Photo: Outspoken artist Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, in Cannes this week
There was plenty of chat on midem’s various stages this week about the future for the music industry, but even more chatter around Cannes about what it all means for artists, rightsholders and technology firms.
Here are five key themes that emerged as hotspots for midem 2013:
Debates about how fast and how well collecting societies are modernising have been a feature of midem for… well, more years than we can remember. Faster payments and greater transparency remain the goals, with the societies understandably keen to stress how far they’ve progressed in the last five years, but managers like Steve Rennie just as keen to keep up the pressure for more improvements.
Another hot licensing-related topic at midem was the wrath of independent labels at the recently-relaunched Myspace’s refusal to license their works. A strongly-worded press conference by several indie trade bodies slammed the company as “repugnant“, yet the wider concern was how – in the decade of Adele and other globally successful indie artists – these situations keep happening.
Above: At midem 2013’s final wrap panel, Ministry of Sound’s Lucy Blair, OK Go’s EU manager Emily Gonneau (Unicum Music) and The Next Web’s Martin Bryant were incredibly on track with the 5 key themes listed here!
Local goes global
An interesting trend threading its way through the conferences was the way digital music services and social networks are making it easier and faster than ever before for previously ‘local’ music to go global.
YouTube said that South Korean K-Pop music videos were watched 5bn times in 2012 – yes, PSY’s Gangnam Style was 1.1bn-odd of them, but that still leaves nearly 4bn from other artists – with most of those views coming from outside Korea.
Meanwhile, Deezer announced at midem that its streaming service is now available in 182 countries, with an emphasis on local artists and songs wherever possible, as well as global content. The potential here isn’t just about someone in, say, Brazil listening to Brazilian music. It’s about the chance for that Brazilian music to now find new fans on Deezer elsewhere in the world – licensing complexities permitting.
Musicians have never been shy of making their views known on music industry trends, but in 2013 they’re weighing in on digital with increasing confidence and clout.
Witness Lang Lang delivering a notably optimistic view on how technology and music are well-suited for collaboration – a spirit-restoring session after the ugliness of the Myspace situation. Or listen to Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, who was impressive in his balanced and informed views on topics including the need for labels, and the opportunities of streaming music services.
Artists aren’t one homogenous mass: they have any amount of different views and levels of expertise in digital matters. It’s important that this wide spread is represented in the debates around the future of the industry.
The Music Tech Meetup on Sunday was a high point at midem, with a pub full of startups and developers enthusiastic about their apps and services, and the potential for partnerships with the music industry. This, plus 30 impressive startups pitching at the midemlab contest (winners here) and the inventive-as-ever midem Hack Day (all the hacks here), bodes well for the year ahead.
The well isn’t running dry of new and interesting ideas to use apps and web technologies to help musicians connect with fans, deliver their music and understand their digital fanbases. As Lang Lang noted, it would be good to see more artists – not just labels – sitting down with developers to brainstorm ideas.
There’s also strength in depth, as the social analytics space shows. Next Big Sound, Musicmetric, Audience.fm and others are all iterating their services rapidly as they scrap for business, with artists and labels standing to benefit from the pacey evolution.
The Google Issue
If there was one issue bubbling away throughout midem, occasionally erupting in an on-stage comment, it was Google. Well, Google as a representative for ‘Big Tech’ in general Facebook, Apple and Amazon included.
Sadly, despite all the tech-meets-music innovation outlined above, there is still also a perception that big tech versus music (and other creative arts) is a battle. A war, even. A speech given by Beggars Group founder Martin Mills this weekend criticising Big Tech for lobbying against copyright, and governments for being “seduced” by lobbying, made waves around the world.
Google bears the brunt of the anger, even though with YouTube and Google Play, it also has two of the most significant digital music services doing licensing deals and generating revenues for the industry. A lot of people – within major labels, independent labels, publishers and collecting societies alike – really don’t trust Google, and it’s starting to show.
What does all this prove? The relationship between technology and music is still a mixture of love, hate and cultural misunderstandings. That’s why it’s more important than ever that the two worlds continue to mix as often and as deeply as possible.
Potshots from behind barricades will always generate headlines – and they’re often warranted – but it’s genuine engagement that will drive true understanding and progress.
MusicAlly‘s Stuart Dredge has been liveblogging for midemblog this year. Thanks Stuart!
Watch 64 full midem 2013 conferences on our YouTube channel.
Photo © Reed MIDEM/360 Médias/Y Coatsaliou