Sylvia Rhone & Dina LaPolt to Deliver Keynote Discussion at Midem 2019: 'It's a Really Good Partnership We Have'

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Dina LaPolt and Sylvia Rhone

The newly appointed Epic Records chairman and CEO, Rhone, will also receive the Midem 2019 Hall of Fame Award.

Midem will host a keynote interview with Sylvia Rhone and Dina LaPolt at the global music conference's 53rd annual industry event, which runs June 4-7 at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France. Rhone -- who on Tuesday was appointed Epic Records chairman and CEO and has led the label’s operations since 2017 -- will also receive the Midem 2019 Hall of Fame Award, in association with Billboard, recognizing her outstanding contribution to the international music business and her ability to build such an artist-driven label culture. The keynote will be held June 5 and the award dedication on June 6.

The event marks Rhone's first-ever keynote address, as well as her fist time visiting Midem. The idea for the keynote was LaPolt's idea, the industry-leading attorney tells Billboard, after learning Rhone had never been to Midem.

"I said, 'Oh my God, you have to go," says LaPolt. "The minute I called the heads of Midem to say, 'You guys, what if Sylvia Rhone came?' They all freaked out. Everybody on the email was like, "Can you get her? Can she come' And then all of a sudden everything just started happening around that."

"It's super exciting," adds Rhone. "It'll be my first time at Midem and I'm really looking forward to it."

Billboard spoke with Rhone and LaPolt ahead of their Midem keynote discussion to get a sense of their relationship and what we can expect at the event. 

What will you be discussing at Midem? 

Rhone: One of the things that I really want to talk about is the relationship between record labels and artists. I think it's an interesting topic in this day and age with technology and the sense of an independent spirit that's going to the creative community and what are the pros and cons of being independent versus being with a record label. 

LaPolt: Certainly the artists now and the way they feel about the record companies is the same from back in 1980, where labels and the artists are making good money -- because streaming has reinvented our business, thank God, because we've been in such a downslide for so long since Napster. Everybody's happy when they're making money and I think that's a big contributor to the fostering of good relationships and good sentiments and there's a lot of opportunities and labels are providing a lot of services worldwide that are really great. 

Rhone: One of the great things now is that the labels have become very transparent in their accounting to artists, and I think that has developed a very positive honest relationship between artists and labels. And then the label contributes a great deal to an artist's successful career by doing all the heavy lifting in places that management and artists can't do. When you put everything together, when you put the factors of transparency in terms of financial accounting and the ability to take artists to a greater level than they can do themselves independently, it works out on behalf of everybody and is a win-win situation. 

LaPolt: That is a really big important point because it used to be where it appeared that the labels hid a lot of things because the accounting was so convoluted. It was very difficult with free goods and all these other weird things that were happening. It's not like that anymore. I mean you could log into your portal on most labels, you could see exactly where your music is being streamed. You could see that in real time. Your statements are very easy to read. There's no weird stuff happening. Even the labels investing in Spotify and then selling their shares, making a boatload of money when Spotify went public, they shared most of that income with the artists, regardless of their recoupment status. I mean a lot of that stuff was very important to help fostering good, positive, trustworthy relationships. 

How long have you two known each other? 

Rhone: Well, we've known each other a long time, but I honestly have to say that Dina and I have become really close friends in a very short time. And I think what's brought us together is artists that we mutually represent. I just find Dina to be an inspiration and a generous person with what she knows and what she does. 

LaPolt: I feel the same way about Sylvia. She's a legend. I've said that from day one. She's a legend in our industry and let's just put it out there: She is running this global music company, it is the No. 1 label within the Sony system, all of this is happening under her regime. It's a very interesting time in the music business, she's an African American woman, smart, outspoken, marketing and promotion savvy. It's really a great attribute to where we are right now, where the industry is going. Even though we've known each other, we were brought together fairly quickly, thrown into the fire together and I just think it's a really good partnership we have. 

Rhone: Absolutely, with a great deal of mutual respect. And, touching on that Dina, we've also talked about gender and racial parity in the workplace. And I think that's a key point of discussion during our keynote. 

Obviously, this has been a huge conversation over the past couple years. Change takes time, but what have noticed as you're both at the forefront of the industry?  

LaPolt: In the private sector where I'm in, I have a lot of people in companies that I represent or in huge law firms that are close friends of mine that would say, "Oh my God, how do I not hit the glass ceiling?" And I say, "Get the fuck out of the company." So I don't feel it as much as a lot of other people do because I own my own shop. But, still, I'm not on the golf course, I'm not a white male, there's still that whole situation happening. As you both know, I have one foot in the policy discussions in Washington; it's worse in Washington than is in the music business. So we deal with it, but it's challenging. 

Rhone: I think that there is always room for improvement. But, at the same time, I think we have made some great strides -- and I can only speak for Sony music, which is now almost 50% women globally, and I think that we're well above the industry norm. 


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