Inaugural IMS Engage Features Instagram, Beaport, SFX, Russell Simmons, Pete Tong, Diplo, Skrillex and More at W Hollywood In Los Angeles
SFX Has More Money To Spend on EDM
Billboard Editorial Director, ‘Anything Possible’ for EDM Industry
Diplo Sparks Fight Over Authenticity
The debut IMS Engage, in partnership with Pioneer USA and W Hotels Worldwide, took place in Los Angeles at W Hollywood, featuring six unmoderated conversations designed to engage the electronic music world with the wider industries of technology, finance, hip-hop and arts. Over 250 delegates from Europe, Australia, North and South America attended the event.
While Swedish House Mafia manager Amy Thomson wondered whether America could harm dance music long-term, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons argued that success in hip-hop didn’t tarnish its honesty. Digital pioneer, Jaron Lanier countered the notion the internet has democratized music, while Skrillex stated that we’re experiencing a renaissance in how art is distributed. The discussions were wide ranging and far reaching, but agreed that dance music is entering new territory as an industry and that its progress can’t be stopped.
The opening remarks from Bill Werde, Billboard’s editorial director, set the tone for the day’s event. He outed himself ‘a raver’, and challenged the EDM industry to lose the chip on its shoulder and ‘think big’, and to recognize that currently, ‘dance music has created a moment where anything is possible.’
SFX’s Shelly Finkel chatted with Pete Tong, who pushed Finkel on SFX’s strategy in the dance community. Finkel indicated SFK isn’t done buying, saying ‘there’s plenty of money left,’ hinted at ID+T’s expansion in America this year with Sensation, Q-Dance and Tomorrow World events, and the importance of Beatport as a platform for SFX. He also revealed that SFX uses the term EMC (Electronic Music Culture), rather than EDM, saying that it’s the fans experience and interaction with the culture, as much as the music that is driving its popularity.
Jaron Lanier, the futurist philosopher and author, chatted with Beatport CEO Matthew Addell, the extended conversation that took place was truly fascinating. Lanier dispelled the notion the internet has democratized music, arguing the idea that anyone can make it on YouTube is really just a ‘hope story’ when you examine the tiny number of acts that do become stars using social media alone.
Diplo when talking to Instagram founder, Kevin Systrom, discussed the importance of staying on top of new media platforms, “when it comes to social media I don’t want to be the odd man out.” He described how artists have to balance ‘being credible and a promo machine’ on their platforms, and his comments about social media numbers being ‘smoke and mirrors’ often falsely inflated struck a chord with the audience, and prompted a heated debate between two attendees. He also noted that many ‘dance records come and go’ and artists need to find what makes them special to sustain a career.
Swedish House Mafia manager Amy Thompson turned a few heads when she asked Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter: “Do you think the way America has grabbed electronic music will actually kill it?” She went on to lament the ‘investment vultures’ currently circulating EDM. Carter responded that ‘money’s fine, but you can’t sacrifice the culture for it,’ and that ‘when you marry large commerce with new art, it’s really fragile’.
The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the arrival of Ultra Music founder Patrick Moxey and hip-hop icon and entrepreneur Russell Simmons. Moxey paralleled the expansion of hip-hop to that of EDM, Simmons pointed out that with the internet EDM has more resources than hip-hop ever had and that ‘now they can’t stop you.’ It was Simmons wider life lessons that proved the most profound, discussing the importance of doing work that you love, being honest in work, refusing to quit in the face of adversity, and chasing a higher goal than mere material gain.
Skrillex (Sonny Moore) and Summit Series Founder Jeff Rosenthal concluded the day’s panels. Moore discussed his ten years in the music industry before Skrillex, and that as recently as three years ago he was $30,000 in debt, but then spent all the money he’d made from Skrillex on production for his first tour. Rosenthal echoed this sentiment, saying Summit Series events lost money on their first events, but are now building their own city in Utah. Moore also discussed how his failure to get music distributed through his major label led to him creating Skrillex. With Skrillex he wants, “all the blogs to post my songs, even though it's technically illegal… We're experiencing a renaissance of how art is created and how it is distributed.”
IMS Engage kicked off with W Hotels Worldwide’s on-going music series Symmetry Live, which featured an acoustic performance by UK singer Foxes. Curated by W Hotels Global Music Director Michaelangelo L’Acqua, Symmetry Live offers W guests insider access to who’s new and next in music. Past performers have included Cee Lo Green, Fitz and the Tantrums, Janelle Monae, Ellie Goulding, Phantogram, Theophilus London, LP, Neon Trees and Quadron.