Flashback: 2014 MIDEM Music Conference

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Since my first day at Berklee Valencia, one of the highlights for all of the Global Entertainment & Music Business program Master’s candidates was the prospect of attending the Midem conference.  The annual music conference, Midem was held in Cannes, France from February 1st-February 4th.  This conference was the first official music conference that I’ve ever attended and it was also my first time visiting France.  Overall, these two factors contributed to a valuable and enjoyable experience.

Let’s briefly recap the events:

Initially on the first day I tried to remember all of the useful tips that had been driven and embedded to all of our heads. It could have been overwhelming at first sight—but fortunately I mapped out a game plan in advance and upon my arrival tweaked a few things with the assistance of the “Midem Smartphone App.”  My own personal interests were in the following areas: artist & repertoire field, music publishing, and digital streaming platforms.  I planned to attend events that catered to those specific areas.

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The “Midem Smartphone App” was my best friend over the course of the three-day period that I was in attendance.  It sent reminders/alerts for some of the panels and events, and you could also select your favorite events to add to your own calendar within the app.  This allowed me to use my time efficiently in order to maximize my experience by visiting the different exhibitors and attending the panels that were of interest to me.  Many of the topics related to growth, sustainability and innovation since the theme for this year’s conference was “Get back to Growth? Make it Sustainable.”

“The one peculiar thing that struck a chord within me was the lack of music.  We were at a music conference that didn’t play much music at all.  During the evenings on site there were live shows here and there, but music wasn’t heard throughout the course of the day.  On one occasion there was a brief dance number performed by Brazilian dancers and a few drummers.”

One of the Midem Talks that I highly anticipated on attending featured Lyor Cohen and was moderated by Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records.  I really enjoyed the dialogue between Lyor and Tom.  Although I had been following Lyor’s career for some time, it was awesome to hear him and witness him tell it/re-live those moments firsthand.  It seemed as though two good friends were just catching up on old times.  They discussed Lyor’s journey and briefly scratched the surface of his new venture, 300.

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Another highlight was the Midem Talk with emerging UK artist, Rita Ora.  I was somewhat familiar with her as an artist and I remembered her song “R.I.P” from a few years ago and of her Roc Nation affiliation, but outside of that I didn’t know much about her.  It was enlightening to hear about VEVO’s partnership with her to develop her as an artist while promoting her on their platform. She ended up debuting at #1 on the UK charts with the assistance of this partnership.  This showcased innovative ways of how artists are partnering with brands/platforms to assist in launching their careers.

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Ultimately, I met a lot of wonderful people from across the globe and received and handed out numerous business cards.  I had a few successful meetings with different people from different companies.  It was a realistic portrayal because it wasn’t all glitz and glamour.  Two of my other scheduled meetings were no shows for different reasons (one person sustained an injury and the other forgot about it).  These experiences helped to weed out the people whom I would want to keep in touch with after the conference was over.

It was an amazing networking opportunity, and there are people who I’m already in contact with.  I didn’t enter this conference with the mindset of securing a job, but I knew that I would meet people who could potentially share the knowledge and resources that I’ve been looking for in regards to my career interests.

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Nautical Themed Pashmina Afghan

My MIDEM afterthoughts may be explained if you imagine that the music industry were represented by the boats in the picture below.

MIDEM BOATS

Those 20 million Euro yachts on the right represent the ‘big dogs’ of the major labels who spent their time on panels talking about the need to go back to ‘traditional ways’ of A&R but had no answer as to why that traditional model ever stopped. ‘What’s wrong with a good old fashioned sail boat?’

To the left are the modest and sturdy sail boats standing independent to those to the right. They set the trend for the current music industry and have always done so. There are only two boats, much fewer than those to the right but the grandeur is still there.

Take Lyor Cohen’s new venture 300 for example. Here we have a boat that wouldn’t be seen dead in Cannes as it stays harbored in Monaco. Lyor is a powerhouse but is trying to invest in a new sail boat. His talk at MIDEM ended with Tom Silverman from the New Music Seminar welcoming Lyor into the Independent sector, stating “you’re going to find like it’s much more like the 80′s again.” This boat called 300 is a label that doesn’t need a welcome party, Google has that covered.

On the yachts, you can hardly move without being trodden on by $845 boat shoes. Representatives of various streaming services that marginally differ from one another converse in shouting matches, trying to get the attention of four men sat in the corner eating caviar and drinking don. Over the noise however, two words keep coming through, they are ‘digital’ and ‘streaming’.

I spent a large proportion of my MIDEM with the Sail Boat that is Sounds Australia. It was nice being around down to earth music lovers. People who are in the industry for the right reasons, who are working for a brand that holds some moral integrity and is taking the music industry to a better place. An interesting statement that The Mae Trio posed during their performance at the Aussie Barbecue showcase was “considering this is a music conference, where is all the music?!”

I didn’t go into MIDEM expecting a SXSW atmosphere. At the same time I didn’t expect the focal point of the festival to be the Superbowl. I spent the night of the Superbowl party much like all of the other people in the room, not actually paying attention. I did tune in for the halftime show and that’s when I realised that the Industry is a hybrid of the two boats above. Here we have the branding, the advertisements, the fans but also Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers who went back to basics and put on a kick ass show.

They say the happiest two days in a mans life are : the day he buys a boat, and the day he sells it.

MIDEM demonstrated what I love and hate about the current state of the industry. The music industry isn’t for sail. (pun intended)

Here’s a nice picture with Ben, the conference manager of MIDEM.

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Midem 2014 – My student experience

Midem is the number one event in Europe for music business people to come together and bring what they can offer to the industry. It is set-up on the beautiful French Riviera where one can gaze at some 50 feet yachts for the entire day while enjoying delightfully expensive, although very ordinary coffee. All sarcasm set aside, I had a delightful extended weekend away from the crunch of studying, in the unexampled company of my good friends and classmates.

 

– Resume reprobative hair-splitting – 

As exciting as it was to attend talks from legendary executives (i.e. : Lyor Cohen), one could easily get discouraged by the general stagnating state of the industry. To clarify, it felt like all the talks and panelists where saying a lot to not really say much in the end, the general consensus always reverted to the point that it was all about the music to start with – so why on earth did this ever change?!

With all due respect to the brilliant executives that they are, with the illustrious career paths and resumes to back it up, this is a no-brainer type of statement. The only reason why it ever changed is because they thought they could get away with turning music into a factory product. And when faced with the occasional narrow (cornering) questions from the audience, a general discomfort and awkward moments of staring at each other would take-over amongst the panelists.
I’m not trying to rant, or be disrespectful even, but it felt very much like the general topic was always to try and save the music industry with revolutionary innovative ideas that will ‘change the game’, but no one tries to take that leap of faith that could potentially instigate this change.

But we’re talking about the people who thought that digital would just be a phase, so I don’t really expect anything other than a certain level of comfort and reluctance to change radically. So they just take their time and literally take over a decade to start shining a light on the right path to adopt. If it weren’t for music business gurus by the likes of future music business leader and key growing player Benji Rogers of Pledgemusic, I would say we would be better off throwing-in the towel.

And then I got the chance to meet some interesting people. The good people from Sounds Australia really showed their independent spirit and threw an Aussie BBQ party with three stunning performances from Jeff Lang (amazing guitarist who uses effects like a modern Hendrix with an acoustic guitar), talented singer/songwriter Sherill Morris, and the harmony-infused amazing Mae Trio that gave me goosebumps all throughout this lovely Monday lunch. We also shared a few laughs and drinks during and after the conference. I also met this year’s winners of the MidemLab competition – Midem’s startup and app developer competition – NaGual Sounds on the night before the laureates had been announced. We had a good time at a Carlton hotel party, exchanged contacts and learned all about the software they had been developing, needless to say I was really happy to see these guys win the next day.

If I were to pick two quotes from the weekend, I’d have to go with Rita Ora, who despite her incredibly good looks kind of ruined it when she expressed her deepest sentiments for the Vevo Lift campaign she was ‘blessed’ be a part of – ‘I love how the internet and the media is completely controlling what we do’…
And in second place comes Lyor Cohen, who is venturing into setting-up an independent label backed with a partnership with Google – let’s not even go there – with a statement that is beautifully raw and full of integrity to the challenging role that is that of a businessman in the music industry – ‘when you f*** with good […] you miss the opportunity of capturing and maybe being a part of magnificent’ and later concluded with ‘sign stars, don’t dust-bums-off’.

I really didn’t expect to walk out of Midem with an internship sealed, or even a job because frankly very few companies that were there put-up an appealing front. I went in not expecting much, came out with a lot more than what I was hoping, and a lot less money on my bank account. It was more of a networking workshop/experience that has taught me a lot about people as professionals who enjoy playing the game, as well as colleagues as ardent white-collars, some of whom will do pretty much anything to be able to play the game.