This is the first in a series of four Midem 2017 review posts. More soon!
One of the strengths of Midem is the event’s international nature: of course there are plenty of attendees from the biggest western music markets, but in Cannes they can meet and learn from their peers in Africa, Latin America and Asia, where there are vibrant industries and plenty of unique opportunities and challenges.
Midem 2017 was no different, starting with Africa. A pair of panel sessions shone the spotlight on the continent’s various music markets, as well as the breakout success of Afrobeats music elsewhere in the world.
A panel on the myths and opportunities in Africa provided some hard data on why there is optimism about the growth of recorded and live music alike there. Olivier Laouchez, CEO of Trace, cited the results of a survey showing that 55% of African people are fans of music, making it the top interest ahead of news, education and sport.
He noted that across the 54 countries, 60% of the population is under 24, while there are now 750 million mobile subscribers. Laouchez added that 40% of total music revenues are already coming from the internet, and in Nigeria digital’s share is as high as 90%. He also cited figures suggesting that the African music market is worth around $500m, growing at between 5% and 20% per year.
“This is growing very, very fast. Faster than any other continent on media, on music, on the entertainment market, representing in some countries more than three or four per cent of the total GDP,” he said.
Ghanaian artist Kwame Ametepee Tsikata (aka M.anifest) gave his opinions. “It’s an exciting time, I think, for African music. But we also have to be honest to be able to push it forward and to be able to progress past where it is,” he said.
“Africa can be a ridiculous place in all fairness. One key is to be resilient. Doing business and expecting to just go in and everything will work perfectly, even in a place with the infrastructure like South Africa, is unrealistic,” he added.
“The second thing is to be innovative, because if you think, there’s nothing there. If you release an album and say ‘I want to tour 10 regions in Ghana’, there might not be a system in place already to do that. So what do you do? You create the idea, pitch it and try and make it happen. We’ve been doing a lot of things that have not been done.”
David Alexander of South African firm Sheer Music Publishing also gave his views, highlighting a need for improvement among African collecting societies in particular.
“I really do see a broad range of collecting societies, some of which work for their local members, and some of which don’t,” he said. “The majority of the challenges are that they don’t collect enough money, their administrative costs are too high, they don’t get data from the people who do pay them, and if they do get data they don’t distribute according to data: they distribute according to membership.”
Midem’s second Africa-focused panel looked further afield, examining the international breakthrough of Afrobeats and its potential for even more growth in the future. Wiz Kid’s collaboration with Drake, it was agreed, was just the start of something big.
Michael Ugwu, general manager for West Africa at Sony Music, talked about the evolution of the scene in Nigeria, and its wider credibility. “The fact that we now have a major label domiciled in Lagos, Nigeria, shows that. The independent labels have done a lot over the last decade-plus to actually push this thing we call contemporary Afrobeats music in Nigeria and West Africa,” he said. “I think that us being in the market is just validation of the work that they’ve put in.”
Ugwu talked about Afrobeats sellouts in Europe, as high as 5,000 and 10,000-capacity venues, and the need to continue broadening the audience for this music outside Africa. “Yes, the touring opportunities have grown massively, but I still think it’s obviously a lot of us going: Africans, Nigerians in the diaspora. The key thing, and this is where bigger labels come in and investment comes in, in overseas territories, is about how do we cross over? I guess the festivals would then be that key channel,” he said.
“We’ve proven to ourselves that we consume our own music. We’ve proven to ourselves it’s good music! Our production values are much higher now. That’s videos, audios, everything. How do we now take it global? How do we now get that mainstream audience? How do we now get that little girl in Ohio tapping her feet to one of our tracks?”
Godwin Tom, Nigerian talent manager and consultant, has worked with some of the biggest Afrobeats artists, and agreed with the broad thrust of Ugwu’s views.
“The diaspora: the Africans in Europe and the Africans in America, present a huge opportunity, and I think if we open up our minds. Because they also have iTunes. One of the things I’ve been trying to do recently is touring the country talking to young people about opportunities in the industry,” he said.
“What I realise is we’ve not really sold ourselves as well. So I think one of the things we have also been doing is collecting data, so we have some data… and we are very open to sharing it and saying look, this artist has this amount of followers in France, this amount of followers in the UK… so we’re putting ourselves out there and saying ‘bring us here, and we’ll bring a new audience to your festival‘.”
Banky Wellington, an artist and label entrepreneur, compared Afrobeats’ potential to that of hip-hop, including the struggles it may encounter on the way to global ubiquity.
“There was a time when hip-hop was not as recognised and as celebrated as it is now… There was a time when hip-hop was struggling to be represented at festivals, and awards shows. And that’s what we’re going through now. The world is kind-of looking at Africa and African music and seeing this explosion. But it’s kind-of step-by-step,” said Wellington.
“There was a time when hip-hop, which is so widely celebrated and acknowledged today, was in the very same position. One of the things that happened with hip-hop was entrepreneurs and people who were smart enough, and had the knowledge and the vision, to set up themselves to control the art-form. Def Jam wasn’t signing Jay Z, Def Jam was doing a joint venture with Roc-a-Fella. Def Jam was doing a joint venture with Ruff Ryders. So if we do those kinds of partnerships, then the whole movement goes forward. And even the major labels, the Sonys of the world will benefit from it.”
“If we’re smart enough, and if we’re conscientious enough, I foresee the same type of situation with Afrobeats and African music. Where if we set up shop properly, then the festivals and the awards shows and all of those things, they will not have a choice but to acknowledge.”
Talking of international crossovers, one currently looms large around the world: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee‘s ‘Despacito’ (with or without its Justin Bieber-aided remix), which has been a streaming-fuelled smash hit – and the latest step to prominence outside Latin America for the reggaetón genre.
Known as the ‘King of Reggaetón’, Daddy Yankee came to Midem to tell attendees about his rise to fame outside his home continent, starting with his roots.
“We started out in the early 1990s as a real underground movement. No radio play – nothing. Just DJs in the barrio. We were putting out mixtapes from the hood. That is how people related to us…We became entrepreneurs by obligation!” he said, before moving on to the current industry dynamics, and a comparison of them to hip-hop in the late 1970s. “Streaming is the new street marketing! What happened with the rap scene in New York is basically what happened with us.”
Daddy Yankee’s ability to break out from his home markets has also been driven by global social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Musical.ly.
“I just have fun with the tools,” he said. “Right now you can connect direct with the fan. Fans can ask the artists questions and you are able to answer any question… you can now read your fans… The young generation loves content. Work on your single but don’t stop there. Keep sending content to your fans.”
Midem’s Worldwide Village had plenty of discussion of the key markets and trends in Latin America. The ‘Make It In Brazil!’ session offered advice for foreign artists and labels hoping to make a splash there, for example.
“We have an incredible rise of streaming, and we still have a very important and very big live scene. Brazil is definitely a country where people love to have the artists on-stage. It’s a live market historically,” said moderator Bruno Boulay. “And Brazil has a booming adoption of smartphones: Brazil has 210 million people, and you have more than 300 million cellphones in Brazil!”
As in Africa, that surge in smartphone usage is opening the way for streaming, and thus the artists whose music is available on those streaming services, to reach new audiences. However, there is more to Brazil (whose Midem pavilion is pictured below) than simply making music available.
“Do you have a partner in Brazil? It’s very important to have a partner in Brazil, because… it’s hard to know everything that is happening in Brazil. If you have a local partner it’s much easier to book some gigs, to know the venues,” said Leandro Silva, CEO of Brazil Music & Arts.
Mauricio Bussab, CEO of Tratore Distribution, talked about the positivity within the Brazilian recorded-music market, after some tough times since the turn of the century.
“The tsunami that fell on the recorded music industry, fell in Brazil a little stronger than everywhere else. We dropped 85% in our revenues for music in the decade between 2000 and 2010,” said Bussab. “Labels pretty much disappeared. And now they’re coming back: now that we’re having more revenue with digital, labels are starting to come back, and I see labels that left Tratore – that were distributing with us – now coming back and saying ‘look, we decided to open our doors again… because it’s possible to make money with recorded music again’.”
Flavio de Abreu, general manager of Scubidu Music, warned international artists that breaking Brazil can be challenging, for several reasons.
“Our market is very different from what you’re used to in Europe and the United States. First thing, the genres that we listen to in Brazil are mostly Brazilian genres. Of course we are affected by the worldwide pop music that goes everywhere… but the Brazilians listen to Brazilian genres mostly,” he said, before outlining the costs involved of bringing a foreign artist to tour.
“Basically the cost is double. So when you get a fee of around $10k, it’s going to be $20k. So you can see the challenge that we have to bring these artists, that are unknown, and they cost a lot more than the Brazilian acts that already have a following. Not to paint you a grim scenario!” he said. “Things have started to change in the last 15 years.”
And as if to prove it, the Brazilian delegation announced shortly after Midem that $1.1 million in business had been generated on its pavilion in four fruitful days in Cannes. Result! Click below to find out more.
— Midem (@midem) June 22, 2017
Mexico – now Spotify’s third biggest market by volume of streams, which is why so many artists on its service have Mexico City as their biggest concentration of fans – was also in the limelight in a Midem panel session.
Lorena Valdes, CEO of artist bookings and management company VagoMusic, talked about the scale of the market in the context of the dance-music scene.
“Since Mexico has so many people – we’re like 120 million people in Mexico – there’s obviously a huge market. A lot of people say that in Mexico they have their biggest fans… For DJ Mag and all those things, international acts approach Mexicans to vote for them! And for Spotify, Mexico is rated their number three of where to go,” she said, before .
“Mexico is one of the countries that pays the most to international acts, so obviously they really want to go… There’s a lot of money to be made, and fans to be approached. So that’s why it’s one of the main places that international acts want to go.”
Artist and music producer Toy Selectah was also on the Mexico panel. “We are living now in the Despacito era… I came to Midem in 2005 to spread reggaetón mixtapes everywhere… and since then I’ve been travelling all around the world doing that,” he said, marvelling at the growth of that genre.
How important has streaming and social media become in Mexico? Pop artist Maluma was cited as one example: his Instagram following helped him sell out venues even with relatively little radio airplay. “It’s huge! Digital brings us the opportunity to approach global labels, and to start competing on a global scale. It’s the door nowadays to open your market,” said Valdes.
“We had growth in Mexico of 60% from streaming, and from that 60%, that’s I think 80 million users for Spotify and all these digital platforms, and from that percentage, it’s 80% the ones that paid. It’s coming back to paying for music.”
Selectah added that half of the Mexican population is young. “Even though the ecosystem of corporate majors controls radio, the market – the consumer – is on YouTube and consuming music on top of radio and on top of everything else,” he said. “Sometimes the radio or the mainstream reacts slower than the actual velocity of the everyday.”
“It’s a huge, huge market. It’s like Brazil, or like they’ve been talking about Africa here. Huge markets outside Europe and outside the USA. And without counting the 60 million Latinos in the US. So if you capitalise and put that together, I think that’s why Despacito happens maybe.”
“It’s all because of the Mexicans!” chuckled Billboard’s Leila Cobo, who moderated the panel.
Asia was also well represented at Midem 2017 on stands, conference and concert stages alike. The annual Taiwanese live showcase – Taiwan Beats – was a big hit on the Thursday night, with DJ Questionmark (pictured above), The Chairman and The Mixer rocking the beach venue.
This enthusiasm translated to the Taiwan Pavilion too, with visitors keen to find out more about the country’s music market. A ‘Music Island Taiwan’ panel saw DJ Questionmark among the speakers outlining some of the trends at work in his home country:
Japan was also well represented at Midem 2017’s nightlife component, with Sony presenting the Midem Artist Accelerator element of the Midem By Night concerts. Meanwhile, Asia also contributed two of the Midemlab startups contest winners: South Korean firm HumOn and Chinese company Vinci Smart Headphones.
Asia was also represented within the finalists of the Midem Artist Accelerator programme : XXX from South Korea and Prateek Kuhad from India.
The biggest Asian trend at Midem 2017, though, was China. Several conference sessions provided western attendees with some exciting stats and optimistic opinions about the prospects for the legal music market in the world’s most populous country.
One key moment came during the keynote of Tencent Music Entertainment Group VP Andy Ng, when he put up a slide showing the vital statistics of the company’s music-streaming services: 600 million monthly active users, and 200 million daily active users, drawing gasps from the audience.
Ng provided some important context: so far, only 15 million of those people are paying for a subscription, but it hopes to increase that to 25 million by 2019. “These are pretty amazing figures compared to the rest of the world. I have to be honest with you guys: the ARPU in China is much lower than the rest of the world. In China we are basically looking at the volume: the population,” said Ng.
“In China, the lower [the price]the better. This is an educational thing that we have been communicating with the users, because they have been doing the piracy stuff for so many years, and they have been used to not paying for content. So right now, this is a very good start in having them realise that content has a value. We are charging them a small minimum in order to attract the users who will pay for the services.”
A separate session provided a ‘roadmap to China’ for western music companies and artists, explaining the market dynamics and how they can get involved.
Moderator Ed Peto of Outdustry described China as “increasingly policeable as a rights owner”, with global industry body the IFPI processing takedown requests within hours. The panelists suggested that as recently as 2010, China was seen as a 99% piracy market (for recordings) but this has now slipped to under 20%.
The panel also touched on Ng’s point about the Chinese music-subscriptions market, noting that the major Chinese technology companies all have a growing interest in persuading listeners to pay.
“All the big portals like Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu are investing heavily to buy exclusive copyrights from even the three majors,” said TC Pan of Ultimate Music China. “As they invest so much money in these copyrights, they have got to make it back one way or the other. Ad-supported is just not the way. It takes too long and the money is not coming in as quick as just getting people to pay for it. The big platforms will definitely push for the paid market to be even more mature.”
Midem was also the occasion for Warner Music to regroup all of its’ key international executives. Their keynote session also shone a light on how western artists can find an audience in China, using Danish pop star Christopher as a case study.
Jonas Siljemark, president Nordics at WMG, said that the western music industry should be making more of an effort in China. “Music comes from everywhere today. That’s a very important message for everybody. But it could also break everywhere. By history labels have been looking mostly at the big western countries… but one of the biggest markets in the world is east!” he said.
Simon Robson, president Asia at WMG, stressed how different China is for a label starting out on marketing campaigns. “There is absolutely no western social media in China… You have no Facebook, you have no Twitter, no Snapchat, no Instagram. You don’t even have YouTube. So you’re effectively having to start again, and the only way to do that is by going into the country,” he said.
“You have to come regularly… if you can come to China say for a week or half a week on a regular basis, it makes all the difference.”
WMG is also helping Christopher maintain a presence on Chinese social networks like Weibo and WeChat, as well as working with local streaming services like QQ Music – one live stream of a performance attracted 640,000 viewers according to Robson.
“It just shows how Christopher’s profile is building up in China,” said Robson. “People feel that if there’s no Facebook there’s a Facebook equivalent. What we’re finding with China now is yes, there are Facebook equivalents, but there are more services on them. It’s really interesting: they’re starting to drive things that in the west we’re not doing.”
One of the few countries whose music audience can be talked on with the same scale as China is India, and it got its own roadmap panel for curious western music companies during Midem.
There was a similar story about improvements in the landscape for copyright protection to China. “Copyright in India used to mean the right to copy. But now copyright is the right to protection!” said Mandar Thakur, chief operating officer at Times Music.
Gaurav Sharma, VP of growth and data science at streaming service Saavn hailed the evolution of digital services. “India is in a really interesting moment in music because Indian music is almost democratising,” he said. “It is not only building relationships with the major labels and larger independents, but it is also having a structure in place for more of the grassroots indies to be able to get their content on Saavn.”
Saavn is currently adding between one and two million users a month, with around 20 million total active users. “There is definitely opportunity. We are still scratching the surface,” he said.
It was estimated that upwards of 60% of label income in India is coming from streaming. Sharma estimated that five years ago, 95% of listening was Bollywood music but that has now dropped to 85%.
“India isn’t ready to subscribe yet and that kind of thought process isn’t really there yet. But the data is showing that it’s at least trending towards that.”
So from Africa to Asia and from LatAm to Europe — and not forgetting an increased North American turnout — the entire world helped the music industry get back to growth at Midem 2017. Long may it continue!
Stay tuned for the second part of the Midem 2017 Review, which will focus on how music and politics moved forwards in Cannes. Out next week!