The Dance Music Industry Is Assembling This Week For IMS Ibiza 2023 – Billboard

The annual IMS Ibiza dance music industry conference launches today (April 26), marking the opening weekend on the famed Spanish clubbing mecca.

IMS Ibiza 2023, the dance second largest conference after Amsterdam’s ADE, is expecting roughly 1,300 delegates from around the world at the luxe Destino Pacha Ibiza resort, which IMS is once again taking over for the three-day event. Co-hosted by dance world legend Pete Tong and BBC Radio 1 DJ and dance producer Jaguar, IMS 2023 is happening April 26-28 with a cavalcade of artists, agents, managers, journalists, managers, label owners and more, altogether representing a flurry of companies including YouTube, Tunecore, Deezer, BBC Radio 1, WME, Wasserman, Beatport, Ultra Music Publishing, the Association For Electronic Music and more.

The intensely robust IMS 2023 schedule — “An absolute monster in terms of curation and the level of speakers coming,” says IMS co-founder Ben Turner — features more than 130 keynotes, discussions, parties, workshops and networking events happening at Destino and satellite locations. Naturally, these include the island’s prestige clubs including Amnesia and Hï, along with the historic Dalt Villa, a UNESCO world heritage site that will once again become a rave during the IMS closing party.

But while the conference will span many topics, Turner anticipates the practicalities and legalities of artificial intelligence to be a major topic of conversation as the music industry at large grapples with how to not just profit from AI, but to understand its potential and sustainably contain its capabilities.

“Electronic music culture has been driven by independence from its roots,” Turner says, “and I think that’s still is a core component of why we’re different… I think our industry is in the best position to embrace AI, because of that independent spirit and that understanding of ownership of IP, and how ownership of masters and publishing gives you more freedom to experiment with this stuff — whereas the majors are just going to do what they always do, which is freak out and shut all the doors.”

IMS will also once again feature the presentation of its annual business report, which surveys the health of the dance music industry across sectors including streaming and live events, and which serves as an industry tool to determine growth sectors. For the first time this year, the report has been prepared by MIDiA Research, and will find new focuses in music publishing and the creator economy, “which around electronic music is obviously huge,” says Turner. This year’s report also reflects “a huge bounce back” of the industry following the pandemic, with this year’s report reflecting 2022 metrics.

IMS Ibiza 2022

Courtesy of IMS Ibiza

Also new this year is IMS’ partnership with Beatport, the digital download platform that acquired a 51% majority stake in IMS this past January. With conferences typically presenting slim margins and IMS’ 2022 partnership with Pollen falling through in the wake of that company’s collapse, the Beatport sale has allowed IMS to create a new level of financial solvency.

“Being really honest about it,” says Turner, “we nearly didn’t survive the pandemic. We had to do refunds, we didn’t have a show for three years, we had zero income coming in, we had to cut overhead, we had to cut our small but core team. There was a big question of, ‘Can we still do this? Can we afford to still do this? And can we afford to risk doing this?’”

Turner emphasizes that he and the other IMS founders are maintaining organizational and curatorial control the conference, that Beatport can help IMS grow and that the IMS team has “been really encouraged and feel extremely supported by them.”

But while the Beatport acquisition is presenting new opportunities, it also came with baggage due to a 2022 VICE article alleging sexism, racism and a toxic work culture within Beatport. Following Beatport’s acquisition of IMS, longstanding music industry diversity and inclusion advocacy group announced — after a seven year partnership with IMS — that it would be putting a “temporary pause” on its participation in IMS this year. (Read’s complete statement on the topic.)

So too did U.K. advocacy group Black Artist Database, which suspended its partnership with Beatport last August. The organization also recently released a statement that it would not be sending any members to IMS 2023. In an April 13 statement, IMS noted that the conference “understands and respects the need to make such decisions and will continue to remain strong supporters of both organizations and the values that they stand for. Our continued, long-term, widely-acknowledged commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality in all its intersections is demonstrated in our 2023 programming and it remains a core tenet of our ethos.” 

“We understand why they needed to make their statements, Turner says. “Our door is always open, and we hope that we can work with both organizations in the future. I don’t see why that can’t happen. I think there needs to be dialogue between all of the parties, I don’t think this gets resolved any other way than people communicating and trying to understand each others perspective.”

“I’m on a mission is to help make dance music a more equal place that is representative of minorities, while supporting emerging artists,” IMS co-host Jaguar adds. “I’m really proud of the work we are doing alongside Ben and the IMS team to achieve this at the summit.” She adds that “It wouldn’t feel right to go into this week without extending my love, support and solidarity to Black Artist Database and, who will sadly not be present at IMS this year. What [they] both stand for is incredibly close to my heart and so important.”

While IMS delegates largely arrive from throughout Europe, Turner reports “a growing number of hardcore American attendees,” a demographic he attributes to the fact that “there isn’t a conference with a narrative left around the business of electronic music in America.” (IMS did host a one-day event in Los Angeles for five years, during the apex of the EDM boom.) He says if IMS is to add another event to its schedule, it will be in the U.S.

“I think we’re globally-minded in our output, but I do think America has its own set of issues, its own dialogue, its own need for its own Summit, no question. Because America is so big, and there’s an inward looking industry, quite a lot of people don’t think much beyond America in terms of their travel or their even in some cases, their ambitions. There’s a very strong home grown scene that deserves to have its own moment.”

For this week, though, the moment will once again be in Ibiza. Billboard will be reporting from the conference this week.

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