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Warning to residents of the Waterloo region of Ontario: for the next four days, things are going to get really loud. The inaugural FUZEnation technology and music summit has kicked off, bringing together visionary business leaders, tech innovators and the most forward-thinking artists in music.
On the eve of opening day, I spoke with co-founder Rebecca (Lambrecht) Warfield about the festival and what attendees can expect.
Beacher: In a nutshell, what is FUZEnation?
Warfield: Conceptually, FUZEnation is the celebration of music and technology, and a partnership between our company FUZE and Live Nation. It's a multi-day event featuring brilliant minds talking about tech breakthroughs and a celebration of electronic music. I am one of the co-founders and one of the executive producers of the event. This area of Ontario is called "The Silicon Valley of the North." The technology industry is just booming here and this event truly is a passion project of mine. I worked for years in management in the music industry, and you can’t be involved in music and not be involved in tech. The two go hand in hand.
JB: Can you talk a little bit about your background and how it influenced your involvement with this project?
RLW: I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a kid I was always trying to make stuff that someone would buy. I started my career as a talent producer for shows like the American Music Awards and the Golden Globes and the Country Music Awards. Each of these shows would have 25 musical performances and presenters, so I was constantly working with performers, publicists, producers — everyone involved with making these shows happen. It was this incredible mix of A-list artists and upcoming artist in all genres. I worked with Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie. Alicia Keys was always an amazing collaborator. I joined the Britney Spears team on the Circus Tour, which was the biggest tour that ever went out at the time.
Eventually, I left and formed my own company, the Chicane Group, which focuses on management, consulting and producing. I'm partners with Larry Rudolph at Maverick, managing Steven Tyler on all of his Aerosmith and solo projects, and his philanthropic efforts.
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JB: I know your work with Steven has meant a lot to you.
RLW: The most touching and feel-good project was his first-ever charity, Janie's Fund, to provide hope and healing for abused and neglected girls. We researched the best way to go about it and partnered with Youth Villages. In the past nine months, we've raised $1.8 million for the programs and have provided 300 girls with 18,000 days of care over the next year. Steven had wanted to start this charity ever since he wrote "Janie's Got a Gun" in 1989, and to be a part of the launch and to make it happen is by far the most rewarding experience over the last couple of years.
JB: How did the festival come about?
RLW: I was working with a concert promoter a couple years ago in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and he came to me with a new idea about an EDM contest and concert. We brought in a local marketing and branding expert, Shevaun Voisin, who is very dialed into the booming tech industry in the area. We started brainstorming. I always loved the interactive portion of SXSW but wanted to do something sleeker. I have a talent producing company, Proven Talent, with Colleen Grillo and I knew we could book a great lineup. I sold the concept to Live Nation who gave us the green light for financing and we partnered with them to create the first of what we hope will be many global events right here.
JB: Who will be performing?
RLW: Kygo, Adventure Club, Keys N Krates, The Him, Kaneholler. The first few days will feature iconic speakers like Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit. Then we have an amazing panel with local game changers and disrupters. We’re kicking it off with music, A-Trak, legendary turntablist will perform.
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JB: Talk about the connection between music and tech.
RLW: Inventors are the new rock stars. They take an idea from their head and follow it from start to finish. And I think that creative process can be very similar for musicians. It might be using the other side of the brain, but it is essentially the same: bringing a thought to life, often with a lot of trial and error and setbacks along the way. The spark of creative passion is the driving force in bringing a product to market or a work of art to the public.