocus, return to a ‘back to business’ spirit, and I like to think we inspire thought, debate and ultimately change, however big or small.
After running four summits, how have you seen the International Music Summit progress? IMS has evolved quite beautifully to date. It also in many ways has been a financial heartache for us five partners. We have all invested a huge amount of our own time and money to create a platform for electronic music to be showcased to professionals from our world, and from outside of our world.
We have worked hard on attracting the American speakers and delegation, as clearly people in Europe have little face time with such people, and this has been a big part of our special appeal.
I think the quality of speakers has continues to increase each year, and I think the general feeling is that we have very quickly become the conference where ‘conversation’ is king. We take great care in curating our content and very happily open up our contacts list for all to benefit from. It benefits us and it benefits the industry professionals who pay to attend. I think all of us in this business are slaves to email and keeping up to speed with where technology is taking us. We hope for a few days that people can take some time out from work to listen and share the knowledge, we are all individually taking on board every single working day. Probably the most fitting example of our quick development has been that our tagline since year one was a self-proclaimed conference with a ‘Back To Business’ motto. Now we’re the acclaimed “TED conference for electronic music”. I couldn’t ask for anything better. Now we have to live up to that title.
This is the first year you've done an opening party at Pacha and a pool party? Yes, we felt we need a statement to open as well as our huge Dalt Vila concert to end. So where did we look to? There could be only one place: Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones and Damian Lazarus. Three renegade artists who are setting a new ‘gang’ culture in electronic music which reminds me of the days when club gangs ruled dance music.
I don’t mean this in a contrived way, just like-minded souls into like-minded music, with an attitude, with an ethos, with a vibe, and with a vision. We are very proud to open the conference with this line-up in the intimate setting of Little Pacha – the retracted scaled-down version of the Pacha club that we know and love in the summer. These three will be involved in an electronic music panel on the Wednesday evening and then the party begins. Its a great way to start and sets our stall out for the IMS conversation to then continue.
Is there more of a focus on it being a party and a business summit this year? Absolutely not. The content is king. I would have everybody tucked up in bed by midnight and in the conference room at 9am if I had my way. But this is Ibiza. People will go out late and absorb the DJ culture whatever we do, so we just want to embrace it a little more. Nine hours per day of talking will result in people wanting to let off a little steam. We are ramping up the nightlife offering quite simply because it will happen anyway and we always said we needed to be in control of what happens around IMS rather than be victims of our own success which has happened to our old friends at Winter Music Conference in Miami.
How do you chose the topics for the summit? Its very much a reflection of our past year as partners working in this space, taking inspiration for our own experiences, good and bad, but also listening to our professionals and delegates about what they want. I spend all year making notes of issues and topics, listening to and reading how others articulate their views of the genre as the year goes by. I also think we add a lot of common life principles into the mix and just present things in more interesting ways.
I am so over the six people on a panel model as I think its kind of pointless to have people fly all this way and then talk for six minutes. So its time to change it up a bit. There will always be big panels, but hoping to have a lot less. This year having the legendary Daniel Miller talk, and be interviewed by Richie Hawtin, is a pretty amazing head to head. We had a pre-meet in Berlin last week and its going to be a lot of fun. Then Luciano was also a great coup for the Ibiza story, and the agent David Levy’s keynote interview seems to be a real ticket seller. Maybe he should headline his own festival.
What have been some personal highlights for you? I think seeing some of the connections that have come out of the IMS is a major thing for us. Ironically, we put this event on and the people who get to network the least are of course the IMS partners who all have days jobs to contend with. We put our contacts out there, and people come and benefit and we’re cool with it. I am just glad the odd good thing comes out of it for us as well.
Personally, creating the IMS has done one incredible thing for me and my business. It introduced me to an electronic record made by my favourite film director David Lynch, as I write this I am on my way to LA to his studio to discuss tracks for the album which we signed Sunday Best, the label owned by myself and Rob da Bank. So for us amazing connections come out of it too. It was a fluke how it happened, but so much of my energy these days is with film and music, so really pleased. More importantly, I live by the motto that “connections count”. And to see people going off in packs and doing deals by the pool makes me smile. I thrive off making things happen for me, or for other people.
How important do you think it’s to have less dance music focused speakers like National Geographic at the conference? Well this is where our experience as industry people makes the difference to other conferences. I went out of my way to approach National Geographic to see what their plans were in music over a year ago and they have a label, they are signing interesting eclectic music, and I love the power of their brand, from print to television. I went to meet them in New York and some synergy is developing on a particular music project. It seems right to share this opportunity with other people. The same happened with our interest in W Hotels appointing a Global Music Director, and now the W are sponsors of the IMS. I just am intrigued by interesting people or brands doing interesting things in our space.
Do you see the summit as a key player in deciding the direction and future of electronic music entertainment around the world? I would like to to think this is where we are heading but not egotistically. We hosted a great side meeting about the development of a new DJ index chart to monitor performances of DJs and it really showed that some of the biggest players in our business cared, and wanted to sit down and discuss the potential idea. This little working group has encouraged the IMS to introduce a new concept to the industry, so clearly there is a potent mix of people at the IMS who want to inspire change.
What can be gained by coming out during the summit if you’re not a delegate? It’s an amazing time of year in Ibiza. The weather is amazing but not too hot, there is hunger and energy for a forthcoming summer, huge positivity around the island as places open, and then of course traditionally you had Space opening and DC10. Now, thanks to IMS, you have Dalt Vila Grand Finale, an amazing concert, plus little pop-up events throughout the week. You could do a seven night holiday around the IMS and spend each night hanging out with the chief architects of the genre and its passionate artists. It’s a great time to experience Ibiza and an exciting time to experience the electronic music in its infancy. Come and get involved.
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