Google was the elephant in the room on day two of this year’s Midem, although to some present, it was very much the ogre. The day was characterised by criticism of the internet giant, from independent labels attacking its corporate philosophy, to members of the conference audience heckling a YouTube executive mid panel-session.
There was positivity too. In a session on new frontiers for music videos, The Collective Music Group’s Jordan Berliant noted that in 2014: “What has changed is the video isn’t a promotional thing: the video IS the thing… It’s not something to promote something else.”
Berliant said that labels criticising YouTube for not making them enough money were missing the point: they perhaps haven’t mastered what fellow panelist Brandon Martinez described as the “12-month content cycle” of a successful channel. ““It’s not a place to make money right now, but it’s not primarily because of YouTube or Google in my mind, it’s because the people representing the content primarily don’t understand the marketplace,” said Berliant. (Full report on Music Ally)
Earlier, a panel of independent label owners talked about the challenges and opportunities of digital music, and the internet in general. Cooking Vinyl’s Martin Goldschmidt said that one reason indies have a strong market share in streaming music services, for example, is that there is a higher quality bar.
“The internet is a great filter for bullshit. It’s far harder for crap to spread worldwide. You get found out a lot earlier,” he said. “Yes, there are still gatekeepers, and ways to promote crap quite successfully. The majors are still working on the tools to do that… But it’s really levelled the playing field… Our market share is a lot higher on Spotify than it was in physical. The internet and the whole online distribution and sharing of information has really helped level the playing field.”
Here too, though, Google came in for some no-holds-barred criticism, coming off worse in a comparison with streaming music services like Spotify – even though the latter has fielded its share of brickbats from musicians in the last year. “Everyone there are music people. Google are not music people, and that scares me,” said Colin Daniels of Inertia, backed up by Kenny Gates of PIAS: “I want to publicly support Spotify: they came to us and wanted to work with us, not steal from us.” (Full report on Music Ally).
The final speech of the day, from WME’s Marc Geiger, held a packed main room rapt, as he outlined the opportunities for the music industry amid digital disruption, and warned labels to embrace change or be killed by it. He also stridently backed streaming as the key to future growth.
“This year to me, files are over. First of all: they’ve always sucked,” he said. “If we don’t say ‘no, don’t buy the file, don’t buy the CD, actually sign up for Spotify’, I think we’re dead… If you still believe it’s about files, I will talk to you in 24 months. You will actually deny to me you ever said it.”
But again, YouTube came up in conversation, and received a less-than-effusive welcome from an independent label – !K7’s Horst Weidenmuller in this case. “I am concerned with YouTube entering the market because for YouTube everything is about dominance. And dominance is connected to destruction,” he said. “That’s what I am concerned about, that it’s more about market dominance… I am more concerned than happy. I would rather prefer perhaps Google not being in music.” (Full report on Music Ally)
Also this afternoon, former Def Jam and Warner Music exec Lyor Cohen talked about his new independent company, 300, which has just signed an interesting deal with Twitter’s music division.
“We’re going to create A&R tools to find artists early, and help develop them,” he said. “I’m really happy to be working with them. Certainly the modern A&R business, we all are looking for talent in various places, and certainly Twitter is a terrific place to look at talent, just like YouTube. If you wanna get signed, I think you have to engage with Twitter, and of course YouTube. And we’ll be looking and trying to develop tools that the rest of the music community can utilise. That’s super-exciting for us.”
Cohen also threw his weight behind streaming music as the future for the industry. “I think this is an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs to be independent, especially in the music business. I see macro-business models that are not on some chalkboard, but actually reality. I certainly believe in streaming as being the future of very healthy business, and so the tide would rise.” (Full report on Music Ally)
Meanwhile, an investing in music session saw PledgeMusic’s Benji Rogers talk about how the relationship between artists and fans is changing. “Artists are looking for new outlets,” he said. “The frustrating thing for me is they’ve got fans. They just don’t give them anything to do… I think it’s about narratives. The artists that create the best and most compelling narratives about why fans should get involved lead to them investing in their career.”
He challenged labels, managers and artists to think about this area in a new way. “What are you giving your fans to do today? And if the answer is just a button to click buy or to play, that’s not going to suffice.” (Full report on Music Ally)
Last but by no means least, the big crowd-puller of the day was the appearance of artist Rita Ora, in a session covering her partnership with music videos service Vevo through its Lift programme. “I can definitely say Lift changed my life,” she said. “It just blew up. If you can get a Lift campaign, it’s really good for you. It’s about discovery and acknowledging talent.”
This is the second in a series of Midem 2014 daily wrap posts, by Music Ally‘s Stuart Dredge.