MIDEM is businesslike during the day and playful at night. But it never stops being about business. While the crowd at the Station Tavern watched the AFC and NFC championship games, networking was alive and well. And as the evening wore on and other bars filled up, some people were running out of business cards. The conversation was fun, but it was always focused. Here are some of the highlights.
Tom Silverman: Digital’s Missing Story Catalog Sales Falling
— Tom Silverman, of Tommy Boy records fame, held court at the bar at the Carlton on Sunday night sitting casually on the floor with a group of friends, including his wife Donna D’Cruz, and Caroline Prothero, David Guetta’s manager. Always the rabble-rouser, Silverman was full of passionate opinions and insights into trends he thinks people are missing. He told me the missing story in digital music is that catalog track sales are falling. Current tracks were up about 6%, he said, while catalog track sales were down somewhere in the 4%-6% range. People have completed their digital catalogs, he argued, and we’re now seeing the impact. But more bad news is coming, he warned. “We’re gonna see a dive.”
Interlude CEO Raises Funding, NYC Bound
— S-Curve Records head Steve Greenberg mingled at the packed A2IM cocktail party with Yoni Bloch, CEO and co-founder of digital startup Interlude. S-Curve artist Andy Grammer was an early adopter of Interlude’s technology that allows online videos to give viewers an interactive, “choose-your-own-adventure” experience. Bloch told me that Interlude had just raised funding from Sequoia Capital and that he is moving to New York from the company’s home base in Israel. But only Bloch and another person are going to New York. The developers are staying put. “Israeli developers are the best,” Bloch said.
RightsFlow CEO Stopped at JFK Gates With Expired Passoport
— As usual, it seems that everybody in the music industry is at MIDEM to hold meetings and rub shoulders. But there is one frequent conference attendee who was watching the NFL playoffs from his own couch. RightsFlow CEO Patrick Sullivan did not make the trip to Cannes after he was turned away at JFK because his passport had expired. The trip was booked at the last second, he told me via e-mail, and having an expired passport simply wasn’t on his mind. Considering how busy Sullivan has been pushing RightsFlow’s growth lately, it’s understandable that his passport slipped his mind.
Has The Titanic (i.e. the Major Labels) Already Sunk?
— “It’s great to watch the Titanic sink,” said one person from a digital startup around 2:30 a.m. at The Carlton’s bar. It wasn’t the first time that night that the major labels and the old industry were a hot topic. Tom Silverman had told me the majors need to “come down from their ivory towers” and join the conversation. Some other people commented that they feel the majors are rarely seen and heard at MIDEM. Although one can’t but thinking what would happen to everybody else if the Titanic did actually sink. For starters, MIDEM would be an even smaller gathering, and the wake would capsize countless other companies. Yet some people, even if it may not be true, are acting like the majors are already underwater.
Sweaters and Sing Ring’s Online Karaoke Service
— Cannes in January is somewhat cool during the day, and the conference looks like the Attack of the Muted Colored Sweaters. Lots of grays and blacks with the occasional blues. One stunning exception was Dino Sparano of Italian startup Sing Ring. Decked out in a pink sweater with white collar, Sparano showed me an impressive demo of his company’s online karaoke service. Sing Ring has an elegant solution for portals to add video karaoke in order to drive traffic. Users sing along to one of about 2,000 tracks that have been licensed from publishers. After a set-up fee, the portal pays a revenue share. Sing Ring has been in business for about a month and Italian sites Virgilio and Radio Dee Jay have already signed up.