So here I am at the 6th edition of The International Music Summit in Ibiza, in the sumptuous surroundings of The Gran Hotel. The IMS as it’s known, is described in the manual that comes in our delegate pack as “Electronic music’s equivalent to TED – a hub for the world’s leading professionals in dance music”. This year’s theme is ‘Beyond the Boom Boom’ recognising that electronic dance music, or EDM as it’s known in the business is now big business. Maybe as a reflection of this, we’re told by Pete Tong in the introductory welcome that the summit has sold out for the first time this year.
It’s my second visit to the summit, and I know that after the experience of last year, that this conference can be somewhat of a marathon. It takes place over three days with back to back sessions, no breaks for lunch or coffee, and then there’s the multitude of night time parties happening at various venues around the island. In view of this grueling schedule, I’m being selective about the sessions that I attend so that I can schedule in breaks and not suffer from conference overload! So I’m only going to report on the sessions that I go to.
The session’s all take place in one room, which is dangerously located to one side of the courtyard and the swimming pool. And the rain and cold winds that have been with us for the last few days have finally gone, and the Ibizan sun is out in full force. It’s dangerous in the sense that once you leave the room, it can be hard to make the decision to go back in.
The first session is The IMS Business Report, given by market researcher Kevin Watson. He presents us with an impressive array of stats, showing the recent growth and activity in the industry. The US dance market grew 36% in 2011-12 and it is also still growing in the UK. Dance festivals have also grown considerably in the US. The largest EDM clubs in Las Vegas collectively make over 600 million dollars per annum. Globally, the EDM industry annually is estimated to be 4.5 billion dollars annually. So it’s definitely big business!
Next, Patrick Moxey, the Electronic Music President at Sony Music/Ultra Records gave us some insights from his perspective. Before the boom there were lots of barriers to establishing dance music in the music industry, but things have now changed. As an example, Daft Punk’s single ‘Get lucky’ is currently no. 1 in 65 countries.
Marc Geiger (William Morris Endeavor), gave a slightly different perspective. He sees it as being about change at the moment. And for him the big question is can this industry change and keep its market position? He talked about how in the last 10 years the power has changed to Twitter, YouTube, Spotify etc. Consumer habits have also changed, from owning physical products to downloading and streaming. He sees a consolidation of companies and brands taking place. Moreover, he things that the boom boom starts now if we grow up and pro up (i.e. become more professional), and he believes that 4.5 billion dollars is a conservative estimate of what can be made, and that the figure is more like 10 billion. However, there’s a need to build for the long term, invest, think globally and work with the experts. He sees one of the current problems as needing to find a better way of making the large volume of an artist’s output accessible. Content needs curation, and there’s a need to clean up the metadata. He also wants to see the DJ turn into a David Bowie kind of figure, to keep us interested. What’s more is that we need 100 of them – we need more stars. He concluded with the message that everything is changing around us and we’ve got to keep up.
Meanwhile in the courtyard, two artists, Fin DAC and Inkie, were creating paintings for tonight’s auction, providing a visual diversion from hearing people talking, and a chance to stand in the sunshine for a while and observe the canvases take shape.
As a resident of the island, something of great interest to me was the panel session ‘The Changing Face of Ibiza’. On the panel chaired by Grego O’Halloran (Resident Advisor) were representatives from several Ibiza clubs: Shane Murray (Ibiza Rocks), Guy Gerber (DJ with a new residency at Pacha), Mark Netto (IBZ Entertainment/Bomba), Yann Pisseman (Ushuaia), David Vincent (Sankeys) and Steve Hulme (Pacha). Whilst a lot of the session allowed the panelists to talk about what they were doing this season and what had changed, there were a few interesting insights given, and that is what I want to focus on.
Ushuaia with the establishment of its new ‘Tower’ which is about to open, talked about seeing their establishment as an ‘amusement park’ for adults, in which they will be able to eat, drink, party and sleep. Mark Netto of new club Bomba talked briefly about the administrative, logistical and political problems they had experienced in getting the club off the ground. However, he believes that Ibiza needs a new venue, and it will probably open towards the end of June. Dave Vincent from Sankey’s told how they wanted to focus more on the Ibiza club, bring new forward/thinking talents to the island, and promote all the parties themselves, which led to the closure of the original club in Manchester so that they could concentrate on this.
The story from Steve Hulme at Pacha about the recent changes at the club was also that the family wanted to take more control, and wanted to freshen things up and look forward to the next 10 years. Guy Gerber talked about the concept for his new residency at Pacha ‘The wisdom of the glove’, which I didn’t quite get, or maybe he just didn’t explain it very well. Shane from Ibiza Rocks told how for 8 years they have been kicking against everything else on the island, wanting to create the feel of festivals and live music. Whilst music is at the heart of what they do, they’ve been looking more at their audience and started We Are Rockstars (W.A.R.) to reflect that they are also into the club scene.
There were some messages coming through from the panel that the big clubs were not at war with each other, but given that the club scene is big business in Ibiza, there is clearly competition between them, which can only be healthy and raise the bar (and probably the prices). There was a view that the increase of VIP tables was as a result of clubbers who have grown up and acquired more money to spend on their entertainment.
Other recent changes are that most clubs now offer parties 7 days a week, and that clubs no longer can dictate that DJs have to remain exclusive to them. The artists have more power, there are more slots to fill, but there was also a feeling from some that the punters were ultimately in control, as they buy the tickets.
The final and most controversial presenter of the day was Bob Lefsetz, an American music industry analyst and critic. As hard as Pete Tong tried to structure the interview, what resulted was more of a random stream of consciousness highlighting Bob’s unique views about the music industry, EDM, use social media and the like. There’s no way I’m going to attempt to give the gist of the whole interview and what was discussed, so I’m going to provide some snippets of some of the things that I found interesting and/or amusing.
Probably the first comment that hit home referred to the previous panel session, saying “that guy from Pacha, I’d like to lock him in a room and find out the truth”, which was probably what we were all thinking at the time.
On Daft Punk’s ‘Get lucky’, “It is a good disco song, but it sounds like it was from 30 years ago. But it’s good ear candy.” Continuing to talk about the band he said that “The hardest thing to do is recreate success, and the longer you leave it the harder it is.”
On curation: “The problem with curation is that it doesn’t scale, and it doesn’t generate money.”
On social media: “Facebook is passé.” “All these companies (like Twitter, FaceBook etc.) are only concerned about making money – they don’t care about you.” “Deadmou5’s social media is better than his music.”
Some of the things he said were contentious, some thought-provoking, and some things we already knew deep down inside, but it was an interesting session to end the day.
IMS continues until Friday May 24. For more info see the website: www.internationalmusicsummit.com
Follow the summit on Twitter: #IMSIbiza
(Ed: photos to follow :) )