How can one get a grasp on the numerous offerings at MIDEM?
Billboard offers this guide to 14 points to watch at MIDEM in 2014 from a trans-Atlantic perspective, as compiled by senior editorial analyst Glenn Peoples in the United States and contributor Richard Smirke in the United Kingdom. Note that event times are subject to change. Find updates at MIDEM.com.
1. The Global Village Of The Music Industry
MIDEM is like the Olympics of the music business. Although no medals will be given for best royalty accounting system, the annual conference is like a global village that brings together professionals from across the world. Countries have booths—often beautifully designed and eye-catching—that host meetings and allow people to make new business contacts. “MIDEM brings together prospective new partners and offers time for updates with existing partners,” says Rich Bengloff, president of the American Assn. of Independent Music, aka A2IM. Looking beyond one’s own borders is crucial in today’s market. Bengloff notes the U.S. market has shrunk to 27% of worldwide wholesale revenue from 34% in 2005. Some independent labels will be making the trip to MIDEM for the first time. Bengloff adds that more than 20 A2IM members will attend the conference with the help of the support of the International Trade Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce that helps U.S. organizations do business at home and abroad.
2. The Path To Future Growth
During the past year the global music industry returned to marginal growth after a decade-long decline. Reflecting the cautious optimism of many industry executives, this year’s MIDEM is constructed around the theme “Get Back to Growth? Make It Sustainable!” with a wealth of panels focused on building new revenue in the fast-evolving digital age. The panel discussion “How Labels Reinvent Fan Engagement” at 12 p.m. on Feb. 1 will offer insight into how the indie sector drives sales through innovative practice. The keynote address from William Morris Endeavor global head of music Marc Geiger, titled “20 Years of Pain. No More Fooling Around: The Definitive Future of the Music Business” and presented at 6:15 p.m. on Feb. 2, promises to be one of the more uncompromising, thought-provoking accounts of the challenges ahead. At 4 p.m. on Feb. 3, Orchard co-founder/VP of international Scott Cohen will be joined by Facebook manager of strategic partnerships Ime Archibong to discuss harnessing big data in “Getting International With Big Data: The New Eldorado.”
3. A Newsmaking Keynote
Each year, MIDEM makes news with high-profile keynote speakers and 2014 will be no exception. Lyor Cohen, former recorded-music chief for Warner Music Group, will present a keynote address at 4 p.m. on Feb. 2, outlining his plans for his new Google-backed label venture 300. He’ll be interviewed by Tom Silverman, executive director of New Music Seminar and CEO of Tommy Boy, as part of the “MIDEM Talks” conference program. This appearance marks the first time Cohen has publicly discussed his plans for 300 and he’s expected to offer insight into the digital-era strategies that his new music company will follow, as well as his overall vision for successfully navigating the 21st-century music business. 300 was first unveiled last year and was co-founded with two of Cohen’s long-term music partners, Todd Moscowitz (ex-Warner Bros. president) and Kevin Liles (former executive VP at Warner Music). All three execs also worked together at Def Jam, which Cohen ran in the ’80s and ’90s. The new music company, which counts Google among its investors, has signed a distribution deal with Atlantic Records, although it is yet to announce any artist signings.
4. Brands, Brands, Brands
How frequently will brands be mentioned at MIDEM? Here’s one hint: The conference program mentions the word “brands” 49 times. There will be no shortage of programming dedicated to brands, from one-on-one discussions to “speed meetings” that provide quick yet valuable face time. One highlight will happen at 5:15 p.m. on Feb. 1, when Oliver Francois, chief marketing officer and head of the Fiat brand for Chrysler Group in the United States and Italy, will take part in a “Visionary Talk” and explain why brand partnerships are crucial to music industry growth. On Feb. 2, there will be a case study at 10:30 a.m. on Electronic Beats, an international music program by Deutsch Telekom that’s active in 10 European markets. Electronic Beats encompasses a website, quarterly magazine, DVD magazine and branded live events. Also on Feb. 2 at 12 p.m.: a panel discussion featuring executives from Warner Music Group, Believe Recordings and SONGS Music Publishing on music companies’ relationships with brands and agencies.
MIDEM Director Bruno Crolot welcoming attendees at the 2013 conference
5. The Streaming Debate
The pros and cons of the streaming model has been one of the most fiercely debated talking points of the past 12 months with everyone from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to David Byrne voicing their well-publicized opinions. The merits of streaming platforms like Spotify and Deezer will be discussed at 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 1 during the panel “Streaming: A Sustainable Platform for Artists?” Brian Message, Music Managers Forum chairman and co-manager of Radiohead, and Stephen Bryan, WMG executive VP of digital strategy and business development, are among the executives participating. At 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 3, MIDiA Consulting’s Mark Mulligan will lead the panel discussion “Making Streaming Add Up.” At 5:30 p.m. the same day, Jean Michel Jarre, French EDM pioneer and president of CISAC, the global organization for authors’ societies, will argue the case for creators to receive fair remuneration from today’s digital economy, which he terms an “ecological emergency.”
6. Marketing Know-How
Like other conferences, MIDEM offers numerous panels and discussions to help artists and professionals become better marketers and stay on top of best practices. Two panels on Feb. 1 should not be missed. At noon, “How to Reinvent Fan Engagement” will discuss how to improve artist promotions and turn followers into fans and fans into consumers. At 2 p.m., Max Kaizen, executive creative director for Ogilvy Digital Marketing Academy in South Africa, will host “Low-Cost Audio Engagement: From Content to Context,” a presentation that will show the steps to create a vibrant fan ecosystem. Then at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 4, Nu Jazz Entertainment president Jerald Miller will show how to use social media for catalog music and non-pop fare like jazz, classical and world. Miller’s presentation is especially timely. Catalog sales are lagging current sales in the United States, and the major marketing dollars flow toward pop hits, not the niche genres residing outside the mainstream.
7. Online Video’s Potential
As if proof were needed, the huge success of Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus and PSY in 2013 asserted YouTube’s dominant position as the online destination for discovering and consuming music. One MIDEM industry talk that shouldn’t be missed is “Fueled by Video Success” at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 2, which will feature Google VP of YouTube content Tom Pickett, YouTube director of music content partnerships Vivien Lewit and INDmusic CEO Brandon Martinez among the speakers discussing audience engagement and monetizing video. The next day at 3 p.m., TAG Strategic managing partner Ted Cohen will moderate a panel on how to navigate the complex world of multichannel networks and not get burned. Hit British singer Rita Ora will also discuss her participation in Vevo’s “LIFT” artist development program. Ora’s keynote case study takes place at 5 p.m. on Feb. 2, and she’ll be joined by Vevo senior VP Nic Jones.
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8. How To Mind Your Legal P’s And Q’s
Along with the value of networking, getting legal advice could be worth the price of admission to MIDEM. Panels on legal topics are usually well-attended at conferences for good reason: Entertainment law is complicated and mistakes can be expensive. One presentation worth watching will be “The Art of Deal Making,” an overview of nontraditional deals on Feb. 1 at 3 p.m. Martin F. Frascogna of Frascogna Entertainment Law will walk the audience through the type of nontraditional artist deal that’s becoming more common in today’s music business. On Feb. 2 at 10 a.m., lawyers will be found at a seminar titled “What You Need to Know in 2014: The Legal Update for Entertainment and Technology.” The two-hour panel will review media law issues and also delve into technology. On Feb. 4 at 11 a.m., Jeff Liebenson, principal at Liebenson Law and president of the International Assn. of Entertainment Lawyers, will hold a workshop titled “Digital Rights and Cross-Border Issues” to help professionals involved in international licensing.
9. The Funding Game
Startups want funding. Conferences help startups get that funding. The MIDEM startup competition series is effectively about finding companies that merit funding. Their judges include venture capitalists and startup coaches, the very people who can either put money into these companies or guide them toward a successful funding round. Startup incubators TechStars and Brazil’s 21212 Digital Accelerator will have a presence. Index Ventures, Balderton Capital and Wellington Partners will also have representatives in attendance. One topic not on the schedule is crowd-funding businesses. The U.S. Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act allows startups to raise money through crowd-funding. Now that the Securities and Exchange Commission has laid out the rules, expect a digital music startup to soon test the crowd-funding waters. But crowd-funding by artists and labels will be discussed. On Feb. 2 at 4:30 p.m., PledgeMusic founder/CEO Benji Rogers and GroupM/WPP chief growth officer Mike Tunnicliffe will discuss how and where money is flowing into the music business.
10. A&R Lessons Learned
While much of MIDEM focuses on future tech, the importance of core industry sectors like A&R hasn’t been forgotten. Taking place at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 3, “Building an Artist’s Career, From Discovery to Success” will assemble a panel of seasoned executives to discuss building international artist careers and mistakes to avoid. Speakers include Atlantic Records executive VP/head of A&R Pete Ganbarg, BMG Chrysalis VP of creative Andrew Gould and Epic Records U.K. co-managing director Steven Melrose. The same panelists will later take part in the “A&R Pitch Session” that follows at 5 p.m. the same day. For a historical lesson on how to succeed in A&R, head to Palais des Festivals’ Riveria Hall at 2 p.m. on Feb. 4 to hear Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein discuss the lessons that he learned working with Madonna, Talking Heads and many more.
Lyor Cohen (right) will give a keynote address about the launch of his Google-backed label venture, 300.
Photo: Sasha Maslove
11. The Future Is (Still) Music Discovery
A term heard year after year is “music discovery.” Digital services, from music streaming to concert listings, want to enable and facilitate it. Experts implore digital executives to improve their businesses through music discovery. At conferences, in blog posts and in market research reports, discovery is the secret sauce of the digital music business. There’s a great reason discovery is an evergreen theme. What good is offering tens of millions of songs if one can’t help people find what they want? Discovery is vital for making digital music manageable and enjoyable. The search for helpful discovery tools continues on Feb. 1 at 2:30 p.m. when a startup competition called “Music Discovery, Recommendation and Creation” will hear pitches from entrepreneurs. The jury includes Jon Bradford, managing director of the London brands for startup incubator TechStars, WMG’s Stephen Bryan and hip-hop legend Chuck D. Perhaps they’ll find the killer app of the future.
12. Licensing And More
It’s no exaggeration to say the digital economy has revolutionized music licensing. At 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 2, “Licensing of Music From BC to AD (Before the Change/After Digital)” explores the complexities of clearing rights in an ever-changing digital playing field. The next day at 6 p.m., Merlin CEO Charles Caldas will be joined by BVMI/IFPI managing director Florian Drücke and Mary Megan Peer, president of the Asia Pacific region and strategic markets at peermusic, to lead a forward-focused look at “The Next Big Thing in Licensing.” Meanwhile, “Modern Licensing Solutions,” set for 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 4, will examine some of the different initiatives that authors’ societies have undertaken in their response to new and emerging business models.
13. The Art Of The Synch
The ability of a well-placed synch to cut through today’s fragmented, multiplatform business is a vital tool in building artist profiles, often on a global level. To discover the nuances of pitching and getting one’s music to the right people, head to the “Sync It or Leave It!” panel at 4 p.m. on Feb. 2, where Nike music supervisor JT Griffith and Activision Blizzard VP of music affairs Tim Riley will be among the music supervisors sharing their knowledge. The chance to put theory to practice will follow at 10 a.m. on Feb. 3 at the “Global Sync & Brands Summit,” where preregistered labels, publishers and artists will participate in a two-hour round-table pitching session to music supes from globally renowned brands and agencies, including Nike, Microsoft, Ubisoft and Brand X.
14. A Smattering Of ShowcasesBACK TO THE INDEX
While South by Southwest hosts a wealth of live music, MIDEM boasts only a modest amount of performances for its business-minded attendees. A trip to Cannes in February typically means meetings throughout the day and networking over drinks in the evening and into early morning. But MIDEM does offer the third edition of its MIDEM Festival, a series of 40 shows by a wide variety of artists spread across four days. The show times are split between afternoon and evening performances. “Music at Noon” will have music every day from 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Artists lined up for Saturday and Sunday represent countries throughout Europe. Monday’s noon session is titled “The Aussie BBQ” and presented by Sounds Australia, a joint venture of the Australasian Performing Right Assn., the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society and the Australia Council, the Australian government’s arts funding arm and advisory board. The “Night Sessions” will focus on a different country on each of three nights: Taiwanese artists on Saturday, Korean K-pop acts on Sunday and Malaysian artists on Monday.