50 Years of MIDEM: A Look Back From James Brown to Celine Dion

The Palais des Festivals et des Congrés has been home to MIDEM since 1982.
Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

The Palais des Festivals et des Congrés has been home to MIDEM since 1982.

When Elton, Celine and Smokey played The Riviera -- MIDEM marks 50 years of deals and ideas.

"MIDEM FAIR: A VITAL LINK for Exchange," read a front-page headline in the Feb. 11, 1967, issue of Billboard, which predicted that the music conference in Cannes "is here to stay."

Billboard was right. Marking its 50th anniversary June 3-6, MIDEM has endured and thrived. It began as a key marketplace for deals -- largely among independent labels and music publishers -- that sent recordings and repertoire around the world long before multinational companies dominated the music business.

MIDEM "was the gathering place for everyone in music publishing before the advent of the Internet," recalls Martin Bandier, chairman/CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a veteran of the event.

The name of the conference is a French acronym -- Marché International du Disque et de l'Edition Musicale -- but MIDEM's stature always has been global. Artists have come to sing for the executives who could drive their worldwide success: Tom Jones in 1968, Elton John in 1975, George Harrison (as a "new" solo act) in 1976 and a little-known Canadian singer named Celine Dion in 1983. She returned as a superstar in 1996.

While international dealmaking has moved inside major music companies or among indies online, MIDEM has maintained its role as a marketplace, now of ideas as well as deals. Panels tackle copyright issues and new ­business models. And top executives still come to make news. Case in point: Sony Music CEO Doug Morris used his 2015 keynote to drop the first official word of Apple Music's launch -- scooping Apple's own announcement by a day.

 

“Getting an invite to Moulin de Mougins was a sign of ‘making it.’ It was the dining experience for the most successful publishers, record people and entrepreneurs. Chef Roger Vergé would make us feel like stars.” —Daniel Glass, Glassnote GroupRestaurant: Hemis/Alamy Stock Photo. Glass: Courtesy of Glassnote

This article first appeared in the June 4 issue of Billboard.

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