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.

MIDEM:: Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale

Starting January I tried to schedule meetings with industry professionals attending MIDEM this year.  I emailed to participate in Rethink workshop, instead of participating in it, I got to volunteer and help out during the first day of MIDEM. About 30 successful music industry experts joined the workshop that was organized and executed by Allen Bargfrede and Emilien Moyon from Berklee College of Music. Those participating  were tasked with coming up with an innovative business idea for one of 5 artists presented to them that day. The workshop gave me the opportunity to network with some participants especially when I got to meet a past high profile business partner from my previous job whom I’ve only known via email.

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I also had an opportunity to help out at the Korean Pavilion throughout this year’s MIDEM. There were more than 30 companies who attended from South Korea and 4 artists/team scheduled to perform at the “K-pop Night Out”. After PSY’s success in 2012, I heard people got more and more interested in KPOP and that was evident with the various producers, songwriters, and labels from all over the world that came to the booth willing to do business with Korea. Adding to my surprise was the fact that the media wanted to do interviews with the Korean artists. It was nice to see the Korean booth crowded, filled with meetings trying to do business with all the companies, and people showing lots of interests in KPOP. 

I ran into a friend who were on a tour with me back in 2010! You meet everyone at MIDEM!  
I got a text from my parents who are in Korea currently saying they saw me on the news. And also an article was released in Korean with my name on it!, about how MIDEM is a “must go conference”, approximately 30 of Berklee Valencia students referring us as the future music business leaders. I feel proud about it J I even had the honor of translating and helping out Kpop artists which was a great experience and seeing them perform that night was even better. I was already a huge fan of Dynamic Duo but now I’m crazy about them.

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There were several sessions I attended, one of my favorites was “Artists Speak to Artists: Dynamic Duo and VIXX, Building an Artist’s Career”. As a person who is interested in A&R, I really enjoyed the Building an Artist’s Career session because they discussed the strategies they used to seek out artists or songs. One thing I took away was the important of someone working in A&R having a strong commitment when they discover someone who they really believe in. I think some of these key points really will stick with as I move on in my career. They are definitely simple points, but sometimes its easy to get lost in the music industry and lose sight of what you love about your job in the first place.

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The 15 hour bus ride there and back was rough and tiring but the “networking” during day & night mad it well worth it. To be honest, I did not really attend all the workshops or conference sessions I originally planned and promised myself to go on my planner, but I definitely met a lot of people and came back with a stack of business cards. With 2 awesome volunteer opportunities, few meetings (random and planned),interviews, translating, and being in a Korean news article, I think I had a productive time at MIDEM this year. 

MIDEM, as experienced by me.

 Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. – Orison Swett Marden

  Going into MIDEM my focus was to network with as many people as possible in the hopes of developing some job opportunities come July.  No one was going to come up to me and say, “Hey there, would you like a job?”  the only way I was going to take anything out of MIDEM was to network, and network I did.  Though my random conversations at the conference , The Carlton and Morrison’s proved to be quite entertaining it was the meetings I arranged before hand that turned out to be the focal points of my entire trip and gave me the most insight about the industry.  After about 20 e-mails sent and a couple of replies,  I arranged 4 meetings and one volunteer opportunity.

Meeting 1

My first meeting was with Toomas Olljum an Estonian artist manager who works with some of Estonia’s biggest musicians female vocalist Iiris and the alternative band Ewert and the Two Dragons.   We spent close to an hour talking about all his different avenues of work including being a consultant for a Nordic Region festival called Tallin Music Week  and starting his own management company.  Toomas shared his story about how got into the industry and highlighted a lot of experiences that gave me insight on how to be a successful artist manager. One of the most important things he said was to “rarely say no to an opportunity” he delved into the importance on how every opportunity and every experience can be useful especially in the music industry.  So when he emailed to me to offer me the chance to work on some projects in Estonia for Tallin Music Week my immediate answer was yes.

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Meeting 2

  My second meeting was with Alastair Burns from HeartStop Music in Australia.  Lets just say this meeting didn’t go as well as the others. To be short and to the point the meeting fell through because I could´t find him during the Aussie BBQ.  Some takeaways for successful networking I learned from this encounter are; 1) Research/google the person you are meeting because their google picture might not be an accurate representation of what they look like in the present 2)  Set up a meeting in a space that is less crowded. All hope was not lost though as I received a very detailed e-mail from Alastair giving me a lot of good advice and insight about the music industry in Australia.

Heartstop

 

Meeting 3

My third meeting was with Scott Cohen one of the founders of The Orchard  a “pio­neer­ing music, video and film distribution company and top-ranked Multi Channel Network oper­at­ing in more than 25 global markets”.  This meeting out of all 4 was probably the most helpful and insightful in regards to my culminating experience project.  Scott was really interested in the band I was managing and was very insightful on how to develop the bands social media engagement.

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Meeting 4

My final meeting was with 141a Management  “a music management company representing artists from all music genres. They are one of the few companies who still believe in the old method of developing artists and not manufacturing them”.  This meeting came about rather randomly, I tried  to just walk into the British Music area to meet some of the London based companies and labels but that didn’t end up so well.  So once again I was left with an e-mails as my main avenue to network, but hey why not it worked before. I contacted 4 labels and didn’t hear back from any until my last night at MIDEM.  I got a message  from the assistant manager saying if I was still interested to meet her at the British Music lounge at 6.  I sat down at the table with 2 other people sitting down and they turned out to be the CEO of the company and another manager, before I knew it this meeting turned into a type of interview.  I expressed my interest in artist development and how I admire the fact that their company focuses on developing their artists and works hard to ensure their success rather than trying manufacturing it.  They continued to ask more questions and finally ended the meeting asking me if I was interested in a job and that if I was to send my resume in to their office so they can work out an offer.

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Conclusion

To be honest, I did not expect any of this when I got on that 15 hour bus ride to Canne.  I knew I was going to spend most of time trying to meet people rather than attending the various workshops and speeches. A lot of the people I met at random during the conference expressed confusion on why a graduate student would be attending the conference and at the time my only answer was to network but I think I got more out of it than that.  I got to talk to industry professionals and get an insight on the way the industry is working at the moment, and yes I know that the music industry is ever-changing but to foresee its future you have to understand where it came from and the problems that made it not successful,  MIDEM gave me some perspective on that. For me MIDEM was about seizing the opportunity at hand and I think I was able to do that.

 

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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RECORD LABEL PRACTICUM Blog 1. Midem By Chris Uribe

RECORD LABEL PRACTICUM

Blog 1. Midem

By Chris Uribe

 

Introduction

 

I arrived the first day without knowing what to expect and without a specific plan to follow. I’ve been in some music conventions before so I thought, “let’s play by ear”. By noon I had a schedule of the people I wanted to hear in the different forums, I made some appointments and I felt ready to live the experience, learn as much as possible, and start networking.

Lyor Cohen

 

There are some points I liked from this talk (besides the photos) that I want to underscore. First, he said that independent must be a business but he knows that building a business is not easy. The mission is to create a long and lasting statement beyond the music, which doesn’t lack internal and external order. In addition, as a risk taken, he stated that is hard to understand what he calls the “resistance of good”.  When something is good most of the people try to remain in this comfort zone instead of continuing to grow. For him, it’s crucial to make good great, and make great magnificent.

 

He also underlined the importance of his collaboration with MIT and Berklee as a means to understand web music related data in an efficient way which can be useful for the music industry. He pointed out the potential benefits of alliances with new tech company developers and the music industry providing the example of his collaboration with Google as an investor and twitter as an important partner in management.

 

He concluded saying that he is really open to hear and promote new artists for his new-INDEPENDENT company “300” which opened on November 2013. This company is composed of a small group of “smart and winner people” within the music industry who are leading careers of artists such as Jason Mraz.

 

Mark Taylor

 

We are in a world where anyone has a voice and wants to be heard. The main question is how we can be listened when we live immersed in the noise of tons of content, tools, apps, post, blogs, streams, etc. The point is not only to be different but also to be able to make differentiation from others. To get attention and loyalty is even harder  when the goal is to make profit in this new-era of marketing.

 

 

 

I was really surprised with this young entrepreneur, Director of the digital marketing company Venture Harbor, and consultant in more of 500 agencies digital marketing strategies. “Wow! This is what it could mean to be different,” I thought.

 

He still believes that Facebook is the most important viral social network. The difference in content is not enough to stand out in a crowd. In this ocean full of tons of information the content must be emotionally stimulating and remarkable. He used the example of Lady Gaga’s marketing plan, which is based in constantly attracting the attention and bringing new thing to audiences.

 

Conclusion

 

I was amazed to see how many independent labels, entrepreneurs, new companies, Ministries of Culture, and a wide diversity of artists get together to create networks that will build the future of the global music industry. After see the representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Chile Cuba, Spain etc., my personal questions were: Where is Mexico? Where are the musicians who complain about and against big companies because of the lack of opportunities? Where are those companies that own the local market and are supposed to be music dealers? Mexico has musicians who are capable of performing at the highest level in the world. The problem is that they have to survive within a local industry that is not interested in playing in the big leagues. I was very disappointed by the absence of my country in this conference and the consequences that this has for the music industry. My only hope is that Mexico could be part in the future of this “New music industry world” and its independent artists make their music heard beyond their local boundaries.

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.