On Monday January 28, the Association For Electronic Music (AFEM) was unveiled at Midem, the annual conference dedicated to business matters within the music industry.
It's big news because some of the scene's top players have come together to "ensure electronic music gets the recognition and status it deserves". Among the first names to give backing to AFEM are James Barton (founder of Cream and president of electronic music at Live Nation), Matthew Adell (Beatport CEO), Amy Thomson (manager of Swedish House Mafia), Patrick Moxey (president of electronic music at Sony Music), Maria May (David Guetta's agent) and Carlos Correal (Electric Daisy's music director). You may or may not know who they are depending on how closely you follow the inner workings of dance music, but what's certain is that they're all highly respected and very influential, giving AFEM Justice League-like status.
The body has already defined itself as "a future alliance for future music" and that 2013 is the time "for the many companies and individuals involved in our business to speak with a unified voice to represent [dance music]". But what exactly are its aims? And will a group of individuals involved in the higher echelons of dance music be interested in what's happening within the underground?
Ben Turner is adamant that AFEM will work to uphold the best interests of dance music and that it will reach out to everyone in the scene, from the top tier right down to grassroots level. Aside from being Richie Hawtin's manager and organising the annual International Music Summit in Ibiza, he's set up AFEM (alongside long-serving entertainment industry lawyer Kurosh Nasseri) with an aim to represent dance music on a global level.
"Everyone’s enjoying [the current dance music explosion] all over the world, which is why it’s a good time to launch something like this," he tells Mixmag. "Sustanability and protection of what everybody’s built is paramount to how it progresses from here. It’s a positive message that we’re bring together people from all aspects of this business."
AFEM is a not-for-profit company which will have offices in the UK and America. It will be funded by its members, who will pay to become part of an international network of artists, agents, managers, labels and companies involved in dance music. Full details are yet to be announced, but Turner promises that fees will be "as affordable as possible" and that there will be different membership options to suit companies and individuals. He thinks there could be as many as 10,000 dance music businesses that could be interested in signing up.
"People have said to me, 'Why do this now? Dance music is massive in America, job done' but all of us feel that, at certain award shows or in certain media channels, dance music is not represented or poorly represented," Turner explains. "The BRIT awards used to carry a dance category but they dropped it because media fell out of love with dance music. There was no-one to stop them doing that, or at least have a conversation with [the BRITs]. It’s important now that we come together to create a voice."
He adds: "It was a major achievement to get Deadmau5 on the GRAMMYs show, but then the performance was out in a parking lot on the street, it wasn’t embraced on the stage. That’s an example of something we could be talking about."
The way Turner sees it, AFEM will fight dance music's cause where it is under represented and become a network for those involved in the industry to swap advice and knowledge. He also created the Association Of Independent Festivals with Rob Da Bank and has seen firsthand the "value of working together".
"We’ve created a monster, we’ve got a mountain of work to do to represent everyone’s interests. A part of that is to put a team in place and create a network for people to communicate and learn," he states.
The Association's first project will be to value how much dance music is currently worth. Some estimates say $4bn, but AFEM wants to undertake an accurate study, which Turner thinks could take up to four months. Following that, its members will meet to decide what to do next.
Turner also reckons that AFEM could tackle issues such as safety at live events, something that has been on the news agenda recently because of tragedies in Madrid and Brazil. "If something happens then suddenly electronic music is given a bad name and everyone gets affected," he explains. "In England you’ve got a powerful level of best practice, you can't put a festival on if you haven’t got the right certificate but in other countries that’s not the case. If you’re an agent you have to make sure your artist is protected when they’re performing."
Whatever happens next, Turner says that "It's got to be local and it's got to be global" and that it will strike a balance between the underground and the mainstream. He insists reaction so far has been positive, "I’ve had emails from major DJs saying 'thank you for doing this'. The reaction we’ve had is nothing but 'this is welcome.'"
With key personalities within the industry involved and AFEM's mission statement applauded so far, the groundwork is set for the group to achieve something groundbreaking within dance music. Let's see what happens.