With every hotel, restaurant and supermarket in Ibiza pumping out a steady stream of beats, electronic music practically pursues you. But dance music is more than just a backdrop to a weekend on the White Isle. It is the driving force behind Ibiza’s thriving tourism industry and what makes the island tick.

It was the culture of electronic music and the industry that surrounds it that was the focus of our latest trip to the island for Pete Tong’s International Music Summit 2015 (IMS). Known as the TED of music conferences, IMS is an educational and motivational thought leadership platform dedicated to creating an awareness of and appreciation for electronic music.

Though in recent years IMS has expanded to Singapore and the United States (L.A. and Miami) the summit continues to acknowledge Ibiza as electronic music’s most influential destination worldwide.

We spent three days at the Hard Rock Hotel listening to some of the industry’s most dynamic minds engage some of the biggest questions facing electronic music. While industry icons such as Alexander Ljung of Soundcloud took to the stage, it was the New Breed panel and the rising stars of South Africa that caught our attention, along with a candid discussion of drug usage led by Radio One DJ B. Traits.

Mixmag moderated the New Breed panel,  which consisted of SUITCASE’s music editor Becky Tong alongside Kidnap Kid, Disciples, Eli and Fur, Jake Udell, and B Traits, and which focused on new age marketing tools and innovation in the music industry. Interestingly, the panel featured more women than men for the first time ever, though this statistic was not representative of the summit as a whole.

The Market focus for IMS 2015 was South Africa, labelled the ‘next chapter’ for electronic music and a trendsetter for the rest of the continent. As South Africa’s house music is still very much in infancy and remains isolated from the rest of the market, producers and DJs have developed their own unique sound.

With the house music scene still very much in infancy and largely cut off from the rest of the market, producers and DJs in South Africa have developed their own unique sound. “It’s got soul” according to house music producer Black Coffee, who also spoke of using music as a tool to give back to African communities with the Founder of Bridges for Music, a non-profit organization helping to raise global awareness about local issues through music.

In what was perhaps the summit’s most controversial conversation, B. Traits led the State of Mind panel which discussed the legalisation and decriminalisation of drug usage. “It’s not pro-drug use, it’s anti-death” said Mark Lawrence, the CEO of the Association for Electronic Music, on the subject of on-site drug testing at music events. Meanwhile Dr. Z, the anonymous drug scientist and inventor of mephedrone, spoke of the growing danger of legal highs.

By night, the panels dispersed and the summit moved to the Dalt Vila, a UNESCO World Heritage site that doubled up as the most epic sunset venue for the IMS parties. The Thursday night played host to techno heavyweights such as the legendary Sven Väth, Luciano and Pete Tong, before the crowd moved to Ushuaia for Juicebox’s Ibiza debut. Friday night rounded off the week with performances by newcomers MK and Kidnap Kid, before an explosive live set from Rudimental.

IMS Ibiza gave us the tools to look beyond the surface of electronic music. By exploring the cultural, social and political debates at the heart of the industry, IMS momentarily paused the beat. In doing so, it enabled us to reflect on dance music as an integral part of Ibiza and to appreciate the genre as an art form, not just the soundtrack to a night out.

Facts and Figures: 

The global electronic music industry is flourishing and has been valued at $6.9 Billion.

Revenue from brand partnerships is arguably the second most important thing behind touring for an artist.

It is clear the war on drugs isn’t working and we need to move away from criminalisation and towards education and support instead.

Only 4.05% of delegates disagreed with B Traits’ open-dialogue approach to highlight drug issues in the music industry.

21.54% of delegates did not believe stakeholders in live events should have to co-fund pro-active global harm reduction campaigns around drug usage.

Soundcloud has surpassed 100 million track uploads.

92% of delegates are not interested in Jay Z backed streaming platform Tidal.

87.18% of delegates did not have faith in Simon Cowell’s ‘Ultimate DJ’ talent search with Yahoo.

75.64% of delegates believed it was still possible to buy yourself a career in electronic

48.75% of delegates felt intimidated to do business in China.

Words by Kate Hamilton and Emily Ames

Photos by Igor Ribnik and James Chapman

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