In the key of Miami: Summit bridges startup and music worlds

Communities / Article

As much an idea as a city, Miami has long established itself as a place of opportunity and reinvention. Now the MIA Music Summit wants to expand on Miami’s growing reputation as a place for innovative startups.

The weekend-long event, which concludes with a full day of activities at the New World Center in Miami Beach on March 24, will bring together music, technology and entrepreneurship. Related Link

The Summit is sponsored by Knight Foundation, Senzari, Choose Digital, .CO, SESAC Latina and Mobile Roadie.

“What we’re trying to create with this event is a collision between this very vibrant technology community that is developing here and the traditional music sector we already have in this city,” says Demian Bellumio, COO of Senzari, a digital music company, and also a member of the MIA Collective, a group created for investing in, and building, companies focused in the confluence of technology, art and media in Miami. “If we manage to bridge these two worlds, I believe Miami has an opportunity to leapfrog into the future of music: the digital space.”

Matt Haggman, Knight’s Miami program director, elaborates on how the event fits within the foundation’s overall mission.

About 18 months ago, thinking about the next community initiative in Miami, Knight began to focus “on better connecting, supporting and, ultimately, propelling its emerging community of entrepreneurs, startups, makers and doers of all kinds,” says Haggman. “We widened our view of Miami’s creative community, focusing not only on artists but entrepreneurs, with the aim of trying to help make Miami a place where ideas are built. And the bet is that if we do that well, that in turn will lead to important community benefits such as talent retention.”

“Our premise is that Miami has all of the tools to be an important and very innovative center of high-impact entrepreneurship,” he explains. Knight wants to “help build an ecosystem where entrepreneurs can flourish.”

The MIA Music Summit will actually start on Saturday, March 22, with Miami’s first music “hackathon” at The LAB Miami, a 10,000-square-foot converted warehouse in the Wynwood art district of Miami that—with the support of Knight Foundation—has become a hub for local technology, arts and cultural entrepreneurs.

“This [hackathon] will bring together programmers, designers and music people with the idea of coming out with new, music-related techie innovations,” Bellumio says. “Five will get chosen and those will go on stage on Monday [at the Summit] before another set of judges — some of the most important investors and executives in the world. … The idea is to, in two or three days, give birth or potentially give birth, to new companies. And even if it doesn’t happen this weekend, we’ve planted the seeds that down the line can give rise to new collaborations.”

Haggman concurs, but also takes the long view, emphasizing the importance of building networks of creative and talented people.

“The things that are being built are connections, ideas, communities—in this case, around music and technology,” he says. “That’s the expectation. Those are the aims—more than necessarily going from start to finish on a winning idea.”

On Sunday afternoon, the meeting of the minds turns into a Startup Battle of the Bands at The LAB Miami, featuring bands comprising members of the participating startups.

“One thing that has always bothered me was being at music events that had no music,” says Bellumio. “So we’ll talk ideas but we’ll also have some cool performances — very geeky, but super cool.”

In fact, Monday’s all-day event, which takes place at the New World Center, the Frank Gehry-designed home of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, will not be your standard panel   talkfest, he says. The day already includes performances by Nagual Sounds, a Berlin-based startup that has developed software that turns any kind of data into music; and a closing performance featuring members of the New World Symphony and Stanford University’s Computer Research in Music and Acoustics Department.

“But we are also actually going to have a live band onstage almost like a late night [TV show] type of format,” explains Bellumio. “We are dividing the production in four teams and each one is going to focus on a different Miami — Miami Beach, Little Havana, Wynwood and Downtown — and we are changing the set for each team. So there will be a musical signature as much as a look and feel of each set and the conversations will take place around that. We want to make it cool and fun.

“If you are curious about music and what’s going on the digital space or if you are a techie who wants to know what’s happening in the music space, this should be a fun event to be part of.”

Fernando González is a Miami-based arts & culture writer.