Flashback: 2014 MIDEM Music Conference

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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 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.