In a new series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.
This installment is with Midem director Alexandre Deniot, who was forced to make some big decisions about this year’s music business conference as the pandemic shut down France less than eight weeks before the annual event. Here, he speaks about how he balanced home and work while shifting the focus of the conference, which kicks off next week and runs June 2-5, to the first digital version of Midem in its 54-year history.
Alexandre Deniot: The weekend just before the lockdown was announced in March, I started to be sick with symptoms similar to the COVID ones. Without any tests available at the time, my doctor asked me to stay 14 days by myself without my family. It was a pretty tough start, to be honest.
But I am an optimist and always see the glass half full. And there are a lot of positive aspects in being locked down at home. The first is being able to spend more time with my kids, which is very important. And I am also lucky enough to have a house with a garden, surrounded by nature, not far from Paris. The fact that I was stuck at home without being able to travel, to run from one meeting to another, allowed me also to refocus on the important things and gain in efficiency.
Of course, I realize that for many people it’s a lot more complicated and difficult when you can’t go outside except for one hour per day to do some sports or to go buy some groceries. But now the situation is a bit better. The shops are reopening. We are able to go out with a limit of 100 kilometers from your home. Now you can take your car and go outside without having to have any official papers. A few weeks ago, you had to carry with you some official papers and had to explain why you need to be in your car and go outside your house.
I have two boys, 6 and 10. So it’s pretty intense. They had to do school at home. They do some stuff online. But you need to be on them to make sure they do their homework. You have to be present with them, otherwise it’s a mess.
[In a normal year], one week away from the physical Midem, everything would be set up — the speakers, the program, all our partners involved. Everything would be ready. The most intense time would have been during the event. But now it is the other way around. We have a lot of things to do, and during the event it is going to be lighter.
We decided that this edition [of Midem] will be accessible to all. It will be free. [The walk-up entry to Midem usually costs 950 euros.] This is our contribution to the industry at this difficult time. It is the first time in our history that we are going to do a digital edition, after 54 years of Midem, and the first time we decided to give the access to all.
It was not an easy decision. But it was also important for us knowing that there are a lot of people [enduring] a very difficult time. It is important for us to show our solidarity with the music community. The digital edition seems by far the best option, rather than having everyone wait, especially during a period when we all need to collaborate with each other.
We had been planning to launch a digital platform for some time. The need to move Midem online for 2020 gave us the push we needed to speed up the process. We are really focused on keeping the DNA of Midem intact while adapting to a digital environment. The impact of COVID-19 on the music industry will of course be present throughout the conversations.
Thanks to the platform and technology we are using now, people will be able to connect and [network]. And there will be Meet the Speakers, when we can have some interaction with the speakers with Q&As after the keynotes and panels. [The speakers will be live for the Q&As; the panels and keynotes will be pre-recorded.]
When we started working from home, I realized how fast we adapted to this new situation. We organized ourselves and modified our way to work as a team. Basically, we moved from being an event organizer to a TV producer. And we will deliver a four-day program with more than 20 hours of content at the highest level, with everything managed from home.
I have an office in Paris, London and New York. In my core team I have around 20 people. Plus, we have some representatives around the world, about 15 people. So around 35 people in the core team. For the digital [edition we employed] around 50 people, while for Midem Cannes it is more than 100 people.
There are some similar aspects from the physical Midem. We still need to have the speakers, we still need the content we want to deliver and the topics. As we have a lot of pre-recorded content, we have to record the content, then we have post-production and then we have to release it. It’s a new process. That’s why we work harder now than what we usually do at Midem Cannes.
And every day we will record content. So that’s why it is similar to a TV program. Every day you have a specific program with content and every day we release new content.
Thanks to the fact that we did a lot of work before for the Midem Cannes we re-adapted part of the content to the digital editions. But at the same time, we created new content specifically for the digital edition.
[After the pandemic I look forward to] being able to travel and be on holidays. And see the ocean. To spend some time away from my house, even though I really love my house. I am a kite surfer so if I can go somewhere to do some kite surfing, I will be super happy.