Tech Talk

Naturally attractive, Miami area is magnet for creative-tech

Music, visual arts, film, fashion. With Miami and Miami Beach already a magnet for the creative industries, adding tech should be a natural attraction.

The makings of a vibrant creative-tech hub gained traction last week at the inaugural MIA Music Summit and its accompanying music hackathon. The events attracted about 500 entrepreneurs, music industry executives, investors and service providers. “That was a reinforcement that we were on to something, and it is a foundation to build upon,” said Derrick Ashong, who served as master of ceremonies for the summit featuring 40 industry speakers.

Ashong, an anchor at Univision’s Fusion TV network who has a background in both the music industry and technology, rattled off Miami and Miami Beach’s deep or growing roots in all kinds of music from reggae to salsa to rap to electronic dance music. “This is the place for both musical and now technological innovation, and the intersection of those two gives what I see as a significant competitive advantage for this city.”

And while the music industry is going through tough times, few were singing the blues at the conference. “As the music industry is being rebuilt, it is being rebuilt in a different way. It’s a whole new palette for artists. It’s an exciting time,” said Marc Zimet of Viacom, which owns MTV Networks.

Neil Crilly of The Recording Academy, which produces the Grammys and Latin Grammys, said locating one of its 12 nationwide offices in Miami was a natural. He also said Miami was in the big four as a record-label office city, along with New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. Indeed all the big names are here, including BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music, Sony, MTV/Viacom, Nickelodeon, SBS, Univision/Fusion and Telemundo; events such as Ultra, the Winter Music Conference and the Latin Grammys; and, of course, the celebrity artists who have homes here.

Zimet and Crilly spoke at a fitting venue for a music-tech summit: New World Center, with 17 miles of fiber optic cable and 14 wall casts a year that are attracting 2,500 people on average.

Already, a number of Miami-based early-stage companies in the music-tech space are making noise. There’s Senzari, which recently released its MusicGraph product that pulls together musical, user and social data for music recommendation; Choose Digital, a digital marketplace for music, movies, TV shows and e-books that can be integrated into brands’ loyalty and incentive programs; and Kompoz, a platform that allows musicians to collaborate and create songs with other musicians around town or around the world, to name a few.

We even have some big players you may not even think of as music innovators. Take Miami-based global phenom Zumba Fitness. “Its playlist reaches more than 15 million people a week for at least one hour a week. Zumba is creating a new platform for music,” said Scott Chitoff, Zumba’s chief legal officer. The fitness format, and the music that drives it, cuts across all demographics, he said. “Claudia Leitte of Brazil hooked up with Pitbull for a World Cup song and she is going global. How about the 65-year-old in Idaho listening to Don Omar?” Zumba has even put up money for the branding campaigns of emerging artists, he said.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine told the gathering: “We have all the right stuff — tax savings, musicians — the high-tech world has discovered Miami, people are moving here. And tremendous capital — we have the ability to get things done in the music world.”

Said Demian Bellumio, Senzari’s COO who organized the conference with the MIA Collective: “This allowed the conversation to get started. Now it is up to us to make tangible things happen.” He hopes to repeat the conference next year.

Tech is already starting to power other creative industries as well. The LAB Miami, a co-working center in Wynwood, has become a nucleus for creative-industry startups, and last week hosted a meetup for fashion entrepreneurs. The FashInvest Capital Conference chose Miami for its 2014 event on May 14. On Friday, CreativeMornings is featuring Cloak, a social entrepreneurial fashion enterprise.

All this week, the Hispanicize conference at the InterContinental Miami features national speakers, panel discussions and activities in all the creative industries, including music and film-making. The upcoming eMerge Americas Techweek in May will feature an entire track for the entertainment industry, among others.

Read more Miami Herald coverage of the MIA Music Summit on the Starting Gate blog here.

RELATED: See Our City Thoughts' event compilation here as sound, tech and data converge.

Launch at eMerge

Entrepreneurs will take center stage during the eMerge Techweek Launch Competition, and South Florida startups still have a chance to enter.

Early- and later-stage companies will compete and the Top 100 applicants will receive space in eMerge's Startup Village. Twenty-five semi-finalists will present to a panel of judges for one chance to win cash and prizes. Early-stage winners will receive $50,000 and later-stage winners will receive $100,000.

But you can’t hit it out of the park, if you don’t step up to the plate. The application deadline for international companies to enter has passed, but local start-ups and later-stage companies can apply until Friday, April 4. Go here to find out more and register:

Tap the Future open for entries

Miller Lite Tap the Future is returning with Daymond John from Shark Tank to find the best businesses in the United States, give the owners some business advice and award them part of this year's $300,000 prize pool. Teams of entrepreneurs with original business ideas have until Sunday to submit apply for a chance to win. Think you can’t bring home some money in a national contest that garnered more than 2,000 entries? Talk to Miami-based Elebev.

Elebev was named as a Tap the Future finalist and won $20,000 for its business in the last competition. Founded by Nestor Villalobos, Elebev created Sfiro Premium Chillers, a product that creates transparent ice spheres that are served in a glass without any physical contamination.

To compete in Tap the Future, apply by Sunday at

Twenty-five semi-finalists will be selected to compete in live pitch events in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia. Miami’s event will be July 8. John and a panel of judges will select one business in each city to win $20,000 and advance to the national finals.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Read more Business Monday stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category