Midem 2014: Takeaways & Survival Tips

Midem 2014 Inside the Brands and Fans Central Zone at the Palais in Cannes, France.

Photo: DESJARDINS / IMAGE & CO/Courtesy Midem

While its impossible to take in the entirety of Midem, the international music conference, over the course of its four bustling days several recurring themes became readily apparent, including, Google bashing, going all-in on streaming and major news announcements. And, by its end, we had pretty much figured out how to survive with our wallets and sated appetites still mostly intact.


Blame Google: YouTube and Google-bashing was so popular at this year’s Midem that it practically became a new sport. Paul McGuinness, Deezer CEO Axel Dauchez and BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor were just a few of those laying into the tech giant’s failure to take down pirate sites. As McGuinness noted in his Billboard Industry Icon Award acceptance speech, “They need to show corporate and social responsibility. Take down the illegal sites, keep them down and clear the way for the legal digital distributers like iTunes, Spotify, Deezer, the new Jimmy Iovine Beats service.”

Stream or Die: Streaming as music’s promised land was this year’s Midem mantra. Nearly every panel or hotel lobby discussion spoke of the promise of subscription models, with Marc Geiger’s Feb. 2 keynote the most forceful: “If you still think [the future] is about owning files I will talk to you again in 24 months and you will deny that you ever said it to me,” said Geiger. “If we don’t all yell and push and say: ‘No. Don’t buy the file. Don’t buy the CD, actually sign up to Spotify.’ I think we are dead.”
The Global Launch Pad: Did Google anticipate McGuinness’ attack? Tom Pickett, YouTube's vice president of content, chose the global Midem stage to tell one panel audience that the company had paid out over a billion dollars to the music industry over the last few years. Though the precise numbers and time frame weren’t specified, that $1 billion figure reverberated instantly across digital media. Others taking advantage of the platform Midem offers: French music trade body SNEP announced music sales rose 2.3% after 12 consecutive years of decline, rights collection agency SACAM reported 1.7% growth, and Lyor Cohen broke news that his new label, 300, had partnered with Twitter. It didn’t matter much that the details on the partnership remain unclear or that other labels have mined social data for years — Midem gave Cohen the perfect opportunity to blast out a message to the industry, and see it ripple out to music fans as well.

Brand Selection: The romance between brands and the music industry continued at this South of France love nest. Pepsi and Vivendi sponsored the Midemlab startup competition; you could find Coke's Joe Belliotti, Pepsi's Ellen Healy, Nike's music supervisor JT Griffith, Microsoft Kyle Hopkins and Steve Schur of Electronic Arts on stages or panels. “Music should never be a finishing touch. It is always at the core of the idea,” Olivier Francois, CMO & head of Fiat Brand, Chrysler Group LLC & Fiat Group, told delegates during his Feb. 1 keynote. To wit, Francois revealed that he turned down the early opportunity to synch Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” because he didn’t have a suitable campaign. “There is no good marketing if it’s not purposeful and meaningful, and to be purposeful and meaningful when it comes to music you have only two choices,” he said. “Whether you have the one perfect track and you use it. Or no music at all. Each time I’m not sure about the music I guarantee you the soundtrack will be silence.”
Midem is Dead, Long Live Midem! You could find as many people who’d heard on good authority that Midem was moving next year to Barcelona (not true) because of tumbling attendance (again, not — down just 4%), as you could find attendees who saw the fertile mix of tech, branding, publishing giants with indie and major reps as essential. Music publishers continue to flock to Midem as a den of deal making, with an increase in the number of tech startups speaking heavily to the cross convergence of today’s music economy. 

And though European attendance was down (due to cuts in government funding and economic malaise), there was evidence the business’ increasingly global perspective: Paul Zilk, CEO of Reed Midem, and Midem director Bruno Crolot, reported that international attendance was up significantly from Japan (40%), Australia (50%) and Turkey (40%).

The medieval town of St. Paul De Vence lies 30 minutes east of Cannes--go there now. (Photo: Wikicommons)


It Ain't Cheap: Whether it’s the $22 drinks, $75 breakfast or $10 coffees offered at the hotels lining the Croisette (Midem's beachside drag), doing business in Cannes does not come cheap. One U.S. executive Billboard spoke to claimed he had run up a bar bill of $50,000 over two days of hosting exclusive parties. More impressively, he claimed not to have had a hangover the whole time. 

Le French Cuisine Est Super! Even the most random boîte, bistro or gastro pub will have superbly delicious foie gras, faux-filet and vin rouge in good supply. Pick well and the client you’re trying to woo will be like putty in your pate-stained hands. Skimp on price or pick badly and that deal you wanted to nail just went up in smoke.   

The Exec Standing Next To You: Powerful music biz'ers abound throughout Cannes whether on your arriving flight (Soundcloud's Jeff Toig across our aisle), your airport van (Tommy Silverman, who called this year's conference "efficient;" Wall of Sound's Mark Jones, who tried to crash Billboard's International Power list photograph; Matt Luxon from Various Artists Management whose Charli XCX); Seymour Stein in your hotel elevator --you'll never get this many execs in one place nor their captive attention.

Get the Hell Out of Dodge: While Cannes luxurious seaside locale is impressive - if a bit ritzy – it’s well worth getting out of town for a few hours if you possibly can to see the region. Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a stunning medieval walled-town 30 minutes east of Cannes, is not to be missed. The town’s world famous restaurant/hotel La Colombre d’Or has played host to Charlie Chaplin, Francois Truffaut, Picasso, Matisse and Sophia Loren, among many others, over the years. While Marc Chagall, Simone Signoret and the Rolling Stones are just some of the famous names who vacationed or resided in the area. Alternatively, there's Skidem – the unofficial annual skiing outing, just 90 minutes from Cannes, where a group of music industry lawyers, publishers and others to take a few days in the Alps to unwind. 

But They're Having So Much Fun: Don't be fooled by the people dancing on the tables at the infamous and raucous Cannes restaurant/bar/dive La Chunga. They may not be there necessarily for their own enjoyment. The drinks you buy them are priced exorbitantly as the jacked-up $75 breakfasts. Similarly, if someone approaches you in the Carlton bar, winks and hands you a business card which only states “Driver” alongside a cell number, it’s probably not a good idea to call it.