As one of the most difficult decades in the music industry’s history draws a close, we asked MIDEM(Net) Blog’s experts to answer the above questions. In this first of two parts, media futurist Gerd Leonhard (left) and Marketing Week’s Ruth Mortimer share their thoughts.

You can also find these viewpoints – and much more besides – in the MIDEM Preview, online here

Gerd Leonhard: This stick is way too big – and the carrots smell funny

For media futurist Gerd Leonhard (www.mediafuturist.com), intelligent licensing deals are the only way out of the quagmire…

It looks like the music industry is quickly heading towards a total reset. 10 years have gone by since Napster 1.0, and what do we have to show for it ? The only real success in digital music is Apple’s iTunes – and they sell hardware!

This may be part of the problem: there are so very few real leaders in this industry.

People that are truly reinventing what they do and how they do it. Alas, instead of inspiring leaders this industry has numerous functionaries, lobbyists and corporate chiefs that block every change that comes along.

Lobbying the government to disconnect non-conforming music fans while utterly failing to license widely and openly will seriously backfire. These new sticks are becoming so huge that no-one will see the few carrots anymore.

Incredibly, after religiously pushing for digital music content protection (remember DRM?) for a  full decade, the very same industry ‘leaders’ are now pushing for the disconnection of alleged filesharers. How will any of this get the creators (not the lobbyists or the lawyers) paid? How will this generate new revenues for composers, performers and producers ?

Most, if not all, of these efforts need to urgently be redirected towards setting new, open and collective license standards, towards the pro-active creation of new business models and towards doing win-win deals with telecoms and I said it before and I need to say it again: stop the sharing and you kill music. License (and monetise) the sharing and you will see it blossom again.

Until that happens, the music industry is heading full steam towards the cliffs. Your choice. To quote Bob Dylan, “Please get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand.”

Ruth Mortimer: Far from broken

According to the associate editor of the UK’s Marketing Week (her blog:  brandstrategy.wordpress.com), the music industry is not broken, as long as it is ready and willing to explore new opportunities…

As long as people want to write and listen to songs, the music industry will not be broken. But it is changing more with each passing year and the traditional methods of promoting artists, tracks and albums are no longer as clear cut as they once were.

In the last few months, we have seen new music services launching on Google and BSkyB. Nokia has joined forces with Rhianna to launch her new album and Mariah Carey’s latest work contains a “mini magazine” (complete with ads) in the sleeve. Cadbury also announced it was going fairtrade by releasing a single starring Ghanian star Tinny.

All these innovations add up to an industry that is very far from broken. It is simply no longer an industry with a linear path for artists or businesses. The idea of simply signing a deal, touring once a year and selling CDs to fans is no more.

But that is not a negative thing. There are more ways than ever before to reach people with music, on multiple platforms and devices. For anyone involved in the industry who is keen to explore the opportunities of this new era, rather than seeing it as a decline in control, it is clear that the music industry is very far from broken.


About Author

James Martin

James Martin is Head of Social Media for Midem organisers Reed MIDEM. This includes defining and rolling out Midem's social media strategy, editing midemblog, influencer outreach, developing Midem's fanbase of 75,000+ music professionals and more.


  1. Personally I don’t believe the industry is broken, its just evolving, and at an ever faster pace. When you look back over the decades, perhaps rock and roll could have been viewed in the same way. Before the 1950’s and the “hit parades” no one could have forseen the explosion of the music industry that was to follow in the coming years, and there were those back then that said Rock and Roll would be the end of popular music as they knew it.
    Going back even further and looking at the performing arts, stage performers became silent movie actors, then got speaking parts. The pianists moved out of the cinemas and evolved.
    Along with the rocket speed evolution of today comes increased opportunities and challenges – it’s making something of them (and keeping up) that counts.
    Things change, people change, the world changes and its a good thing too – otherwise we’d all still be wearing brylcreem and blue suede shoes :)

  2. The problem with both these comments is that they ignore the major issue of no longer having any real mid-level regional labels that can act as a seeding ground for the major labels. In the past, the regional label, like TK Records could discover local acts and give them a start so the majors would be able to discover and recruit them from there, after they had been tested on a field larger than just their home town. Now, the major labels, iTunes, and file-stealing has squeezed out those mkd-range labels and ruined that conduit for new talent.

  3. Gerd, we are in the music business holding on and hanging in and you are right on the money of the reality of whats going on. Keep listening and sharing.
    Ruth it is obvious that you are not in the music business. You for sure are in marketing. THere never was a linear line, but there were record stores, pressing plants, paper liner notes, etc. sorry your way off base.

  4. Gerd, I was one of the first to attend Midem and did so through the 90’s sorry I missed meeting you. Glad to see there are still people there who really care about our industry.
    Your comment was really right on target keep it up.
    Henry Stone
    Founder of TK Records
    one of the pioneers that your talking about that don’t seem to exist anymore.

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