In Interview with SEMCON Founder Derek McNee

Author : Marco Sgalbazzini
January 24, 2020

In Interview with SEMCON Founder Derek McNee

On Friday 17th and Saturday 18th July, Scotland’s first-ever Scottish Electronic Music Conference 2020 (SEMCON2020) will bring more than 100 industry insiders, speakers and experts to The Corn Exchange, Edinburgh for two days of essential seminars, workshops, product showcases and plenty more that promise to bring the whole industry together for two unmissable days of knowledge sharing and networking. A very limited number of early bird academy passes costing just £35 + BF are available now here.

The first wave of hosts and industry-leading brands participating at SEMCON2020 include Void Acoustics, Point Blank Music School, Beatport, Defected, Wunderground, DJ Growth Lab, Game Over, SKapade Studios, Label Worx, Data Transmission, Platform808, Skiddle and AFEM, who will all bring their individual expertise and knowledge to deliver the best possible opportunities.

This is the first of what will become an annual conference and essential meeting point for the whole of the Scottish dance music industry in the historic, versatile and atmospheric location of The Corn Exchange in Edinburgh. Scotland famously thrives on electronic music and all that shines through with this specially curated series of showcases, educational activities, immersive forums and of course after dark parties right in the heart of Edinburgh.

All facets of the industry will be covered in great depth and detail. There will be 1800 attendees per day, all under one roof in a main auditorium, with seven rooms, two professional theatres, product masterclasses in a 500 sqm exhibition and demo market, 400 capacity networking bar and live feed with international artists across both days.

We sat down with SEMCON founder Derek McNee to learn more about the conference and the journey that took McNee to launching it.



Give us some background – how did you get into dance music, how have you been involved?

I grew up listening to dance music in the late ’80s and ’90s then a friend of mine Tony Moran who is a DJ taught me the basics of DJing back in 2002, after 2 years of hammering vinyl in my house I started a boat party on the river Forth in Edinburgh which proved really popular, this progressed into promoting events in Scotland and we successfully motored along doing that until 2013 when I started Digital:Groove Records with partners Mikey Duncan and Woody. We felt that we wanted to create a label to tie in with our branded events at Digital:Groove so could release what we felt to be our style and we continue to do that today. Mikey Duncan, Woody and I found our way into the thoughts of Carl Cox when he invited us to room host at his legendary Music is Revolution events in the last 4 years of Space, Ibiza’s existence which really has been the highlight of our career to date. We spend most of our time running the label and playing at events these days.

When did you first have the idea for the conference? Why do it now? What was the catalyst?

The conference has been in our thoughts for many years as we felt Scotland really needed an event of this nature given that the country is so driven by electronic music but for one reason or another we could not commit to the project until June last year when we made the decision to make it happen. Through our label we can see different levels of where DJs, promoters and producers would benefit from a little better direction or I bit more education on certain things. We feel that there is so much potential talent out there with very little or no platform to educate and inspire on to bigger and better things.

Who is involved? How many people? What do they all bring?

Mikey Duncan and Woody from Digital:Groove are both heavily involved in the project from an operational side, I have worked with both for many years and we have a great understanding of each other which really helps and we have Scottish Businessman Jim Jenner looking after the financial side of the business so we are in good hands all round. There are other industry leading operatives helping from all angles as well and its really refreshing to see the positivity surrounding SEMCON.

How hard has it been to get off the ground? Have the authorities been any help at all with funding etc for example?

The main objective for us was to make sure we had enough funding internally to start the business and get us where we had to get to quickly which we managed so in terms of getting it off the ground it was made easier by having funds to draw on, we decided in its first year to self-fund the event. A lot of hard work has been going on in the background since June 2019 securing partnerships with the top brands in the industry buy I must say these people have been nothing short of amazing with the support we have been given.

What were the key things you wanted to get right, topics to cover etc?

Our main objectives for SEMCON was to make this an inclusive event for all in terms of somebody who is thinking about being in the industry right through to seasoned professionals, non-genre specific and affordable. The topics we will cover complement our objectives so we are really happy with where we are at the moment.

Who is it for? Who do you think should attend and who will benefit?

The event is for anybody, we have split the venue into 2 sections. The Academy which is designed for absolutely anybody from beginners to students learning their way into the industry as well as pro’s who want to brush up on certain things then there’s the Professional Theatre’s which will drill right into things like business matters for pros, product masterclasses, A&R 121 Feedback and you can also get a flavour of what goes on at the world’s leading music school with Point Blank. Both sections will be split by a 500-capacity networking zone hosted by media giant Wunderground, we hope this will see people connect and help each other in their quest as well as getting involved in mini-workshops throughout both days.

Tell us about some of the best things you have on offer, best talks, workshops etc.

We really have a plethora of exciting activities ranging from Pioneer DJs brand new product showcase which we don’t even know what it is yet but we have been promised something special, Defected’s MD Wez Saunders and his team are on the main auditorium stage discussing their last 20 years in business, Carl Cox’s promoters Dave Browning and Eoin Smyth are discussing the ‘White Isle Lowdown’. Masterclasses from Akai, Denon DJ, Serato to name a few the list is vast and so exciting. We have top speakers flying in from all over the world who are at the very top of the game and we will have some very special guests that we will keep a secret for now.

What is the local scene like, we’ve heard Scotland has a thriving scene? Does it need something like the conference to bring it together and develop it?

Scotland is absolutely thriving when it comes to electronic music with promoters like Terminal V putting on absolutely huge events in Edinburgh, the list of sizable and well attended events is endless in Scotland just now and we need to add to this with education and to give people a better understanding of the industry. We feel that we can complement the scene by introducing a substantial conference that the country can be proud of for years to come.

What are you most looking forward to about the conference?

Personally, I’m looking forward to the buzz of opening the doors to attendees that are hungry to succeed in the industry and to potentially see the next crop of musical superstars hailing from Scotland.

For more information on SEMCON head to their Official Website here.