Last Midem was my first; and it was quite an experience! It was almost overwhelming at times. There was so much to take in: lots of great panels to attend, meetings to fit in and so many people I just kept bumping into who I had to have a catch up with.
As soon I got to Cannes, I tried to take in as many of the panels as I could to understand the current feeling of the Industry. This was ahead of my appearance of the Midem 2014 Wrap panel on the Tuesday (photo), which was moderated by Midem’s own James Martin, with Lowbit Records’ head of digital Lucy Blair and OpenAura‘s head of industry relations & marketing’s Marisol Segal also speaking. The panel was a great opportunity to present a round-up of the conference and have a discussion about what we had seen come out of Midem this year. The panel was filmed and is available to watch here, but here is a round-up of the three major key points which were discussed.
1. Fan engagement is key and must be facilitated
Each member of the panel brought along the key trend that they felt had come out of the conference. I was up first, and the key trend I presented was ‘fan engagement’, something I felt came out of a number of the panels which I attended. I linked back to a quote that Benji Rogers of Pledge Music had made on the “Who’s Investing in Music?” panel – where he encouraged labels and artists to ask themselves:
“What have you given your fans to do today?”
Rogers’ question highlights the need to do more than just giving your fans buy links. You have to interact with your fans and be engaged with them, before you can begin the sales process.
The importance of the role of digital marketing and fans and labels in the music industry was something which I saw come out of a number of panels, including WMG’s Marc Geiger’s talk, where he quoted Trent Reznor: “As an artist, you are now the marketer”. On this point, Lucy also highlighted how as an industry we need to facilitate direct engagement between artist and fans. Both Lucy and I agreed that there has to be a level of artists owning their direct relationships with their fans. But also, an agreement and understanding between an artist and label about what actions need to be taken, and how both parties need to work together to make campaigns a success.
2. Technology takes music marketing to a new level
For her key trend, Lucy presented an image of Syd Lawrence, founder of We Make Awesome Sh!t, who had said, on a panel entitled “Developers are the New Rockstars”: “Brands have customers and want fans. Artists have fans and want customers.”
Lucy spoke of how technology is an ever more crucial part of music as it is taking the type of marketing which can be done to a whole new level. She highlighted how it is pushing the creative collaborations between brands, artists and their labels, in order to create new experiences for fans. Lucy also underlined a key point previously made in Marc Geiger’s session: labels are becoming more digitally savvy and more like curators, rather than just forming product-focused partnerships with brands. Again, this emphasises how labels have to be involved in creating new interactive and creative ‘experiences’ for fans.
The rest of the panel added to the discussion, agreeing how artists are no longer considered to be ‘selling out’ when they partner with brands, as both parties are more working towards building partnerships now.
Midem 2014 saw two other great panels about brands, from Olivier Francois CEO of Chrysler Group – who outlined the different levels of music-and-brand partnerships – plus there was a case study on Charli XCX’s partnership with Replay, which looked at the initial aspects of developing and maintaining a happy relationship between the two parties. From both talks, there was a strong sense of brands not wanting things to seem any more contrived than an artist does; and that both sides are working together far better than they ever have before.
3. Streaming is the future, but needs competitive pricing
Marisol’s trend was about streaming, and how, although it is something that has been discussed at many Midems, streaming has a now undeniable role within our industry. The theme was particularly relevant due to the recent launch of Beats Music and the anticipated launch of YouTube Music within the year. As Marisol highlighted, these two services are particularly exciting due to their existing brand recognition, plus their ability to be able to market to an audience, and how important marketing is when competing on this front.
The discussion around this trend went on to consider the need for competitive pricing. Beats Music only has a priced option: there is no free tariff. As Marisol stated, the pricing and premium tiers of streaming services will ultimately make a huge impact on the level, and speed, of growth that we see in the music industry. Marisol also spoke of the rumoured launch of YouTube Music, and the need for them to really incentivise their audience, who are used to free, to pay for music. But, as Marisol pointed out, due to their already huge user base, even if they got part of that audience to pay, they would automatically be ahead of many of the other services.
This trend lead the panel to consider the potential diversification of streaming models in the future. For example, with the development of more niche streaming services, such as Bloom.fm and O2 Tracks, as Mark Mulligan flagged in his Midem Academy talk. Or as Lucy highlighted, the need to diversify the streaming landscape via different pricing models, which could offer multi-levels of access to music, be it, family access or peer-to-peer options – as Marc Geiger also mentioned in his decidedly visionary keynote speech. There has to be more than a one-size-fits-all streaming model and more needs to happen to move streaming onto a [profitable]next level.
As a wrap up to the panel, James asked what we hoped we might be seeing at Midem 2015. Marisol highlighted how this year’s theme was Back to Growth? But next year it may hopefully be Back to Growth! As Marisol highlighted, people are consuming more music than ever and more tech companies and communities are integrating with music internationally, not just in Silicon Valley or London.
The music industry is involving and encompassing much more of the world as a whole. Marisol highlighted how bigger brands and services are working with the music industry, who will hopefully really start to invest money across the board – not just into existing major/ larger indie labels. From this point, I spoke of how, from all of the positivity around streaming that was felt in there, by 2015 hopefully we will be seeing case studies from artists and labels who have been successful (in terms of streams, marketing and finance) on the existing and also the newly emerging services such as Beats… and, ‘of course’, YouTube Music!
Whatever happens, it’s going to be one fascinating year…