Exclusive: Midem Director Bruno Crolot On The International Music Trade Fair's Ambitions, Future (Q&A)

Taking place Feb. 1-4 at its long-time home of the Palais des Festivals, Cannes, the 48th annual edition of Midem will, once again, see thousands of executives from the music, technology and brand industries come together under one roof. In 2013, more than 6,400 participants from 75 countries and 3,000 companies participated in the world-renowned music conference, according to Paris-based organizer Reed MIDEM.
Confirmed keynote speakers for this year’s event include former Warner Music Group recorded music chief Lyor Cohen, discussing his new label venture 300; William Morris Endeavor global head of music Marc Geiger; pioneering EDM artist and president of authors’ society CISAC Jean Michel Jarre; British singer Rita Ora and Oliver Francois, chief marketing officer and head of the Fiat brand for Chrysler Group, among others. MIDEM 2014 will also feature its regular programme of competitions, seminars, talks, showcases and its live proposition, the MIDEM Festival.
Speaking exclusively to Billboard.biz ahead of this year's edition, Bruno Crolot, Reed MIDEM director of music markets, discusses the conference’s international expansion, staying relevant to the core music industry and why it won’t be leaving Cannes any time soon.

Billboard.biz: In addition to the regular mix of keynote speakers, seminars and competitions, is there anything new for this year’s Midem?
Bruno Crolot: The big focus for this year is that we will have a central theme for Midem, which is “Back to Growth? Make it Sustainable!” and all our content is linked to this theme. We believe that we are at a tipping point right now regarding the music industry and it’s time for the industry to focus on the ways and means to move back towards growth. The other big change is that we have a country of honor for the first time since 2010. For 2014, Brazil is Midem’s country of honor and will have a really pivotal place in the show. Also, we changed the format for the live concerts this year. We wanted to re-focus very much on the B2B angle meaning that all the concerts during Midem Festival are brought to us by our clients, with artists from Brazil, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, Malaysia and many more. For a lot of these acts, it’s a challenge to engage with the music business community and we wanted to help provide the business value that we need to deliver to all our customers.

The past ten years has seen the music business experience rapid growth in emerging markets. How has this informed this year’s programme?
One of our specific points is to be much more international. We will have over 75 countries represented at Midem. Obviously, all of the more developed countries will be there and we will also have 5 new country pavilions at Midem: Cuba, Chile, Armenia, Cyprus and the Arab Emirates. A big part of the global growth for the industry is coming from emerging markets, if we can still say emerging, as many of them have already emerged. On the other hand, we see the Japanese presence skyrocketing for this Midem, with around 50% increase in attendees compared to 2013.
How else has the theme of “Back to Growth? Make it Sustainable!” informed this year’s programme?
We want Midem to be a toolkit for our customers and participants and in this toolkit there are three elements. The first one is very much having the entire music industry ecosystem in Cannes, including all the key players from the core businesses: labels, publishers, distributors, collections societies. But also the key tech players, brands and the agencies, who are bringing more and more value to the industry. The second thing is the dynamic created by the competitions that we run. Another important part of what we bring is obviously the educational element, which is why Midem Academy is back this year. We are looking to further push the learning element for mid-level and the upper level executives - in addition to having the very high-level keynotes that bring real value to participants and come from all sectors of the industry.
This year’s event runs slightly later in the year compared to previous editions and takes place the first weekend of February. Is this a permanent scheduling change?
Initially we moved our dates to avoid being on the same weekend as the Grammys, who themselves moved from their usual dates due to the Olympics. But it is very likely that we will keep this new date. Many of our clients say its better having it slightly later in the year because they have a bit more time after the holidays to prepare for it.
What are your targets for delegate numbers and visitors?
Our targets are pretty much even to last year. The final figure for last year was 6,400 visitors overall and this year we are heading for stable numbers. January is a huge month every year [for tickets], so we have many registrations this month.
When you were appointed Reed MIDEM director of music markets in 2011, you re-invented the conference increasing the involvement of brands, agencies and the tech industry. Will their presence continue to grow year-on-year?
Yes. Each year we have more brands and agencies participating. This year we will have a new format called the Think Summit and it will involve people from Nike, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Activision coming to source music. We also have more brands and agencies coming to engage and understand how this industry works and to develop their business. The number of start-ups is growing every year as well. Not only those selected as Midemlab finalists, but many others who are looking to build contacts within the industry.
In line with the growing presence of tech and brand companies, do you feel that Midem still presents a quality offering to the core music industry?
Of course. They are at the heart of Midem. Maybe, due to obvious economic reasons, companies sometimes send less people, but very few companies decide not to attend at all. It’s a must-attend event, and the core business still makes up around 60% to 70% of our attendance. The other areas [tech, brands and agencies] are growing, but the core industry is really the centre of the market.
Last year’s event featured an increased focus on the classical music industry, yet that sector features less heavily in this year’s conference programme. Why the turnaround?
It is true [that there is less of a focus on classical this year]. We decided to build this year's Midem around the central theme “Back to Growth? Make it Sustainable!” This is relevant for the entire music industry, including the classical sector. Therefore there is less of a specific focus on classical this year, although there will still be many participants from the classical sector and strong events dedicated to classical.

In 2004 Reed MIDEM signed a ten-year agreement with the city of Cannes to maintain its international tradeshows on the Cote d'Azur. Has that contract been renewed ?
The relationship with the city of Cannes is still strong and there are no plans for Midem to transfer to another town. I often hear rumors that Midem will leave Cannes to go in another place, but it is not true. The partnership is stronger than ever.

What are your plans for sustaining and growing Midem for the future?
We want to expand our brand and skill set internationally. We started this year with the Dubai Music Week, where we put together a two-day conference to run alongside the concerts. It was very interesting for us in terms of activity and branding for this region and we definitely want to develop this in the future. We would really like to set up one or two other Midem events internationally. They could be standalones or could be linked to other events. This is something that we really want to develop and build upon our brand activity.
And what about the core Midem conference?
I believe we have a strong future. I think we strongly reflect the industry itself and need to be in almost constant evolution to follow trends and developments and this is really a challenge every year. We have huge assets to rely on and there’s still much work to do, but the future looks bright.
How would you judge 2014 to be a successful Midem?
To me a successful Midem is a Midem where our customers do a lot of business, have fun, network and leave Cannes with more connections than when they arrived. Last year we had a slight decrease in numbers, around 3%, but many people told me that although there were a little less people, all the key people were there and their days were full of fruitful meetings. The post-show survey that we ran showed the strongest rise in satisfaction and the highest rate of satisfaction in many years. So if this year’s Midem is not too rainy and has the same business value for customers I would be very happy.