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Highlights From MIA Music Summit 2014

Mia-music-summitI just returned from the MIA Music Summit and I'm struggling to find a way of encompassing what I saw and experienced as it relates to Hypebot readers. In one way or another every demographic involved with the intersection of music and tech was represented from DIY artists and hackers to corporate CEOs. This diverse international group was brought together at ideal locations in the great city of Miami. I can't do the full event justice but I do want to share some highlights and lessons from the Summit though where I focus may surprise you.

The MIA Music Summit 2014 combined a Music Hackday over the weekend at The Lab Miami with a full day's conference at New World Center on Monday.

MIA Collective put on a great event with the founding support of the Knight Foundation and sponsorship by such music tech companies as Senzari and Choose Digital.

I previously wrote a preview with some background of the event and will be following with additional pieces on Music Hackday, iRemix, the winners of Music Hackday, and tips from the crowdfunding panel I moderated.

Recorded Livestream of the MIA Music Summit 2014

Highlights and Lessons from MIA Music Summit 2014

The Lab Miami and New World Center

Both space and staff at The Lab Miami and New World Center were ideal for these events. As picky a critic as I can be about such things, I really can't come up with anything negative about what these folks are doing and how they're doing it.

I'll speak more about The Lab Miami in my Hackday post but I want to make a special point of commending the crew at New World Center who essentially ran the conference as a day long performance. Yes, there were glitches along the way but if you've worked in such a setting with an event that has many moving parts you know that's going to happen especially when you don't get a dress rehearsal.

The sound, in particular, was impressive and the backstage crew was incredibly sensitive to and supportive of participants at a level I've rarely experienced.

MIA Collective's Special Touch

As core entity Demian Bellumio told me, MIA Collective always tries to bring surprise elements and theatrical moments into their events and that was certainly clear at the Summit.

Such touches included the excellent choice of Derrick N. Ashong aka DNA for MC. In the upbeat MC game there's a thin line between awesome and abysmal and DNA stayed well on the awesome side of that line. A big part of his success as MC is that he's really smart and could provide quick takes on what was happening that made sense and even opened up some related mental territory.

Panels were given the high sign that they had 5 minutes left with a guy I dubbed the "Guitarist of Doom." The funny thing was that I could see him coming from my seat as moderator of two panels and the audience could see him but the panelists couldn't!

Unfortunately I didn't introduce myself due to backstage jitters but the "Guitarist of Doom" turned out to be Alan Hughes, Chef/Owner of The Embassy Miami, who I also saw do a brief but really engaging set with Tito Losavio near the end of the day.

Another musical highpoint was a surprisingly moving presentation on acoustic modeling. It was a collaborative effort between New World Center and Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics that involved two singers, Nette Worthey at Stanford and Graham Fandrei on stage at NWC.

Not only were they singing together at a great distance but their vocal production was then altered based on acoustic modeling of church buildings. Both the singers' performance and the transformation of sound at the event was quite powerful.

Yet another surprise was the involvement of Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void. I saw his art at The Lab Miami and it was featured on conference bags that also included a plaque with the de facto Summit slogan:

"I'm Not Delusional"

"I'm A Music Entrepreneur"

He also was onstage during the crowdfunding/alt financing panel I moderated to draw cartoons based on what panelists were saying. Unfortunately technical difficulties left him sitting there without anything to do. To worsen the matter for dear Mr. MacLeod, of whom I'm a big fan, I hadn't been informed, didn't know what this guy was doing sitting on stage and I heckled him a bit!

We chatted later and filled each other in on what happened but it was great to have him there.

I know I just said a lot about a topic that was not the central theme of the weekend yet I found these elements in some ways transformative. Looking back they really helped enlarge the event beyond simply providing some entertainment and meaningful moments.

On Knowing Your Audience

My experience at the Summit confirmed PledgeMusic's Benji Rogers' approach which is to find out who's actually in the room when you begin.

I thought that having a general sense of what demographics and roles were represented would be enough but by the end of the day I realized I still didn't really know who was in the room and I don't know if we truly connected with them.

Yes, I talked to individuals about the panels but they were the ones that liked what I was doing or something that the panelists said.

Rogers suggests doing some sort of quick interaction with the audience at the beginning to know what the people who showed want to know. For example, he was once on a panel where they had a list of questions on a whiteboard the panel could discuss and then let the audience vote.

Now that I've had a moderating experience with two great panels, I can see that could work very well. Everyone on my panels was sharp and flexible so we could have organized things that way.

Definitely an issue to consider if you're participating in panels or organizing conferences.

Bringing People Together Can Cause Friction

In many ways MIA Music Summit was about community building but you can't build true community without some overt friction from time to time.

Ime Archibong of Facebook seems nice enough and I know MIA Collective was very pleased that he participated. But people have issues with Facebook and one of the Music HackDay finalists used Archibong's involvement as a HackDay judge to stage a brief intervention.

After a quick demo of Lehto, more on that tomorrow, developer and tech activist Sean Canton was asked by Archibong if he'd considered flipping the user interface to encourage serendipitous discovery as well as search.

Canton's response was something along the lines of this paraphrased version:

"I don't want to sale people stuff. I feel Facebook sells people to themselves."

Obviously he wasn't answering the question but staging a political intervention as I confirmed in a later chat.

It was a tense moment that was followed by a lot of applause. And, though I don't want to undermine what the MIA Collective is doing, in order to keep it real I have to let you know I joined in heartily.

But such things will occur if you want true community. I hope moving forward that this aspect of diversity also continues to be supported by MIA Collective.

Miami as the Capital of Latin America

Though MIA Music Summit was not billed as a Latin American project the setting of Miami and the involvement of many Latin entrepreneurs and investors was a very special element of the event.

I'd previously encountered the idea of Miami being the Capital of Latin America but I never had a sense of what that might mean until this first experience of Miami from the streets to the Summit.

I reflected on Latin America and Miami in a deep discussion with performing arts photographer Luis Olazabal who documents music and arts in South Floria and was brought in as official event photographer. He mentioned Miami's status as Capital and it brought together so much of what I'd seen and experienced during my brief visit.

The Future of Miami and MIA Collective

Miami is clearly a lot of other things as well but moving forward I know that status will be a huge strength as Miami and the MIA Collective realize their dreams of being a world hub for the music industry as well as a thriving center for tech startups and entrepreneurship.

At this point I'm not sure about the future of the MIA Music Summit as a discrete event but it's clear that MIA Collective will continue to put on strong gatherings. I look forward to seeing what they and the people they're connecting will accomplish both for Miami and for music and tech.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/Facebook) is currently relaunching All World Dance. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.