Photo: AIM/WIN CEO Alison Wenham speaking at Midem 2014


This year’s Midem was polarised between two emotions: anger at big technology companies in general (and Google in particular), but also enthusiasm about the opportunities for labels, publishers and artists in the digital age.

Judging by Midem, music labels would prefer to forge trusting partnerships with Google and its tech compatriots rather than heckle them about their approach for copyright. Jean Michel Jarre put it well during his keynote interview: “Guys, you love us, we are not hating you, we need to sit together and find a decent business model.”

YouTube caught much of the public flak from the crowds at Midem, but its execs were keen to stress that these business models are emerging. “We’ve paid out to the music industry over the last several years over a billion dollars,” said VP of content Tom Pickett. “We are generating tens of millions of dollars every year for the industry,” said director of music content partnerships Vivien Lewit.

There was also optimism about the impact Spotify and other streaming services are having on the major/indie market share splits. “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,” said Cooking Vinyl’s Martin Goldschmidt.

The music industry has learned to be upfront about its challenges: licensing sessions saw frank admissions that securing music rights remains over-complex, while AIM/WIN boss Alison Wenham noted that “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.”

There were positive takeaways, though, particularly around subscription-based streaming music’s growth. “We definitely are gonna see a few bumps,” said 300’s Lyor Cohen. “But as subscription grows, and it gets to a mass scale, I think it will be a lovely business.” Cohen also announced a partnership with Twitter to mine that social network for new artists – another example of constructive music/tech collaboration.

However, long-term U2 manager Paul McGuinness linked support for streaming sites to more action to tackle piracy from companies like Google, during his Industry Icon Award acceptance speech to the Midem Billboard Breakfast sponsored by CITI. “We’re all aware in this room that subscription is now replacing downloading – legal or illegal – but we do need those mega corporations to make a genuine effort to cooperate and feed the industry that has been so good to them,” said McGuinness.

Finally, industry mogul Seymour Stein, co-founder of Sire Records, ended Midem 2014 on a positive, global note: “We need to get more people buying music, and what better place than India and China? That’s 37%of the world’s population… 400 million people in India speak English, and they have great music!” Just one of many possible ways to get back to growth?

This and more in the Midem Quick Review, which resumes the entire market in just 18 pages! Download here…


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

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