Interview: Pete Tong on Ibiza and the progress of IMS

Marcus Barnes

IMS DAY2 CONFERENCE 003 Interview: Pete Tong on Ibiza and the progress of IMS Pete Tong  is one of the team behind the International Music Summit (IMS) Ibiza’s annual electronic music conference which has just had its 7th edition. Of course, he is also the main man at Radio 1, a globe-trotting DJ, a producer, label owner and he’s even been handed an MBE by the Queen. I spent a few minutes with Pete at the start of this year’s IMS event.

Last time we spoke was back in October 2011, so much has changed since then!

Yeah, well one of the themes during the year we started was ‘Change’ because things just didn’t really change that often here. The year I left Pacha, it was a big deal – when you think about it now, someone leaving a club is not that big a deal, but back then leaving a club was a very big deal, so things have changed enormously. But I’ve never been one of those people who digs their heels in and goes, “Oh, things were much better back in the day”, you can’t stop progress and you also have to respect that Ibiza is new to people every year, and their experience is really important as well.

Interesting, what would you say to those who claim this year’s opening line-ups are unimaginative, even if they are still hugely enjoyed by the new crowds?

The thing about line-ups is the world has got bigger, it’s got more demanding on DJs, there are more distractions, there are more places that they’re going to feel like they need to be playing at – you’ve got festivals in America for instance, that are very demanding on people for time. The openings here clash with a lot of those events over Memorial Weekend in the States, I’m rushing back to go to Detroit myself. Peoples’ residencies have become such a big deal that they feel they can’t do the openings as well, Richie or Carola. Carola would’ve almost certainly been at the Amnesia opening a few years ago, but he’s got his own thing now and he’s wanted elsewhere, too.

How about the progress of IMS, which this year seems bigger than ever?

We gave birth to something and we’re very proud of it. Making this leap to the Hard Rock, we couldn’t have predicted it, but it’s coincided with the biggest leap in attendees so far. We would have been bursting at the seams if we’d have stayed at the Gran. We spent four or five years there, so it’s good to evolve and give people a new offering, some of the people here have been to every event. It’s definitely changed the dynamic of the event, a couple of years ago we saw people coming here to network for the first time. Back when IMS first started we had a 100 people and we had to herd them from the hotel, and they were taken to every panel – it was like a school trip. Now, seven years later, people come here and do their own thing, organise their own meetings and some companies even organise their own mini conferences – and that’s all healthy, it’s what we wanted for the event.

That’s what I like about it, I just met somebody who’s relatively new to the industry and has come here for the first time to try and find out more about it. Elsewhere there are obviously far more experienced figureheads in attendance, it attracts a good cross section of people.

One thing we learned is that a conference doesn’t establish itself overnight, it was always going to take five years at least for it to start living and breathing on its own. We’ve definitely reached that now in Ibiza. Although this was a huge commitment in terms of infrastructure and organising everything, on the sales end, it’s been the easiest year so far. Which is what ADE has, Miami got in the end and what we aspired to have.

I like to think of IMS as the intermediate point between Miami and ADE.

For us it was always a way to signify the start of the season. The Government and the tourist board here saw it as a way to extend the start of the season, that’s why they encouraged us and wanted to have us on these dates, and why they gave us Dalt Vila. Also we wanted Ibiza to be seen as more than just a party island, we wanted it to be acknowledged for what it contributes back into the scene.

It’s nice to have something like this because obviously people network over the season, but it’s good to have a proper event where issues that affect us are spoken about and where you have a chance to really get down to business. Do you have any firm plans about the direction you want to take or are you going to let it grow naturally?

There’s always a reaction post-event and after this is over we’ll sit down and react to the way it’s evolved. I think the dynamic of the way this hotel works and what it will do to the flow of the event will cause a reaction, it’s the first time we’ve had a venue big enough that people don’t want to leave because there are so many places where people can meet up, eat and drink. Now people have seen it, I think there will be more people staying here next year as well and that will change the event again.

For sure, and what’s happening with your music because you had a new track out quite recently with Tom Flynn and Paul Rogers?

I’ve got a track coming out with John Monkman, forthcoming on Suaru. The next mix compilation is with Tensnake, similar to the thing I did with Skream. It’s an eternal struggle with time though.

With this project and your DJing, how do you fit in the time to make any music?

In LA, I’ve got a studio in the garage now, a very simple set up: just a Mac and a keyboard. Long flights are usually the best time for getting things done. I’ve got different collaborators lined up, I’m always saying I want to work with people and it’s been 100 per cent positive response-wise, but it’s usually me who ends up letting them down.

I mean, me and Eats Everything have been saying it’s about time we do something together for about three years now. It’s a hobby for me, I started out at a time when you didn’t need to make music, nowadays you have to. But it doesn’t hurt, I’ve had a fantastic reaction to ‘Hear Me Now’. The other thing is, you always forget that with the younger market, that’s entirely how you’re judged. I’m lucky I have that dimension on the radio, too. It’s good therapy for me as well, I love it, I sometimes wish I could turn the world off for a week.

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