Music’s next 50 years were truly kickstarted at Midem 2016. This, the second in a series of thematic posts, recaps how labels and publishers are navigating in today’s new music landscape. Enjoy!
At Midem 2016, there was plenty of positivity around opportunities for these international music pros and their artists. “We’ve weathered a lot of change. I think we have reason to be optimistic right now, the business showed some growth last year. I think we still have some challenges fighting to get the real value of music realised,” said Stu Bergen, Warner Music Group’s CEO of international and global commercial services, in his keynote session. He was joined by Iñigo Zabala (below right, with Brazilian pop star Anitta), WMG’s president of Latin America and Iberia, for a session which offered plenty of optimism about growth in the emerging world.
THE RISE OF EMERGING MARKETS
“We at Warner believe in emerging markets, because we think that not believing in emerging markets is like not believing in the future of the world,” said Zabala. “Streaming in Mexico now represents the third [biggest]market for Spotify, and streaming represents 70% of the [overall Mexican music]market. That shows you the potential of this new economy, of this new industry.”
Bergen also talked up China’s potential for Warner Music, and by extension for other labels too. “China is that perfect situation where you have an improving legislative environment that is getting more protective of intellectual property, you have companies that are providing good consumer opportunity, good consumer choice for streaming services,” he said.
MUSIC MOVES EUROPE
On the European angle, Midem 2016 also hosted the Music Moves Europe conference, which provided an update on how the European Commission is working to support the music industry, and encourage new partnerships within it.
To the fore was the question of how artists are compensated for digital use of their work, with Martine Reicherts, Director General DG EAC, European Commission outlining the task at hand.
“The remuneration of creators is also vital for other sectors. Music is at the heart of lots of industries,” she said. “It’s not only about music, there is music in films, there is music in advertising, there is even music in the video games. So we have to think much broader, and to get out of the box… We really need the value chain to be reorganised in favour of the creators.” Reicherts was forthright in her support for the music industry, and her desire for divisions with the technology world to be bridged. “We need to get out of this world whereby we think that cultural worlds are the lunatics and the industrial worlds are the big capitalists, and I think we need to get the two worlds together,” she said. “How can we use in the cultural worlds the industry, and how can the industry better pay the creation, because I think that’s what it is all about.”
She concluded with a strong message on a European level. “My vision is that there will be and there should be a support for music as well as for cinema,” said Reicherts. “It is really important, it is a fundamental issue, and we should really go for it… Europe is my passion. but culture is also my passion. and I think let’s glue them together. Let’s marry them and let’s make out of those two passions one passion, and one program for music in Europe.” The European Commission was a prominent participant at Midem this year, attending to meet the professionals and engage with the industry, as well as presenting its existing 10 programs for the music world on “Music Moves Europe” dedicated pavilion.
Industry veteran Keith Harris also urged European politicians to provide more support, through education, for emerging musicians, suggesting that even his most famous client, Stevie Wonder, might not be a guaranteed success in today’s music world.
“The route to market and the route to get success for starting-out artists is now so difficult, that I believe even somebody with his talent would have struggled to break into it. So what do we do to change that?” said Harris.
The full EC session is embedded below:
INDIES REVEAL TRUE MARKET VALUE GLOBALLY
Independent labels had a high profile at Midem this year, led by trade body WIN with its report on the global market share of indies (which you can download in full here). Chief executive Alison Wenham explained that WIN’s analysis found that independents account for 37.6% of the global recorded music market, contributing $5.6bn to the industry in 2015.
“Independents have built sustainable businesses. We have businesses coming up to 50 years old, and we also have businesses born into the new digital era who are perfectly at ease working within and beside a frictionless market,” Wenham told the Midem audience in her keynote speech. “We talk about global. The reach now for every record company, whether they’re a bedroom company in Lima or a dance outfit in Brazil is phenomenal. We’re seeing you can reach your market, wherever in the world you happen to exist.”
Independent music companies had a high profile in Midem’s Label Summer Camp area, as they outlined how they’re making the most of streaming services and social networks on behalf of their artists.
TALENT DEVELOPMENT – TIPS FROM THE TOPS
A popular session saw Daniel Miller, founder of one of the world’s best-respected labels – Mute – discuss A&R with journalist Hugh McIntyre (right above). One tip for the audience was to always go and see the support band: that is precisely how Miller discovered Depeche Mode, who were supporting Fad Gadget when he first saw them play. “That day, we decided to make a single together,” said Miller… who also bemoaned the current state of some electronic music: “A lot of dance music is cheesy, an insult to electronic musicians.” Quality always wins!
Publishing also got its moment in the keynote sun, with Warner/Chappell boss Jon Platt outlining his views on why developing colleagues is as important as developing songwriters.
“My thing is for 20 years I’ve been known for developing songwriters and signing them at the beginning of their careers,” said Platt. “I take the same approach with executive talent. I like to develop executive talent, it’s a passion of mine. I didn’t want any recycled executives… I wanted to give young people a shot.”
Platt was accompanied by songwriter Justin Tranter (centre), who was supported by Warner/Chappell as his own band fell apart. Since then, he’s written Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ among other hits.
“They just put me to work,” said Tranter. “It was a session every day for a couple of months… They let writers do what they love, and most of all it’s about putting them to work.”
Laziness isn’t on the agenda at Warner/Chappell on Platt’s watch. “I sign songwriters that would write the number one song on the chart… and you have to work hard,” he said. “Any songwriter that’s out there, you’ve been blessed with a gift, so for you to disrespect that gift by not putting your all into it every day, I have a problem with that.”
Plain speaking was also in evidence for the keynote session starring Neil Warnock, head of music worldwide at United Talent Agency, and one of the most experienced heads in the live-music industry. Warnock had some sharp words for those labels who he sees as not having proved their value to artists in the changing industry.
“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,” he said.
Warnock also said that the industry’s evolution is bringing a new role for talent agencies. “We feel now agencies and agents are effectively the new A&R,” he said, of his company’s ongoing search for new acts. “Even before they’re signed we need to be part of their team.”
PLAYLISTS: LABELS’ NEW OBSESSION?
One session, on streaming, saw Believe Digital head of trade marketing James Farrelly talk about the growing role of playlists, where independent labels punch above their traditional market weight.
Farrelly warned labels not to expect any favours from the playlist bosses at Spotify, Apple Music and their rivals, however. “The majority of playlists that exist on services, their main function is to keep users consistently listening to music on a regular basis,” he said.
“Those streaming services aren’t that interested in making sure your commercial priorities are placed at the top of those playlists. They just want good, curated content… Don’t just think that ‘because this is a big commercial priority for us’, the streaming services need to put it at the top of their playlists. It needs to be good music.”
Fellow panelist Olivier Dutertre, of TheSoundYouNeed, suggested that Apple Music may have a greater role to play in labels’ marketing campaigns in the future.
“I think Apple Music is going to grow to a point where it’s bigger or as big as Spotify. And at that point I hope they are going to remake Apple Connect, because that would be the best feature for any brand to create a profile, have a following and your profile could be linked to your playlists,” he said.
In his keynote speech, Midia Research’s Mark Mulligan spelled out the importance of streaming playlists. “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.”
He also drew attention to an under-discussed question at the heart of playlists’ impact on the industry: are they helping to broaden the listening tastes of streaming users – because they’re discovering more artists from other countries around the world? Danish band Lukas Graham’s rapid rise to global fame being one recent example. Or are playlists playing more of a homogenising role, fuelling hundreds of millions of plays for Justin Bieber and Drake at the expense of local artists in non English-speaking markets?
“The playlist curators are the ones who will ultimately decide whether streaming is about globalisation, or internationalisation,” said Mulligan, sparking conversations that have lasted well beyond Midem, based on his research about “Curated playlists & cross-border listening: the international music future”, produced exclusively for Midem (which you can download in full here).
Finally, Midem attendees had the chance to learn practical marketing tips as well as hear inspirational case studies. Music Ally’s head of training Nikoo Sadr delivered a popular session on inventive marketing campaigns:
Sadr also joined Claire Mas of Commmunion Music and Joakim Johansson of Universal Music Sweden for a session discussing digital strategies for labels. Exclusives were a hot topic. “Everything should be available on all platforms; it’s up to consumer where they want to listen,” said Johansson, while Mas warned labels off focusing purely on paid streaming services. “68m paid music subscribers vs 3.3bn people online; it’s just a drop in the ocean! Don’t offer narrow solutions,” she said.
Another summer camp panel focused on the US, and the strategies of artists and labels taking their catalogue Stateside. French band Phoenix’s label manager Laurence Muller was candid about the challenges involved.
“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.”
Overall, there was plenty of food for thought, particularly for young musicians and companies trying to make the most of the evolving digital ecosystem. Many were on-stage at Midem, including IMPALA’s Fiveunderfifteen session, which showed some of the freshest, most inventive labels in Europe.