Ian Hogarth is the co-founder and CEO of Songkick, a London-based startup that allows fans to organize and track their favorite bands and track concerts and dates. Billboard.biz welcomes guest colums - contact Jem.Aswad@billboard.com or any Billboard staffer for details.
MIDEM 2011 was my second year at the conference. Last year Songkick was fortunate to be selected as one of the MidemLAB startups and I had a great experience presenting our product to a new audience, one that was skewed towards the established recorded music industry. I'd heard epic boondoggle stories from years gone by, but the tone in 2010 was serious and focused. The meetings that year also led to a couple of excellent partnerships for Songkick, so I returned this year with high expectations.
MIDEM 2011 feels like a year of transition. The turnout of digital companies was much stronger. There was the first-ever MIDEM Hack Day. And the most well attended event of the long weekend was a giant mixer thrown by seven companies including five technology start-ups: Mobile Roadie, MxP4, Songkick, Soundcloud and Topspin, along with the digital music blog Hypebot and Berklee school of music.
The atmosphere of transition inevitably produced a few quirks. I spent a couple of days working out of one of the three ridiculously opulent beachfront hotels where all meetings seem to be scheduled, the Majestic. Many of the bigger companies were staying there, but along with most of the startups we found cheaper places a little further out of town (perhaps expect that to be a trend for 2012). Given that I was mainly demoing our site, I asked the staff at the Majestic front desk if I could access the WiFi, to which she replied frostily, "10 Euros for an hour." It's hard to imagine that happening at a truly digital-focused conference like SxSW, where all the main hotels offer free WiFi to encourage these kinds of meetings.
This disconnect was even more marked at the final Hack Day presentations, where 20 hackers had worked round the clock to showcase their new creations -- but unfortunately, there was no WiFi. So instead of live demos they had to make do with pre-recorded videos. In addition, the audience for the Hack Day final presentations appeared to be 90% tech start-ups with only a few curious members of the record labels or publishing houses venturing along (see " Generational Clash @MIDEM 2011: Can The Old Guard And The Young Guns Get Along?"). Perhaps presenting the showcase on the main stage could have led to a more diverse audience.
These are teething pains, though, and I'm sure they will be improved next year as the MIDEM organizers build on the success of MidemNET and continue to drive an agenda increasingly skewing towards digital. It was very refreshing to see in attendance executives from many of the major media companies who are increasingly willing and enthusiastic to take meetings with tech start-ups.
That said, probably my favorite dinner of the weekend was the when 25 or so people who had been involved in the Hack Day -- independent developers and hackers from the Echo Nest, Last.fm, Extension.fm, MusiXmatch and others -- went out together for a long meal. The conversation was full of camaraderie, inspiration and enthusiasm -- for building, hacking and making anew.