As Midem 2016 got underway, there was a markedly positive tone to the first day’s sessions, focusing on opportunities for artists and startups alike in the music world.
The day began with a panel on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, outlining the potential of turning to the crowd. Kickstarter’s head of music Molly Neuman explained that her service has now successfully funded more than 23,000 music projects, 90% of those being new albums from artists. She noted that most music projects are raising smaller amounts of between $5k and $20k.
“Primarily it is the lower goals: artists early in their careers. We really see the Kickstarter opportunity as a way for artists to develop their case: if they ultimately want to be on a label or want to set up their own label, setting a case for their own community and how they’re able to raise funds and connect their community,” she said.
The panel also saw Newvelle Records explain how Kickstarter was the launchpad for its €600-a-year vinyl subscription service, with CEO Jean-Christophe Morisseau (below, right) warning that crowdfunding is about more than the money, and represents a big opportunity to build a community of early adopters.
“Make sure you are real: it’s sincere, it’s genuine… you are here to tell a story and to create a relationship that you expect to last over time,” he said. (Full report on Music Ally)
Elsewhere in the Palais, a panel of radio experts were talking about the future for one of the most traditional methods of music discovery. Although the definition of “radio” is increasingly flexible. “In countries like Japan, YouTube is radio,” said Pete Downton, deputy CEO of 7digital, noting that globally, YouTube is now a more popular venue for music discovery than radio for young people.
Some radio stations are capitalising on this shift. Laurent Frisch, head of digital at Radio France, noted that “France Inter has 2 million listeners per morning; our YouTube videos can get up to 10 million views“. Will radio be squeezed out going forward, though? Steve Smith, COO of Arabian Radio Network, thought not. “Data will be the key to our long term success. We know more about our audience than any other medium,” he said.
Later, a session on investors in music/tech yielded some hard truths, but also some reasons for optimism. “So many ideas have been seen before. The conditions for investors to be excited are very different from five years ago,” said Next Big Sound co-founder David Hoffman. Three of the hot areas picked out by the panel were music education, 360/virtual reality audio, and artificial intelligence systems “that can help co-create music” though.
The lineup included a taster session for the K-Pop Night Out, complete with some live rap:
Meanwhile, a panel on the US saw Pitchfork’s Chris Kaskie, Pandora’s Jeff Zuchowski, Phoenix’s label manager Laurence Muller and Forced Exposure’s Jimmy Johnson (below) talk about Stateside opportunities. So, that age-old question: how do you break the US? “I have to be honest with my artists when they say they want to break US,” said Muller; “I have to ask them ‘why?’ With Phoenix, it took ten years. We could see some sparkles like college radio, so decided to push it there. Then we brought them to NY for a first show. Now, they’ve grown from indie sensation to mainstream band who’s often considered American now, even though they’re very French.”
The conversation then moved on to opportunities for artists on Pandora, regardless of whether they’re on a big label.
“We pick up so many artists on social media. We’re going there more than to some labels now,” said Zuchowski, who added that 80% of artists played on Pandora have never been on terrestrial radio; and some are getting 3-4 million listeners a month. Muller talked about the slow, 10-year build that took Phoenix from being a cult fave to a mainstream success who are often considered to be American, even though they’re French. Kaskie flew the flag for curation, meanwhile. “As a listener, having 800m songs is the last thing you want,” he said.
Today also saw the first pitching session in this year’s MidemLab contest, with the music discovery, recommendation and creation services category. The panel of judges and a packed Innovation Factory heard six pitches.
Antescofo helps musicians play along with orchestras at home; Tracklib is a marketplace for fully-licensed stems of songs; SoundGrabber offers social, location-based music discovery; Trackd is an eight-track recording-studio app that helps musicians collaborate with friends and strangers alike (the startup’s Russell Sheffield is pictured above); Flat is a web-based music-scores editor; and Mimi Hearing Technologies‘ app tests people’s hearing then adapts music to their individual hearing profiles so they don’t miss a thing. (Full report on Music Ally).
The day’s keynote sessions got underway with a panel of industry veterans – also known as Midem Pioneers – trading banter and views on how music is evolving: Seymour Stein, Daniel Glass, Joel Katz and Tom Silverman had plenty to say.
“The record companies made a bet that streaming was going to be the future, but unfortunately we have seen that so far, no streaming company has ever made a dime,” said Katz, in a discussion about new business models. “They don’t report profits and they have very little ability to make profits based on the percentage they pay the record companies.”
Glass predicted that the current strife between the music industry and YouTube may find a resolution sooner than many people think, in response to a question about whether YouTube will improve its terms for music. “I think they will. By the end of the summer we’ll see a settlement. They can’t be deaf to what’s going on. YouTube and the Google teams will unite and be much more synergistic with the two companies. I also predict they will be offering more marketing and artist development programs, and get friendlier,” he said.
“The revolution doesn’t begin at the top. The revolution always begins at the bottom. The little guy, the indie artist, the country singer or that rapper who’s going to be upset. They galvanise revolutions, and I think there’s a mini-revolution building in the world with people who are upset about compensation… By the end of the summer I think you’ll see a new system or monetary compensation package that people will be much happier with.”
Silverman and Stein talked animatedly about the potential for music growth in China, India and other emerging countries, while Glass reserved a broadside for artists and managers who voice anti-label sentiment once they are big enough to be making lots of revenue from touring.
““We help make those records, and we are sort of a forgotten species right now, in June of 2016. A lot of it may have happened because of some of the executives in our business who are not up to the challenge or didn’t evolve with the times. I’m upset about it,” he said. (Full report on Music Ally)
Independent trade body WIN’s CEO Alison Wenham unveiled a new report, WINTEL, which aims to establish the “real” size of the independent sector – measuring it by rights ownership rather than by distribution. It’s been a sore point for some time, with indies concerned that measuring the market by distribution means some of their market share is ascribed to the major labels whose distribution arms they work with.
The report claims that independent labels accounted for 37.6% of global recorded-music market share – contributing $5.6bn to the worldwide industry in 2015. “Market share figures are becoming less accurate, and that’s why we felt very driven to create our own,” said Wenham, noting that 52% of independent labels distribute their music through a major label or major-owned distributor. (Full report on Music Ally)
Veteran agent Neil Warnock, of United Talent Agents, held court in the next keynote, talking about the evolution of the live market since his start booking gigs from “two underground telephone boxes in Leicester Square station”. That included responding to Daniel Glass’ comments about artists not respecting the role of labels enough, and cutting them out of their businesses.
“No disrespect to the labels but they cut themselves out. The labels back in the day were totally arrogant. They thought they could keep pushing product at people who were going to buy at any price whatever they wanted to. They thought they could dictate the lives of recording artists. And I think for a long time they forgot where the music comes from: the artists,” said Warnock.
He added that talent agents and agencies are doing more scouting work for new artists than in the past. “Even before they’re signed we need to be part of their team… We’re going to be all over it. We feel now agencies and agents are effectively the new A&R,” he said, before addressing the current debate in the UK about secondary ticketing.
“Some of what’s going on is absolutely disgraceful,” he said, calling for more transparency around the way tickets are resold online. He added that artists and managers are pressing for solutions. “We’re always looking at ways we can make the ticket unique to the buyer so it cannot be transferred,” he said. (Full report on Music Ally)
Finally, industry consultant Mark Mulligan outlined some of Midia Research’s latest findings on the way playlists are affecting the way people listen to music. “The role of curated playlists has accelerated just in the last three months,” said Mulligan. “People are having to work out on the fly how they respond to the changes to cash-flow, to breaking discovering artists.”
One startling example: Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits playlist had 2.3m followers and 35.4m monthly streams in December 2014, but 7.8m followers and 120.4m monthly streams by April 2016. This and other playlists have growing clout to not just break artists, but generate significant revenues for them. “Radio plus retail,” as Mulligan put it.
He went on to note that the popularity of curated playlists is having an impact on people’s usage of services like Spotify. “The percentage of people who make their own playlists on streaming has dropped by 10 percentage points in just one year,” said Mulligan. “The main playlists which people are using are the playlists which are being pushed to them.” Consult the report in full here.