The W Hollywood became the hotspot for the electronic music industry this past Wednesday, April 17, for the inaugural IMS Engage. A satellite conference of the three-day International Music Summit held yearly in Ibiza, IMS Engage was a forum for icons of the electronic music space to speak with industry leaders in entrepreneurship, technology, and other areas of music.
Unlike its Winter Music Conference and EDMbiz counterparts, which are mostly set up in a panel-moderator fashion, IMS created a more intimate setting, with talks that only incorporated two people in conversation at a time. After an introduction by IMS partners Ben Turner and Pete Tong and Billboard editorial director Bill Werde, SFX Head of Acquisitions Shelly Finkel spoke to Tong (pictured below) about the company’s recent purchases in the EDM space and their hands-off, non-corporate approach that they desire to have with the companies they work with.
Finkel also demonstrated the company’s keen understanding of electronic fans’ devotion to the scene by presenting his company’s alternate term for EDM. “We don’t use EDM as the moniker in our company anymore,” Finkel stated. “We use EMC–electronic music culture. We feel that this is more of a lifestyle than just music. We’re trying to create experiences that people will want to attend not just because of who is playing, though we will still bring out the top DJs.” Finkel also revealed plans for five Sensation festivals in the US, one in Canada, and one in Mexico.
One of the highlights of the day for electronic music fans in the audience was the Diplo’s chat with Instagram founder Kevin Systrom, where they discussed the unintentional win that Diplo’s #ExpressYourself Instagram campaign became. “#ExpressYourself was the most uncalculated marketing move I’ve ever done. It just happened. And it worked better than I ever thought it would.” Diplo also expressed his growing addiction toward the now-ubiquitous social platform. “It’s kind of a high for me to post pics that get over 10,000 likes. If I don’t hit those numbers, I get kind of depressed.”
After a spat between Diplo and DJ Bl3nd’s managers over a comment Diplo made that insinuated DJ Bl3nd had purchased social followers, Swedish House Mafia manager Amy Thomson spoke with Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter. “I worry that by doing shows at Madison Square Garden it’s attracting millionaires and billionaires who want to buy out the business and don’t care about the music,” Thomson stated. “The kids want to go to a rave, not a business conference.” Many in attendance nodded in agreement when Thomson commented on the difference between the electronic industry and the US major labels: “Electronic music is a breathing 360 model that has been working for years, and now the majors are trying to imitate it to keep themselves alive.”
Russell Simmons (pictured above) stole the show in his chat with Ultra Music head Patrick Moxey, turning the talk into more of a motivational speech than a business conversation. Perhaps the most telling quote of Simmons’ was his thoughts on the disparity between the mindset of artists in the growing music technology space mindsets and industry executives used to older business models. “There’s a space for collaboration in music among artists that the gatekeepers don’t understand sometimes,” Simmons stated. “It’s not only the music that is opening doors–it’s the new technologies you invent to get there as well.”
IMS Engage ended with a talk between Skrillex, aka Sonny Moore, and Jeff Rosenthal of Summit Series (pictured at top). The conversation centered around Moore’s thoughts for young artists. “Take your time and bet on yourself,” Moore stated, going on to talk about how when he first started his music was far from the industry standard. “EDM changed what the standard of mainstream is. My music is not mainstream. I made it in my bedroom and was playing for very small crowds for a long, long time. People had an idea of what a song was, but now there are more artists that can make music outside of the framework of a typical pop song.”