IMS Engage 2016: Bob Lefsetz, Pete Tong & More Challenge 'EDM Bubble' Narrative (Exclusive Video)

IMS Engage 2016

Bob Lefsetz and Pete Tong speaking at IMS Engage on April 21, 2016 at the W Hollywood Hotel in West Hollywood, Calif.

“If they eliminated the dance tents at Coachella, the event would be over."

On April 21, International Music Summit held the fourth edition of IMS Engage, its one-day U.S. offshoot, at the W Hollywood in Los Angeles.

IMS partners Pete Tong, renowned broadcaster and artist, and Ben Turner, Graphite Media founder, opened the conference by paying respects to late music icon Prince and introducing the program of paired conversations that Turner later described as "perhaps our most intriguing... to date." 

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Matt Medved, Billboard senior editor, dance/electronic, also delivered opening remarks challenging the media narrative of an "EDM bubble" bursting and calling "EDM" itself a "flawed" term.

"Painting the likes of Hardwell and Richie Hawtin with the same “EDM” brush is like equating Maroon 5 and Black Sabbath," said Medved. "Jean Michel Jarre once told me, 'people are so silly, they think electronic music is a genre when it’s really just a new way of composing music.'”

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In a candid conversation widely regarded as the day's highlight, Tong and veteran music industry author Bob Lefsetz discussed a wide variety of topics, ranging from the "EDM bubble" and drugs to SFX Entertainment's collapse and Prince's passing.

“If they eliminated the dance tents at Coachella, the event would be over," said Lefsetz. "The audience still wants this."

"Drugs aren't just something that's associated with electronic music," said Tong. "All forms of music have had interactions with drugs."

Watch the full video of Lefsetz and Tong's talk exclusively on Billboard Dance.

Lee Anderson, AM Only's vice president of East Coast, joined James Barton, Live Nation's president of electronic music, for a conversation that touched on the relationships between booking agents and promoters and dance music's current cultural impact.

"I’m not interested in working with people where it starts with the money," said Anderson. "I’m about people who are doing it for the art and creativity and the experience for the fans. In 40 years, when you look back on it, I want them to have a chapter in it. That’s my goal with the artists I work with."

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Ted Cohen, TAG Strategic futurist, and Mike Knobloch, Universal Pictures president of music, wrapped up the morning session by discussing licensing and the creative cross-pollination between film and music. One of IMS Engage's most poignant moments came in Cohen's recollection of touring alongside Prince.

“He was always absorbing what was going on around him," said Cohen. "My job was to bring attention to new artists, but with Prince, there was little I needed to do.” 

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The afternoon session reconvened with acclaimed music producer Arthur Baker joining Oscar-nominated film director John Singletary for a conversation that touched on their personal journeys and dance music's silver-screen impact.

"Nobody's cracked it yet," said Singletary. "They made that bad Zac Efron movie last year. Somebody's go to get it right."

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Marc Geiger, WME head of music, and John MacFarlane, CEO of Sonos, finished off the event with a well-received discourse on streaming and the future of music consumption.

"I still say Netflix is going to buy Spotify," said Geiger. "Making a call right here."

Watch the event's official recap below.

IMS Engage's annual Networking Cocktail Party followed the conference, featuring Pete Tong, Becky Tong and a special showcase from Grabbitz as part of the Next Up emerging artist partnership between Billboard and W Hotels.

International Music Summit will celebrate in its ninth year in Ibiza from May 25-27 this year. More information is available on the IMS website.