Between the music industry panel discussions at this year's MIDEM conference in Cannes, France, Billboard senior editorial analyst Glenn Peoples picks the brains of attendee executives to learn what's happening behind the scenes.
Exiting Opportunities In Online Ticketing
-- If you want to want to get really excited about the possibilities of the new music industry, talk to somebody at an upstart ticketing company. Their products and vision will bring back your faith in the value of music. That's because the worlds of technology and music are intersecting in exciting ways in the online ticketing market. Such a conversation is a welcome break from the uncertainty and gloom coming out of many other quarters.
At the MidemNet Lounge I chatted with Ticket ABC founder Mark McLaughlin. Based in Dublin, Ireland, Ticket ABC is a white-label mobile ticketing solution with 12 to 15 venues -- including Fabric and Pacha -- and desires to soon launch in other markets, like the United States. And he's looking beyond typical ticketing clients to opportunities such as brands.
McLaughlin says he couldn't wait for Live Nation and Ticketmaster to merge. Instead of being a threat, he sees the merger as an opportunity to pick up clients too hesitant to do business with a competing promoter and venue.
And his vision for integrating brands into ticketing is a fine example of the opportunities created by new ticketing technologies. Telecoms like Nokia could create value through the live experience rather than digital music, McLaughlin argued. Imagine the consumer relationships that could be built if people bought tickets at a telecom's website. At the very least the telecom would know which of the concertgoers were also its customers. "It should have been Comes With Tickets, not Comes With Music," he said of the company's underperforming mobile music service.
Kobalt CEO: The Value of Music Needs to Be Retained
-- One underrepresented theme at MIDEM is the value of music. Willard Ahdritz, founder/CEO of Kobalt, has been one of the few people I've talked with in Cannes to really underscore the need to retain value of music. It may go without saying that the value of music should be protected, but this year it really seems to be going unsaid. While everybody here is talking about "the cloud" and "mobile," there's little discourse about the impact and implications of pushing out massive amounts of incredibly commoditized music to consumers.
Ahdritz made his point in a chat at the annual Billboard/Midem breakfast, and he had a great imitation of the current mindset of the music industry. "You want 10 kilos?" he asked as his tall body mimicked a shoveling motion. "Here's your 10 kilos." If people really want to sell music by the kilo, there will be negative consequences, he argued. One of his suggestions to beat back that value degradation is to better segment the market. In fact, there are many direct-to-fan services that allow artists and labels to separate the low-value fans from the high-value fans. So if Ahdritz's message catches on, the services are already there.
"Music like water" is a popular idea, and it's clear that's the direction music is headed. Indeed, everywhere you look at MIDEM, attention is being given to digital services that deliver music by the kilo. That begs the question, will music become cheap tap water delivered by a local utility? Or will it be like more expensive bottled water sold by a profitable beverages industry?
A Dimming Situation for Western Acts In Japan
-- Some people would consider working as a marketing consultant for major labels to be a dream job. If you're an American living in Japan who is fluent in Japanese, you can find yourself a valuable niche.
I was introduced to Benny Rubin and his interesting story in a typically crowded hotel lounge in Cannes. Rubin, who has lived in Japan for three years, does digital marketing for major labels. He has taken the English language social marketing of artists like Linkin Park and Justin Bieber, and translated for Japanese fans. Although all major label artists have a social media presence -- some do all the communication directly -- the messages would be lost on most Japanese readers, he says. "They may understand the words, but they wouldn't understand the essence of it."
Rubin described a dimming situation for Western acts in Japan. Fewer Western artists are getting signed to the majors and the indies are not signing them either, he told me. And he feels that trend has lead Japanese consumers to become less interested in Western music in general. In the past, Western music was popular enough that fans did his job for him, translating from English into Japanese the social media messages of their favorite artists. Now, he says, he is doing what the fans are not.
The numbers bear him out. In 2010, foreign repertoire was down 12% in units and 26% in value, according to the figures released last week by the Recording Industry Association of Japan. Domestic repertoire units were up 1% and value was down 5%.