Inside the Association For Electronic Music | Features | MN2S

With the rapidly changing music industry landscape and the electronic music boom of recent years has come a greater need for cohesive efforts within the dance scene.The Association For Electronic Music (AFEM) arrived in 2013 to try and aid some of the resulting concerns – but do you really know what the organisation does? We talk to their CEO, Mark Lawrence, to find out more and hear about what it’s in store.

What’s your history in dance music, and how did you come to be involved with AFEM?

So many people I work with started promoting or making music when they were in their teens and twenties. That wasn’t me. I loved electronic music from the first moment I can remember; Donna Summer, Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre, Sylvester, Prince, Kraftwerk. I fumbled my way through DJing in my twenties in Brighton, fell into a banking job by accident for 10 years, then leapt across to PRS for Music for 10 years. Whilst I was there I set up Black Rock Records with Steve Mac and a dance music initiative at PRS called ‘Amplify’ which fuelled my love for the music and put me in touch with many of the people I work with now. When AFEM came knocking, it took me a millisecond to say ‘yes’.

Why was the AFEM set up in the first place and how does it benefit its members and the industry?

Ben Turner and Kurosh Nasseri set up AFEM as they recognised that our music is global, our business is global and our challenges are immense. We had no collective voice when it came to fairness, transparency, payments, health campaigns and problem resolution – and whilst our scene is built on unity, there was no unifying group. Ben and Kurosh did an amazing job bringing together 40 of the brightest and the best as our Board of Advisors. I came into the Association in May 2014 to take it to the next level, and since then we have gone live with Get Played Get Paid – a campaign to ensure that when music is played in nightclubs, it gets paid accurately by global rights organisation such as PRS. We have worked with Audiolock to ‘disrupt’ piracy and we have begun the process of bringing global companies together to create a platform for debate and change on harm reduction and personal safety.

We have also established member benefits such as discounted conference entrance and discounted Audiolock services, and we will soon announce significant travel and accommodation deals too. Members in every part of the world are also invited to regular networking events and problem-solving sessions.

In your view, what has been the biggest success story so far?

Get Played Get Paid was a big early success in terms of profile, but until that first payment from a performing rights organisation is made using our endorsed technology, I wont feel like we have achieved our first goal for our members. I am extremely proud that our membership is growing every week, including every size of organisation from every part of the world.

The next fews months will see some announcements that will show how much work has been going on behind the scenes.

What concrete goals are you working towards, and what have you achieved so far?

To have at least 5 PROs moving from their current methods of paying club royalties to a digital method using ‘real’ data, to endorse technology that can identify music in DJ mixes to enable payments to be made from their plays online. To raise the standards of harm reduction efforts around the world and to play a vital role developing knowledge and standards. To appoint regional representatives in every continent to work with the local electronic music scene and businesses. To double our membership again between IMS 2015 and IMS 2016 (we doubled it from IMS 14’ to IMS ’15)

How do you work with organisations in different territories?

We have a simple model that defines our genre as eight sectors – such as live, retail, technology and so on. Our regional representatives analyse the health of their local electronic music scene in each sector and identify which other organisations we need to work with in their region to help solve problems and take opportunities.

Tell us about some of the interesting conversations you’ve had with the various stakeholders you’re involved with. What have you learned about the industry from being in touch with so many of these parties?

To be honest, many of the interesting conversations are fairly confidential as they involve business plans of the AFEM members, but there have been some great quotes along the way from neighbouring sectors. My favourite recent quote was given to John Truelove (one of our board members) from someone from another industry in New York: “the beauty of the electronic music community is you are all proud to collaborate with each other”.

So I think what I have learned about the electronic music industry is it’s a global family, committed, collaborative and passionate, with a genuine love for the music and support for each other.

What about the next generation of music industry professionals and grassroots? How are you working with them?

We are working on a far-reaching education initiative that will see us connect to – and potentially connect together – electronic music education providers around the world to help raise standards of academic and music education in every part of the world.

How do you personally keep on top of developments and trends within the electronic music world?

I spend a huge amount of time on Skype connecting with members and other industry professionals. I ask lots of questions, listen to answers carefully and read as much as I can on online. Still having a hand in the label and music services company helps me stay in touch with new artists, music and the issues at the coal face.

What changes would you like to see in the global dance music scene? What do you think the main issues are right now?

I think the biggest problem – and therefore biggest opportunity – is how few people at grass roots level know the problems that exist and that the solutions are all within our grasp. It’s incredible to see how few people trust the broader music industry infrastructure or are fully aware of how to connect to it. This can all change in time.

Also, I think we are at a tipping point in 2015 as people and businesses begin to be frustrated with ‘freemium’ and want their ‘dollars delivered’ instead, and as the current global audience of electronic music acquires a taste for the amazing diversity of music from techno, to trap, to trip-hop, we all need to ensure that the unity that made the scene, develops the scene. This is the year of pulling together and pushing forward.

What’s your best advice to aspiring music hopefuls?

Creatively – follow your heart, take risks, make your music and find your audience.

Commercially – success is a blend of talent, hard work and luck, so don’t take shortcuts.

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