In a rare keynote address, Laidback Luke (Artist, Netherlands) presented his thoughts on the summit theme ‘The Digital Storm’, reflecting on two decades in dance music and the impact of the digital era on DJing and production, noting “I started producing with an Atari computer with Cubase in my bedroom, now I mastered a track on the way here on the airplane.” Scarlett Li (CMC Holdings/Zebra Media, Vice President/Founder, China) representing one of the largest investment companies in the region, was bullish on the digital opportunities in her keynote, China: The Opportunity Is Now, singling out streaming as a huge potential windfall for the region, stating “Digital music today is a real business, there will be an estimated 2 billion USD market for paid streaming service by 2020.”
The state and health of the underground scene and how to nurture it in a region where EDM dominates was a key talking point in Shanghai on day one of the summit in the panel, ‘Nature vs Nurture. Speakers including Robb Harker (Supermodified Agency, CEO, Hong Kong), Tom Bray (YETI OUT, Co-Founder, China), and Matthew Hoag (elrow, Global Brand Manager, Spain) discussed the range of electronic music that exists in the region, how the underground is still expanding and how it is still understood in the region, with Tom Bray noting “How do you define underground in China? Anything that’s not in the charts or played on radio. Even mainstream sounding electronic music if it’s not in the charts is considered underground.“ Collectively the panel created a “Ten Point Plan’ on the stage to help unlock the eco-system and bring through new talent, with key actions including ‘think local, book local’, foster discovery, encourage entrepreneurialism and the promotion of electronic music as an art form.
Other highlights from Day one also saw Brazil’s most prolific electronic music act, Alok, reflect on the digital age and the role that Asia-Pacific region has played in his career, noting “to raise a fanbase and cultivate it in China takes patience and time”. Dance music veteran Howie B spoke with Chinese artists Mickey Zhang and WHAI on the challenges that arise culturally, linguistically, and creatively when collaborating with artists from another culture, concluding “the language barrier is not a barrier, it’s freedom”. In his second panel appearance of the day, Laidback Luke, Unity, and Krosses got together to speak on how people can learn from these international collaborations, and what they say about the increasingly connected world in which we live. Krosses revealed technology allows them to produce together full-time, eight hours per day despite being located on different continents.
The day concluded with a rare keynote interview from artist Sebastien Ingrosso and his manager Amy Thomson (CEO, ATM Artists, USA) who discussed their approach to the Asia-Pacific region. They addressed how the West can often tend to homogenize Asia as one territory, when in reality it's a hugely diverse and regionalized number of markets that require a tailored approach when releasing content. Ingrosso noted in his keynote “there is a big difference between Asian markets, we change our setup from country to country.” For Axwell^Ingrosso collaboration with rising local talent is key to building a fanbase in new Asian markets and IMS Asia-Pacific was their platform to announce their newest collaboration “Sun is Shining” with upcoming Chinese talent Kiki. Thomson used the keynote to voice her frustration at the lack of communication with local major labels and used the platform to invite hungry, upcoming Asian industry talent to work with her in developing her artists in the region.
Day two saw Pranitan Phornprapha, CEO/Founder of Thailand’s promotion company Wonderfruit, give a keynote presentation on how to create a festival with less of a carbon footprint, and addressed the challenges that arise when trying to do so, advising anyone who wants to run their own festival that it’s imperative to listen to your audience and “to run an event you have to be very data-driven. I would encourage anyone to do their own independent surveys. Data doesn’t lie.”
Bart Cools of Warner Music also gave his second Keynote at IMS, this time giving his view on the global electronic music marketplace and the challenges and opportunities in Asia-Pacific which is “literally fizzing with opportunity.” He touched on the recent acquisition of Spinnin’ Records, stating it should be seen as “a vote of confidence in the whole dance sector” concluding his keynote with the powerful statement that “I have no doubt that Asia will play a huge role in spearheading this industry’s growth.”
Day two also explored the role of labels in Asia Pacific, A2LiVE’s Managing Director Eric Reithler Barros led a panel of label executives including Nobby Uno (Avex Entertainment, Producer/Manager, Japan), Ryan Wilson (Sony Music, Director of Electronic Music, Asia-Pacific) and Tan Chang (Hummingbird Music Ltd, CEO & Founder, Hong kong) to discuss how labels are thriving in the region and the emerging electronic music scene, with the major labels both agreeing that a key focus now is finding local talent to break on an international level.
The “Assessing Market Value” panel saw a lively debate between managers, bookers, agents and promoters discussing artists fees and market value in the region. Speaking including Andrew Goldstone, former manager of Tiesto and Deckstar Management GM, joined Cody Chapman (Paradigm Talent Agency, Booking Agent, USA), Jason Swamy (Net Ease Cloud Music) debated the difficulty of building a sustainable and thriving scene in Asia with larger festivals setting artists budgets, with Wonderfruit promoter Jason Swamy noting on the negotiation process “whoever gives out the first prices loses.”
The day concluded with a panel of esteemed professionals from all walks of the dance music industry, from promoters (Eric Zho, A2LiVE, CEO & Founder, China) to agents (Matt Rodriguez, Paradigm Talent Agency, USA) to investors (Scarlett Li, CMC Holdings/Zebra Media, Co-President/Founder, China), discussing the “Big Picture” of the Asia-Pacific dance market, and where it will go from here, covering big topics including ‘predatory competition’ in the Asian festival market, the importance of encouraging homegrown Asian talent, the potential for more transparency in the artist/manager/agent relationship and the issues surrounding payments and the restrictive Chinese processes surrounding them. Scarlett Li closed the conference with a warning to artists around the dangers of not paying withholding tax, advising “make sure your book is clean, pay your tax, if not you will pay a heavy price and you may not play here again.”
As well as insightful panels, delegates also experienced the latest cutting-edge tech and learned from leading industry artists in production and DJing masterclasses led by Laidback Luke, Rave Radio, Unity, Pioneer DJ and Point Blank Music School.
Ben Turner, IMS Co-Founder, states “IMS Asia-Pacific was another educational and inspirational gathering of some of the most influential architects of the scene in Asia-Pacific. The two-day event probably went much deeper than any previous IMS event in this region, resulting in the creation of a Ten Point Plan of how to better nurture the underground movement to help achieve a better balance of the musical ecosystem. There was also strong advice about finances in Asia, and how better to communicate with audiences. Overall, it was a great success and we’re proud to have provided such a powerful platform for the genre to network and further the advance of the genre around the region.”
International Music Summit Asia Pacific celebrates its third year, and solidifies itself as the premier electronic music conference in the region. The summit concludes IMS’ events for the 2017 season, and looks forward to a strong return in 2018, furthering its expansion.