This is a the latest in a series of posts live from Midem 2017, in partnership with Music Ally!
Blockchain has been a buzzword rarely far from the music industry’s lips in the last year, and as part of today’s Midem Copyright Summit, a panel of experts debated some of the opportunities and challenges around the technology.
Moderated by lawyer Sophie Goossens, it saw Bailer Music Publishing’s Benjamin Bailer; Sacem’s Xavier Costaz; Dot Blockchain’s Benji Rogers; Jaak’s Vaughn McKenzie; and Mycelia’s Carlotta de Ninni giving their views.
“Essentially what blockchain represents is a new internet,” said McKenzie. “If you think about the internet arriving in 95, it’s taken us 20 years to figure out what the ideal [music]business model is for that, which is streaming… With blockchain, we need to build a new stack for media and music.”
Rogers explained the appeal. “Blockchains force action… If I were to make a statement about a work that I own in a blockchain, and I were to send it to you Sophie, you have three choices: yes it’s correct and I agree, no it’s not correct, or ignore it, which means it’s correct,” he said, addressing Goossens.
“What blockchain may bring to the table is something you cannot ignore, because ignoring it is the same as accepting what’s there in the table is truth… A blockchain-based system at scale could force people to work with it, in a way that exposes them to decentralisation and transparency, arguably whether they like it or not.”
De Ninni said that more-private ‘permissioned’ blockchains may prove useful for some sensitive data in and around the music industry. “If we have to imagine something on a bigger and greater scale, it might be tricky. Not everyone is willing to share how much they earn. Go to Beyoncé and ask her how much they paid her to play the Super Bowl! So a permissioned blockchain could be helpful, not to hide, but to show the things to the people you really want to share with,” she said.
The Copyright Summit was opened by recently-appointed French Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen, who assured the music industry of her support.
— Midem (@midem) June 8, 2017
“Defending authors’ rights is a French cause; I will make it a European priority. Count on me to defend your industry, said the Minister.
This morning, Latin superstar Daddy Yankee also dropped in to Midem, to talk about how his success has been fuelled by digital platforms. Billboard’s Leila Cabo moderated.
“Streaming is the new street marketing! What happened with the rap scene in New York [in the late 1970s]is basically what happened with us,” he said, revealing that he has direct deals with Vevo and YouTube, rather than operating on those platforms through a label.
“The label [generally]invests in you as an artist, but I own my own masters,” he explained. “When I went to YouTube and Vevo, they were surprised I had no label. I said I wanted to do a direct deal with them. No middle men. I don’t know if there is another artist who has that.”
Yankee also talked about what his younger fans are looking for. “The young generation loves content,” he said. “Work on your single but don’t stop there. Keep sending content to your fans. Right now fans love content. It’s a different generation. But you can’t sacrifice quality. You have to make sure the content is quality… Create your own movement through the digital revolution to engage your fans.”
The same conference room was almost as packed for a session on bots and messaging apps, a hot topic right now:
— Midem (@midem) June 8, 2017
Whilst The Bot Platform‘s Syd Lawrence said Facebook Messenger bots are now messaging bots are now the only effective solution for alerts in real time for breaking news like open ticket sales, Polydor‘s Luke Ferrar notably warned that, like most new communication tools, bots can be “labour intensive, and need a real strategy and content plan.”
Startups were the toast of the Midem main room on the conference’s second day, with four pitch sessions featuring the 20 finalists in this year’s Midemlab contest, before the winners were announced. Read our story from yesterday on the four winning startups.
The winners’ announcement was preceded by a panel session involving three past Midemlab finalists: Josquin Farge from Soundsgood; Bernd Kopin from Mimi Hearing Technologies; and Liat Sade-Sternberg from Fusic, and moderated by Midem’s James Martin. The panel talked about how their Midemlab experiences had honed their technologies and given investors confidence in their businesses, as well as sparking the odd pivot.
“It builds up trust when you talk to investors, when you talk to partners. People reach out to you saying ‘hey, you won at Midem!’,” said Kopin. “And many people we met in the audience at Midem gave us amazing feedback… the feedback we got bolstered our opinion that we needed to build up an ecosystem… We were an app company, now we’re an app company that licenses the technology.”
Sade-Sternberg delivered a warning to the music industry, however. “From our experience, investors are not keen to invest in startups where their main focus is music,” she said. “We should find a better way to bridge between startups and entrepreneurs and the music industry… The leading labels are eager to try new technology, but it gets tapped when you are starting to speak about licensing issues and how to promote the campaign.”
After Midemlab, the first keynote panel saw Danish artist Christopher joined by his manager and key execs from Warner Music Group to explain his success in China.
The group included Beth Appleton, SVP of global marketing at WMG; manager Thomas Børresen; Jonas Siljemark, president Nordics at WMG; and Simon Robson, president Asia at WMG. The moderator was CMU’s Chris Cooke. Robson had plenty of advice for western artists and labels hoping to make it big in China.
“China is a truly unique market. People will say that about a lot of markets, but this one really is unique… There is absolutely no western social media in China. So if you start creating a noise outside of China… it’s very muted. 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. And this is what Christopher and Thomas have been doing: they have been to China five times in two and a half years. Every six months. It’s perfect.”
— MusicAlly (@MusicAlly) June 7, 2017
Appleton said that what’s happening in China may spark ideas for marketers elsewhere in the world. “If you look at south east Asia, the way they think about connecting with audiences and fans is future-progressive. We can learn a lot,” she said.
Also keynoting day two of Midem was Steve Bartels, CEO of Def Jam Recordings. He talked about his career working with artists from the Beastie Boys to Kanye West, including the creative energy of the latter – and how the label aims to support it.
“When he is ready to go, he makes a phone call and it’s go time,” he said of how West operates. “We don’t always get a warning. I have taken a call on New Year’s Eve where he wanted to put a song up on iTunes at midnight – and the call was that morning. There were a lot of people who work at these companies who are gone for the holidays. But we try and make it work. That’s what we do. We are here to help the artists.”
Bartels also said hip-hop is enjoying a streaming-fuelled boom in 2017. “Things for us – definitely on the hip-hop side of the catalogue as well as current music – is really very bullish,” he said. “Hip-hop does so well on streaming and over-indexes big time. As streaming grows and there is more scale, that is going to do even better because people like to hear that music.”
A light-hearted but educational keynote saw Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda and Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus attempting to write a song together on-stage, in front of the Midem audience. Fielding suggestions for its theme from the crowd – “Sex!… Happiness!… Donald Trump!” – the pair got cracking on what sounded like it had the makings of a hit:
— Midem (@midem) June 7, 2017
There were plenty of independent label representatives on-stage at Midem, including a diverse panel organised by British trade body AIM. The panel included CTRL Management’s Nadia Khan; Kobalt Music Recordings’ Nathan Liddle-Hulme; XL Recordings’ Caroline Simionescu-Marin; and Secretly Group’s Michelle Kambasha. AIM’s Lara Baker moderated.
Khan was effusive about the democratising power of streaming for smaller labels. “Streaming has opened out and levelled the playing field between majors and indies,” she suggested. “This has moved on from the old model of gatekeepers at radio deciding what is going to be a hit.”
“I find in the UK, the two main streaming platforms are very receptive to independent labels and acts,” agreed Liddle-Hulme. “It has offered developing artists and bigger platform than they have ever had before. That platform is a unique opportunity for developing acts now. [Previously] it was incredibly hard to get a developing act with no story in the press or radio.”
Another session yesterday saw three young European independent labels talking about their experiences. Andreas Ryser of Mouthwatering Records; Nikola Jovanovic of Lampshade Media; Nis Bysted of Escho and Michel Peek of Bravoure Music were on hand for opinions, moderated by indie trade-body IMPALA’s communication and membership manager Didier Gosset.
“Developments in the last 15 years, we are seeing it easier to become a label,” said Peek. “It’s literally making an account on YouTube and you are a label. But it is more difficult to break an artist or break a career.”
Jovanovic agreed that the market is noisier. “Competition is tough and it’s getting fierce,” he sighed. “But that’s something. People have started giving advances again – which they didn’t do three years ago. That means something has changed in the business.”