Conference Hosting Guidelines

Purpose of these Guidelines

The Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) is a non-profit, community-based organization (http://music-encoding.org/community/) whose aim is to define a system for encoding musical documents in a machine-readable structure. MEI brings together specialists from various music research communities, including technologists, librarians, historians, and theorists in a common effort to define best practices for representing a broad range of musical documents and structures.

Among its activities, MEI oversees the organization of an annual conference, the Music Encoding Conference (MEC) to provide a meeting place for scholars interested in discuss the modeling, generation and uses of music encoding in traditional music studies (from editing to analysis), computational musicology, and music librarianship. While the conference has an emphasis on the development and uses of MEI, any contribution to other scholarly approaches to music encoding is welcome. In occasion of MEC, the annual MEI Members Meeting is held and the conference is an opportunity for the organization of tutorials, workshops and meetings related to MEI and its activities.

Building upon the experience of past conferences, the present document provides guidelines to those interested in making a bid for the organization of future conferences. Deviations from the following guidelines are possible upon agreement with the MEI Board, which is ultimately responsible for their approval.

Proposals for future conferences will be accepted until the date specified in the call for proposals. The Board will reach a final determination well in advance of the next annual conference so that the location of the following conference can be announced at least a year in advance.

General Information on MEC

The MEC has been held annually since 2013. Historically, the conference has been organized by institutions with some interest in MEI, such as MEI member institutions or those hosting MEI-based projects.

It is preferred that future conferences continue to be held during the third and/or fourth weeks of May, but some latitude is possible. The organizers will make sure that dates do not overlap with other major conferences of either music or digital humanities interest. Hosting the conference just before or after another relevant event in the same location may increase attendance, but because of the possible side-effects of such a choice, this possibility should be a matter of discussion with the MEI board.

The usual duration of MEC is four days. Two days are devoted to formal paper presentations (single-track) as well as an MEI Members meeting and a poster session. These days are preceded by one day for tutorials and workshops, mainly of MEI interest, and followed by an “un-conference day” devoted to collaborative work and interest group meetings. For the purpose of this document, this format is assumed to be the preferred one, but deviations may be considered.

As a reflection of the growing interest in MEI, attendance has risen year by year to reach 90 delegates in 2015, and it is projected to increase. Details about previous attendance are available on request.

Requirements

Location

The ideal location will be one well-connected with the rest of the country through a public transportation system, or will be at a short distance from an international airport; will offer a welcoming context and a number of accommodation options. The presence of musical institutions/libraries/museums, good climate and availability of cultural events at the time of the conference will be a plus.

MEI attempts to ensure that over time the conference is held in locations reflecting the distribution of the members of the MEI community. Since its first edition, the location has alternated between Europe and North America:

  • 21-24 May 2013: Mainz, Germany (hosted by Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz)
  • 20-23 May 2014: Charlottesville, VA, USA (hosted by University of Virginia Libraries)
  • 18-21 May 2015: Florence, Italy (hosted by IAML-Italia)
  • 17-20 May 2016: Montréal, Canada (hosted by the Schulich School of Music, McGill University)
  • 16-29 May 2017: Tours, France (hosted by the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance, Université François-Rabelais Tours)

Nevertheless, hosting proposals are welcome from any location.

Venue

The venue of the conference should be near or well-connected to the city center by public transportation (train or airplane) and offer a variety of accommodation options.

Accounting for continued growth in attendance, three to five rooms, each comfortably seating about 20 to 30 participants should be available for the pre-conference tutorials and workshops, scheduled one day in advance of the main conference. These rooms should have excellent internet connectivity, projection equipment, and ample power outlets. Ideally, these rooms will be located within a short distance of each other.

For the main conference, at least one room seating 120 people should be available. Projection and audio capabilities (for the speaker and music playback) must be provided. In recent years, the main conference has started with an opening keynote on the first evening; that is, on the tutorial/workshop day. Therefore, the main room (or a similarly-suited alternative) should be available beginning on day one.

During the whole of MEC, wireless access should be available for all registered participants, preferably allowing the connection of multiple devices by the same user. Connectivity to the “Eduroam” network (www.eduroam.org) is desirable. Sufficient power outlets (or multiplier cables) must be available.

Between 10 and 15 posters are to be expected for the poster session, typically held on day two, for which stands, attachment material, tables for accompanying demonstrations must be provided. Ideally, power outlets should be available close to the poster stands. If possible, the posters should be displayed in a room close to the main conference room, and the posters should remain available for viewing after the poster session; that is, throughout days three and four.

For the un-conference day (day 4), room requirements are less predictable. In general, a setup similar to the pre-conference day; that is, several small, closely collocated rooms, is most appropriate.

Adequate space in the main venue should be available for refreshments/lunches. A boxed lunch is a good option since it is low-cost and requires minimal set-up, clean-up and transition time. As an alternative, lunches and refreshments should be served at a very short walking distance from the main venue.

People

Organization of a successful MEI conference requires the active participation of a number of people, with the main tasks divided between a Program Committee (PC) and an Organizing Committee (OC).

The OC is responsible for the financial aspects of the conference, registration, scheduling, and other venue-related and logistical issues, such as accommodations and travel arrangements for participants and invited speakers. At least two members are required, and experience has demonstrated that at least these two should live or work near the proposed location. The signatory of the proposal will chair the OC. Two co-chairs may share the responsibilities of the role, but in the interest of efficiency, it is be preferable if only one acts as the main point of contact between the OC and the PC and between the OC and the MEI Board. Typically, the OC will include other members with special assignments. A member of the MEI Board will be available to participate in the OC as an advisor.

In addition to the members of the OC, additional on-site support will be necessary: a) to register participants and to assist them throughout the conference (e.g., graduate students or local clerical staff); and b) to assist on technical matters (e.g., a technician available before and during presentations).

The PC is responsible for the call for papers, review of submissions, and programming aspects of the two central days of the conference. The PC selects one or two keynote speakers for the conference in consultation with the OC, which remains responsible for associated costs and logistics. The PC is also involved in the organization of the first and last day of the program which is a shared responsibility between the PC and the MEI Board. The Chair of the PC is chosen by the MEI Board in consultation with the Chair(s) of the OC. In consultation with the MEI Board, and considering the geographical distribution of the members of the MEI community, the Chair of the PC gathers other members of the PC (two to four) from various music research communities (technologists, librarians, historians).

Conference website and conference management software

The OC is responsible for creating and managing a conference website where all information is promptly and clearly published, following the planned schedule. The MEI website will redirect the page http://music-encoding.org/community/conference to the current conference website. Previous conference websites (managed directly by MEI until 2015) are available at the address http://music-encoding.org/archive.

The use of a conference management system is a responsibility of the OC. In recent years, ConfTool (http://conftool.net) has been used for the conference and its continued use is recommended, but not required. Set-up and maintenance of the conference management software is a responsibility that should be assigned to a member of the OC who is comfortable with the technical and time commitment. The member with this role provides an interface between the PC and the OC and must work well with both committees. In case ConfTool is chosen, MEI can provide initial advice/assistance to the ConfTool manager and possibly financial assistance.

Financial considerations

The conference host (represented by the Chair of the OC) is responsible for all expenses generated by the conference. In addition, the conference should not generate a profit for the hosting institution.

Funds that remain after all bills are paid should be transferred to the MEI account at the Mainz Academy of Science, to be used for the following year’s conference. After each conference, the MEI Board will inform the incoming Chair of the OC about the availability of funds, but in making the initial budget it should be assumed that no funds will be available.

As a general rule, registration costs for fully-paying attendees should be around $100-120 and not exceed $150. It is expected that students will be charged a reduced fee. Payment of the appropriate registration fee should provide all attendees with at least:

  • light refreshments for morning and afternoon breaks for the entire duration of MEC;
  • lunches, at least during the two days of the main conference (days 2 and 3);
  • a conference package (conference and local information, paper, pencils, etc.);
  • assistance before and throughout the conference;
  • access to a wireless connection.

In previous years, complimentary local transportation tickets, thumb drives, access to exhibitions, etc. have been included in the conference registration and distributed in the conference package.

Some of the costs associated with the organization will be directly proportional to the number of participants, while others will be fixed. It is expected that some of the fixed costs, such as:

  • conference posters and publicity;
  • helpers at the conference desk and technical assistance;
  • rental fees for rooms (to be avoided as much as possible);
  • costs for keynote speakers;
  • conference management system

will be covered by the host institution or through grants and/or via sponsorship.

The cost of receptions held during the conference is dependent on a number of factors that often cannot be predetermined. Sponsored events are encouraged when suitable funders can be found. In previous years, at least one catered evening event has been included with registration, and a conference dinner at additional cost. For such evening events, participants can be required to register separately, and registering additional paying guests should be possible as well. Participation in the conference dinner, if not included in the registration fee, should not be compulsory and the cost should not be expensive (under $50). Its cost must be the same for all participants (that is, without reduction in price for student attendees). The price should include table water and may include wine or other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages; extra beverages may be made available for purchase by the individual diners.

All catering arrangements should consider common dietary requirements and food allergies.

Reimbursement of the expenses of the keynote speakers, such as for accommodations and travel, may be provided by the organizers upon agreement with the invitees. It is highly desirable that the expenses associated with invitation of guest speakers are not factored in the determination of the participants’ fees, and that separate funding such as grants or sponsorships are sought.

The final budget will depend on many specific and local factors. Given the difficulty of predicting the exact number of registrations, costs are often difficult to calculate and extra care should be taken to ensure that they are manageable. To ensure a better control of the figures, past organizers have established late or early-bird registration fees. On-site registration should be discouraged. The MEI Board is available to offer suggestions, based on previous experience, on how to make the organization affordable.

Accommodation and travel

The OC should publish ahead of time on the conference website a list of reasonably priced hotels near the conference venue. A negotiated rate for conference attendees is suggested, but not required. In either case, an adequate number of rooms should be available near the venue.

Information about local transportation; that is, between the venue and local hotels, should be provided well in advance of the conference.

Timeline

It is expected that the dates and venue for the conference will be announced at the preceding conference. For example, dates of the 2018 MEI conference dates will be announced during the 2017 MEI conference.

After a host has been selected, the MEI Board and the local host representative work together closely on planning and organization. The following timeline gives a rough schedule for the essential events in the planning of the conference.

  • Year preceding the conference
    • Spring (March): proponents are notified of the decision
    • May: the hosting venue and dates are announced during MEC
    • August: PC and OC members are finalized
    • September: Call for papers, arrangement of keynote speakers
    • December: Authors of accepted papers and posters are notified
  • Year of the conference
    • January: preliminary program published; information available concerning hotel and travel arrangements; opening of registration
    • early April: Closing of registration

Organizers are asked to provide, along with their proposal, a detailed timeline covering the entire period between the date of the proposal to the date of the conference.

How to make a proposal

The proposal should come from the person who will eventually chair the organizing committee, explaining his/her relationship with the hosting institution and their shared motivation. Proposing two co-chairs for the organizing committee is also acceptable.

If basic requirements are met, local organizers are encouraged to contact the Administrative Chair of the MEI Board in advance to discuss their ideas, and possible difficulties, and to be creative: the MEI Board is willing to work with hosts to reflect local interests and strengths.

The bid should consist of a PDF document of no more than 10 pages addressing the above requirements in detail, and also explaining:

  • Motivations of the organizing institutions and their representatives (including a statement of their experience with organizing similar events)
  • Venue and its suitability for a conference of this size and type (please describe the rooms and technology available)
  • Local context (typical climate, transportation, activities of interest) and housing situation (average availability and rates, indicating how the organizers will ensure availability of rooms in the proposed dates)
  • Detailed budgetary plan, including:
    • estimate of level of support the institution or sponsors or grants may offer towards certain expenses
    • estimate of the level of administrative support that is expected (a staff member or other personnel who will be working on organizational tasks; use of an existing license of a conference management system etc.; how student assistants would be rewarded for their work, etc.)
    • registration fee scheme, including possible student support (e.g. reduced fees, affordable housing, travel grants) and late registration fees
    • estimate for different scenarios: for example how to manage a lower (or higher) participation
  • Detailed timeline of the organization, and people involved

Bids are assessed by the MEI Board, which makes the final decision based on the suitability of the location and venue proposed, the level of support being committed by the institution and sponsors, the existence a suitable plan to reach financial break-even, and other factors which may affect the overall success of the conference.

*Approved by the MEI Board, November 2015*