10 THINGS WE LEARNED AT IMS ASIA-PACIFIC

On December 11th in 2015, International Music Summit returned for the second year of IMS Asia-Pacific in Singapore. One year ago, IMS made the pioneering decision to come to the Asia-Pacific region in effort to expand a market burgeoning with incredible potential and connect the distant East and Western cultures.

IMS Asia-Pacific’s theme this year was “Bridging the Gap,” a representation of the continuing effort the worldwide industry has made to congregate and communicate with the Asia-Pacific region’s local leaders. Over 20 different countries were represented at IMS Asia-Pacific, and speakers from all corners of the world came together to discuss pertinent topics for the region.

Panels tackled topics as controversial as Sydney’s dying electronic music culture to opinion on outdated copyright law and speakers like Armin Van Buuren, Kaskade and Sharam from Deep Dish made the one-day summit a memorable affair.

1. Drugs are still a prevalent and problematic issue – not only in Asia, but all over the world.

Mark Lawrence of the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) started off IMS Asia-Pacific with a somber, but compelling keynote. Titled #SAFEINSOUND, his address called the industry to action to actively work towards eliminating the issue of drug-related deaths through education and harm reduction.

“No parent should outlive their child. We, as a community, have a duty to step up and make a difference wherever we can.” – Mark Lawrence (CEO, AFEM

, UK)

The topic remained consistent throughout the day. Armin Van Buuren was passionate about his opinion of where drugs do (or don’t) belong in the scene and urged people to simply stop taking them and enjoy the music.

“It’s really important for people to learn about their own responsibilities. If you want dance music to grow, stop taking the illegal shit and move on.” – Armin Van Buuren

 (Artist, UK)

Fellow artist Kaskade shared the same sentiment as Armin, explaining that the strange dichotomy he lives in as a completely sober family man playing to crowds of partygoers often hyped up on illegal substances.

“Early in my career, I had people argue with me that I’d never be able to make music that people understand not sober. But I enjoy this music sober, and I think it’s possible for many other people to do the same.” – Kaskade (Artist, UK)

2. Sydney’s government has essentially decimated the city’s nightlife culture, and the rest of the world can use what happened there as a cautionary tale.

It was difficult, but necessary to hear Murat Kilic’s keynote speech about Saving Sydney at IMS Asia-Pacific. As an artist and CEO of Reckless Republic and Spice in Australia, his own personal story served as a cautionary tale of the possible effects and consequences a government chokehold can have not only on one successful venue, but also the city’s entire electronic music culture.



“We don’t really like change, but often change is necessary. Sometimes it comes from within us, and sometimes it comes from an external force. Sydney’s electronic music scene was changed by the government. Our community, our identity, our livelihood is all threatened. We have to save Sydney’s soul.” – Murat Kilic (Artist, CEO / Reckless Republic / Spice, Australia)

3. Electronic music’s image problem in the media must be addressed, and it starts from within the community.

Undoubtedly related to the the presence of drugs, another important discussion point was electronic music’s image issue in the media. In The Association for Electronic Music presents Protect the Dance Floor panel, local promoter and business leaders came to discuss what can and should be done in order to gain a wider and more accepting recognition in the mass media.

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We have to look and see what we’ve done to actually perpetuate the resistance from the authorities. If you involve people, bring them in and make it inclusive, people will understand. Music is for everyone.” – Akshai Sarin (Artist, Creative Entrepreneur / ttogether.in, India)

“We need to stop being an easy target. The beauty of what we do is that it’s real, it’s organic. When it grows like that, it’s undeniable. We have to go back that.” – Murat Kilic (Artist, CEO / Reckless Republic / Spice, Australia)

4. What happened to SFX is a direct result of the changing landscape of electronic music.

Richie McNeill of SFX Asia and Australia sat in conversation with Sharam of Deep Dish for an unfiltered question and answer panel that left no topic unturned. Unavoidably, questions about SFX’s difficult year were directed at Richie, who went on to explain that the company’s struggles are largely accredited to the way electronic music as a whole has shifted. Media, he continued to explain, has also dramatized the story, but he confidently concluded that SFX will not be going anywhere for the next few years.

“There’s been a shift in numbers. The big moment for dance music, according to the numbers, was probably two or three years ago. The growth has flat-lined in some territories. It’s interesting times.” – Richie McNeill (Director of Special Operations Asia, SFX Live, Australia)

5. Copyright laws are outdated and need a serious reevaluation with the modern music consumer in mind.

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Armin Van Buuren is known for many things, but what some might not know about the talented producer is that he graduated with a law degree, making him a very knowledgeable source to discuss the controversial topic of copyright law. At IMS Asia-Pacific, Armin passionately jumped on the subject, explaining that in his and many other eyes in the industry, copyright laws are essentially meaningless.

“Something went wrong in the copyright discussion. If I whistle a song, we decided that under law – under the Berne Convention – that I now own the song, and if someone decides to recreate it, I could sue them. There isn’t a law that has been broken more than the copyright law.” – Armin Van Buuren (Artist
, Netherlands)

“It’s important for young people to understand what copyright really means. People don’t want to own music, they want to have access to it.” – Armin Van Buuren (Artist
, Netherlands)

The sentiment was repeated later in a keynote discussion with Kaskade, who echoed similar thoughts about the backwards mentality behind copyright regulations.

“We’re in a messed up time right now where copyright is getting in the way of a lot of creativity and expression.” – Kaskade (Artist, USA)

6. Overall, Asia has incredible potential to succeed as the next big market – but the progress depends largely upon government support.

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There didn’t seem to be a question about the possibility of success in the Asia-Pacific region both at IMS China and IMS Asia-Pacific. Going off of population numbers alone, it seems the region is destined for success. However, according to many of the artists and business professionals, both local and international, the potential success of each country relies very heavily upon Asian governments and their choice to support or deny the electronic music culture.

“The Asian market is one of the last markets to grow. I hope the Chinese government will be loyal with helping us get the right permits. The Asian youths really want this to happen. They really want dance music to grow. The only thing we can hope is that promoters get permission from local governments.” – Armin Van Buuren (Artist
, Netherlands)

This point was especially stressed during a tell-all keynote from Simon Napier-Bell, author and former music manager who brought the first music act Wham! into Communist China. He told his experience, pioneering the ‘Wild West’ of China and coercing the right people into allowing the group to enter into China, and stressed the necessity to continue to persevere when working with foreign Asian markets.

“You can’t just arrive and do business in China. People have to know you. You have to meet them, buy dinner, let them buy you dinner back. Then next time you can suggest a few things.” – Simon Napier-Bell (Author, Thailand, UK)

7. What Asia’s electronic music scene needs is to focus and develop internally before looking to expand internationally.

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A common question is the noticeable lack of Asian talents on the global scale of electronic music. But when the East Meets West panel of local talents of the Asia-Pacific region were questioned, most turned not to the international community, but rather to the Asian communities themselves. 

Australian output Kaz James explained that because the music is accessible, it sometimes breeds an interest in becoming a part of the scene for the wrong reasons.

“To be a real artist, you need to believe in what you do. People will see that, and respect what you do. EDM has become a consumer good. It’s become a processed food, kind of like a Big Mac. A lot of people made sacrifices and put effort into what we have now. But a lot of people don’t appreciate what those people did.” – Kaz James (Artist, UK / Australia)

Tennis chimed in with agreement, explaining that it is important for the music scene in Asia to now look internally to building a real, organic community and providing their artists with the support and growth opportunities in order to make an impact on a global scale.

“Creating a scene is about creating a community. It has to bond organically. It’s time for Asia to start creating label scenes and bring people to work together.” – DJ Tennis (Artist, Life and Death / Daze Agency / Elita Festival, Italy)

8. International promoters seeking a way into the Asian market need to find people they trust.

The Association for Electronic Music presents Develping the Eco-System panel brought together agents and promoters of the electronic music business from East and West to discuss ways to find success in the market. After a brief discussion about the immense potential of the many countries that make up Asia-Pacific, the panel stressed the importance of finding trustworthy people on-the-grounds in Asia to work with.

“I don’t see the market in Singapore, first hand. I have to work with someone in the market that I can trust and rely on that will put my artist in the best position possible.” – Ryan Saltzman (Agent / Co-Owner, The Bullitt Agency, USA / Barcelona)

9. Asia should move away from the DJ Mag 100 and look to local talents to help develop the scene.

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Because much of Asia still remains heavily focused on nightlife and club culture, the Developing the Eco-System panel emphasized a need for promoters to support local and up-and-coming talents or different genres to help develop Asia’s ear for sound.



“The crowd is so focused on the Top 100. If you’re not in the Top 100, they don’t want you. So it’s about education. It’s about getting to know the different directions.” – Erik Leenders (CFO, David Lewis Productions, Hong Kong)

“Flume, What So Not and Will Sparks all came from a local scene. It became a thing. They got loyal followings, and now they can tour the world. You really do have to develop your own sound in order to breakthrough somewhere else.” – Matt Nugent (Onelove Records, General Manager, Australia)

10. For Asia-Pacific, the future is bright.

Though many controversial topics were discussed at IMS Asia-Pacific, the one main takeaway was the powerful potential within the region waiting to be tapped by local and international professionals over the next few years. The Asia-Pacific region’s future is already promising, led by passionate local minds and guided by the extensive knowledge of international peers.



“I’ve always seen Asia as a place of opportunity, but now it feels like how it felt in 2008, 2009 in America. It was all leading up to something and we’re going to get to see what that is. That’s why we’re all here.” – Kaskade (Artist, USA)