IMS Ibiza Delegates Face the Future of AI: ‘Pandora’s Box Is Definitely Open’

From April 26 to 28, some 1,300 delegates across sectors of the dance music industry descended on the Destino Pacha Ibiza resort to, in the theme of the 14th annual IMS Ibiza summit, face the industry’s future in the age of artificial intelligence (AI).

The consensus? “Pandora’s box is definitely open,” Daouda Leonard, CEO and co-founder of Create Safe, proclaimed during a debate touted by conference programming as “possibly the most important IMS discussion of the 2023 event” (“Understanding the Unstoppable: AI & Music Unravelled, The Potential, The Threats, The Future”).

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To put it in Web3 terms, although generative AI may be in its “1.0 stage” in the music ecosystem at present, its implications for asset production, differentiation, rights, ownership, and artist-fan engagement, warrant discussion. At IMS, “Heart on My Sleeve,” a deep-fake “collaboration” crafted using AI that simulated the voices of two of music’s biggest stars, Drake and The Weeknd, served as a timely case study of AI as it relates to music creation and intellectual property (IP). The song, realistic enough in sound to support its arc from AI experiment to viral sensation, racked up more than 11 million views on TikTok before it was pulled from digital streaming platforms (DSPs) and social channels on April 17 following Universal Music Group’s invocation of copyright violation.

“Heart on My Sleeve” is proof that conversations about generative AI’s potentials and pitfalls in music are less of an exercise in pre-emption as they are an attempt to regain pace with the technology’s rapid evolution. IMS delegates, including artists, agents, lawyers, label owners, promoters, and other industry professionals, grappled with this reality across three days of programming comprising more than 130 keynotes, panels, debates, workshops, and other educational- and networking-driven events. Broadly, they agreed that AI — “undoubtedly the most divisive topic of 2023,” attested music technology journalist and consultant Declan McGlynn — is well ahead of law and poses unprecedented legal challenges.

As the music industry and legal system scramble to catch up, a surge of lawsuits filed by various entities seeking to protect music-related IP can be expected to follow, not unlike during the Napster era. “When new evolutionary technology [comes about] and something gets mainstream, then the lawsuits start, and we have to wait a few years for the first cases,” said Martin Rüssmann, managing partner of the Germany-based Alba Patera Law Firm.

In the meantime, anxieties about AI-generated music’s capacity to displace production music, proliferate on DSPs, and disrupt streaming income will persist amid positive outlooks on the technology’s upsides. While major labels represent an institution with an interest in protecting assets (and are therefore unsurprisingly skittish about AI), artists appear more optimistic about the role that it could play in the music industry moving forward and could benefit from an ownership standpoint.

During IMS’ “Understanding the Unstoppable” debate, panelists agreed that artists should have the ability to decide whether their IP is open- or closed-source — or, to “opt in” or “opt out” of AI. An open-source approach has the power to stimulate the “next generation of creativity,” according to Grimes’ manager, Daouda Leonard. In an April 23 tweet, Grimes was vocal about her support for generative AI, claiming that she’d “split 50% of royalties on any successful AI-generated song that uses my voice.”

In addition to enabling a wider net of people to make music, generative AI can empower fans to engage with artists’ music in a new and unconventional manner. This could involve the use of an act’s open-source IP to create a single that features their voice, akin to “Heart on My Sleeve.” For some artists, AI may represent a more authentic means for audience connection than, say, a TikTok video.

It can also more directly involve fans — an aspect that currently has particular appeal in the dance space. The 2023 IMS Business Report, presented at the summit, notes a rise in “creator culture,” a phrase that describes the increasing number of fans who are making the vault from passive listener to active creator.

“The creator-fan [is] set to be at the centre of tomorrow’s dance music world,” states the report. Per the report, the global dance music industry grew 34% in 2022 to reach a valuation of $11.3 billion — a 16% increase from the pre-pandemic period.

Overall, the possibilities of AI-mediated fan-artist engagement are attractive and are likely to catalyze more creator-fans to actively create, but they can come with use cases that conflict with an artist’s identity, such as the creation of songs with lyrics containing speech that is hateful or that generally discords with the artist’s ethics and morals. Further, IP used without an artist’s approval (akin to “Heart on My Sleeve”) can create a new revenue stream built on the exploitation of artist rights.

Though AI was the throughline of IMS Ibiza’s 2023 programming, the summit’s partnership with digital download platform Beatport represented another way in which the staple of the dance calendar is facing the future. Helmed by CEO Robb McDaniels, The Beatport Group acquired a 51% majority stake in IMS in January, making this year’s IMS the first to be produced in partnership with Beatport.

The company hosted various creator-facing discussions and workshops throughout the weekend, including a conversation with TuneCore CEO Andreea Gleeson that coincided with Beatport’s April 26 announcement of its partnership with TuneCore, which will newly enable TuneCore users to distribute their tracks to Beatport. Beatport also produced the livestream of IMS’ closing party at Dalt Vila, which featured sets from CamelPhat and Pete Tong and Kölsch, among others, and was livestreamed via Beatport’s Youtube and Twitch channels, as well as on

“Our involvement is an investment; it’s a passive thing to ensure that the conference keeps going and that it has the resources needed to continue putting together something great,” McDaniels told Variety.

In opening remarks to delegates, IMS founders confirmed that “it was very needed for IMS to have a partner, especially coming out of the pandemic.”

In the months ahead, McDaniels anticipates that Beatport’s partnership with IMS will translate to short but focused pop-up events that leverage the IMS brand name in dance music’s emerging markets. “This is a global community that we work in, and I think historically, Beatport has looked through Berlin techno-colored glasses,” McDaniels added. “One of the most important reasons that we invested in this conference and the IMS vision is because we have a goal of taking what we’ve done in the Americas and Europe and taking it into other markets around the world to inspire conversation and education.”

Beatport and IMS are currently targeting Dubai, Mexico City, and a city in Southeast Asia to be selected as the initial sites for the pop-up events, envisioned to exist as “much smaller versions” of IMS Ibiza that feed back into the annual conference. A configuration will also be planned for the United States and is likely to touch down in New York, according to McDaniels.

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