Interview: IMS founder Ben Turner sums up this year’s event

Marcus Barnes

gm51 682x1024 Interview: IMS founder Ben Turner sums up this year’s eventBen Turner is another member of the team behind Ibiza’s International Music Summit (IMS) an electronic music conference that has grown in stature over the years to become one of the most important events of its kind. I caught Ben at the end of the event to get his thoughts on how this year went.

I know you’ve been really busy throughout the event but now it’s all over how do you think it’s all gone?

It’s been amazing, what we’ve tried to do is create a real business-focus and create a forum for business. Now that the whole world is obsessed with this music; media, film producers, TV shows – everyone wants a part of electronic music – we tried to create something that could put forward the best of what we have to offer and where change could be debated and discussed. What’s been proved to me this year, in terms of just how much things have changed, is how many companies have used IMS as a platform to launch things things year. From YouTube’s electronic playbook initiative to Mixmag and their huge YouTube project, Corona launching a global concept – it’s become a platform for people to say important things because we have media here, we have talent here and we’ve really managed to create a hub for this music.

It’s great that you’ve managed to do that in seven years. Back when it started no one gave a damn about the music.

We started IMS when electronic music was at rock bottom, we were in Miami and I remember sitting there at WMC with Pete Tong and my partners saying, ‘Are we going to do this?!’. We were completely frustrated with how everything was – I lived there and saw that the very people it was supposed to serve, it wasn’t. Ibiza was the place where we always congregated every summer, and we used it as opportunity to build our own thing. We had 150 handpicked people in year one, many of them are still here and coming back ever year. We felt that by creating a more intimate setting we’d bring back a lot of the people who hide away when something gets big. We created a culture where we got people engaging and talking again. I don’t think we ever really imagined how much it would grow, but those first few years were low in numbers and it grew organically through word of mouth.

There are a lot of conferences around the world but we try to keep focused on good content, people come here and network and have meetings. I’ve been very impressed by people who I consider to be advanced within this industry, yet are still sitting in that conference room learning. You can’t sit still in this business. I’m really proud of the amount of young panellists we’ve had this year – we never had much contact with them in the past, but this year we’ve had Boiler Room, SB:TV, the Young Guns initiative we’ve started and they’ve all really blossomed. It makes you think, we’ve got George Clinton on stage right now and he’s got a packed room of course, but the Boiler Room panel and all of the ones that had younger members of our industry involved were also very busy with young and older people wanting to learn.

That’s what I’ve loved the most actually. These are people that I know, from my generation – it’s been good to see them getting the respect they deserve.

Genuinely this year has been the year when they’ve become part of the establishment. Boiler Room is not going anywhere.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is the supposed split between EDM and so-called ‘underground’ electronic music. IMS has almost been the flashpoint for the whole debate.

I’m actually quite shocked. My heart is in the underground but everything I’ve done with IMS and before, when I was a journalist, was to promote electronic music to a wider audience. There are people in the underground who have that belief, they don’t compromise their music but they are prepared to walk through doors that the bigger guys open. Personally I think that’s a very positive ecosystem because how else is underground music going to grow in America, Asia and places like that? It seems like certain people are really going out of their way, to the point where it becomes detrimental.

Yeah it seems a little counter productive, it’s going to look like jealousy to some observers as well.

In-fighting in any genre is not really going to help it flourish. All eyes are on electronic music, you’ve got people wanting to be negative about it because it’s so successful. I actually started up the Association for Electronic Music at IMS last year, the whole ethos of that is to put together guys from the underground with people from the big agencies around a table – there are 51 members, a wide range of people. From a business point of view the conversations are really constructive, very visionary, very united. People leave their issues at the door and we’re now in a drive to get the industry behind us, so things like this aren’t very helpful. We don’t need a Tupac/Biggie situation!

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