As bracing first-day keynotes go, Will.i.am cheerfully announcing to a packed Midem main room that “the state of the music industry is delusional” takes some beating.

The musician, entrepreneur and philanthropist delivered his keynote speech over a Skype video-call, talking about the work of his i.am.angel foundation, and the TRANS4M programme that’s helping children in the Boyle Heights area in Los Angeles where he grew up.

I wanted to do more than just reap in all the money and the fame… I didn’t want to live the way the media and magazine articles suggest successful artists should live,” he said of the initiative, which is currently working with 120 children, with the intention of expanding to 600 in 10 years’ time.

Will also had some sharp words for the music industry. “Our industry is pretty lazy,” he said. “We should’ve been Facebook first. Our industry should’ve been Twitter. Our industry could’ve been Apple! Our music industry is powerful, but we don’t use it like we should.”

He also suggested that the music industry should be thinking more about hardware, citing his stake in Beats – launched by Dr Dre – as inspiration. “The state of the music industry is delusional,” he said. “I really encourage every single person in the music industry to try and compete not with other record companies, but compete with Samsung, compete against LG, compete against the big ones!” (Full report on Music Ally).

There were also some sparks in the panel debate on whether streaming music can be a sustainable platform for artists, after a year of criticism of services like Spotify from musicians including Thom Yorke and David Byrne.

Radiohead’s manager, Brian Message, spoke more positively about the impact streaming had on the last album from another of his clients, Nick Cave. “We put streaming right at the forefront of everything he did, right the way from developing Spotify apps through we then used lyric cards and all that kind of stuff, in order to drive an awareness campaign without him having to do too much promotion. And that worked very well for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deezer’s CEO Axel Dauchez talked about the way the industry can’t just make music available to stream – it has to think hard about how people will discover new music through these services, in order to convince artists that it can pay off for them.

“If the platform is just a jukebox, people will only listen to the tracks they already know. If we do that, no money will finance the creation of new music,” said Dauchez. “We have a common responsibility to generate discovery: to force people to try new artists, new songs… Investing in new artists is not a marketing tool: it’s an industry need… if 70% of the streams are done in the back catalogue, there will be no new creation.”

Message also talked about the need for more transparency around streaming. ““It’s a volume game, and it’s going to get bigger and more important. And for everybody in the chain… we have to get to a point where everybody trusts and understands the revenue stream and revenue flow.” (Full report on Music Ally).

Brands are a big part of this year’s Midem, with Fiat/Chrysler’s chief marketing officer Olivier François taking attendees through some of the recent ads produced by his company, working with artists like Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West, Diddy, J-Lo and Dr Dre.

“So many campaigns use music as the finishing touch to a commercial, to make it look good,” said the former music producer. “At Fiat or Chrysler, music won’t ever be a finishing touch. It will always be a core of the idea… Most marketers see music as a commodity. They come to artists focused on money. We see it as a bigger win: more than a commodity.”

François talked about the importance of timing, admitting to having missed out on using Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines because Chrysler didn’t have a campaign to suit it at the time it was being released. “You know when you miss your plane and see it taking off in a clear blue sky in a window from the airport? That’s what I felt like…”

But authenticity was the theme he returned to regularly. “If it feels commercial, we all lose. That’s why we always stand for the artistic integrity. That’s how we will be rewarded with the coolness every brand is looking for,” said François. “If money can buy it, it’s lazy. Good marketing is not about buying someone’s brand equity. It’s about being authentic.” (Full report on Music Ally).

Earlier in the day, a panel of European indie labels discussed How Labels Reinvent Fan Engagement, in a session backed by trade bodies IMPALA and WIN. Among the topics up for debate: should the label or the artist be driving social media?

“The real problem is that true engagement can only come out of the artist. It can never be done by a label. If an artist is not interacting with his fans, and lets his label do that, this is not the way forward,” said Robin Van Beek from 8ball Music, although Ronny Krieger from Monkeytown Records suggested it shouldn’t be one or the other.

“We hope to use every channel that’s available to us. It’s not ‘the label is less important than the artist’ – we try to think of as many channels as we have available to post something.”

Krieger also warned labels against sinking all their effort into social or streaming services that keep the data of the fans following their artists. “Spotify is no different to Facebook in that respect. If you go in five years and say ‘can you send me the contact details for those 500,000 people I sent to you?’, they’re not going to do it!” (Full report on Music Ally).

Indies loomed large in another session featuring Alison Wenham of independent label bodies AIM and WIN, talking about a return to sustainable growth for the industry. She suggested that the industry has been its own enemy in some ways, although not as much as its fiercer critics might suggest.

“The industry has had poor PR for a really long time, some of that is by our own hand, and some of that has been created for us,” she said. “I do sense a little bit of a change to understand that music and the music industry and the creative industries are one of the key drivers to economic growth in Europe.”

The session also featured Nicolas Galibert of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, who talked about digital opportunities for music publishers. “Thanks to the digital market, there is now a second life for lyrics, for the prints, which is very interesting,” he said, while noting that “there is a massive illegal market digitally for lyrics access” (Full report on Music Ally).

The most musically-apt – if awkward for a few seconds – moment of the day came when a passing band of drummers nearly drowned out the session on lessons from the Brazilian music industry. Thankfully, a positive discussion wasn’t stymied, although it also touched on the challenges facing new Brazilian acts.

“Most bands in Brazil, they release the first album then disappear, often through lack of support,” he said. “This is a big problem in Brazil right now, to teach the audience that a band needs the audience’s support,” said Marcel Dadalto, of the band Zémario.

Marcelo Soares of label Som Livre talked honestly about the challenges. “Digital distribution levels the workplace for everybody. It’s easier there. For physical distribution it’s very tough, with the huge dimensions of these 27 states. There are a few big cities which currently have no record stores at all,” he said.

However, the rewards are there, including for artists and companies from overseas who put their efforts into reaching fans in Brazil. “There is a statement from a poet that ‘Brazil is not for amateurs, it’s for professionals!’ and that is true,” said Luis Justo, CEO of Rock in Rio.

“It’s a very complex environment, but with all the opportunities you have in a country that is growing, and is the size of Brazil… Be prepared for the wild life!” (Full report on Music Ally).


This is the first in a series of Midem 2014 daily wrap posts, by Music Ally‘s Stuart Dredge.


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Stuart Dredge

Stuart Dredge is a freelance journalist, and a regular contributor to Music Ally, The Observer and more... including midemblog :)

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