This is a the fourth in a series of posts live from Midem 2017, in partnership with Music Ally!
Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht provided an informative keynote interview at Midem yesterday, talking about how his streaming service sees the market in 2017.
I remember when I started here three years ago, there was still a big question about if streaming was the right model and if we would survive […] We are growing quite nicely and this year we will do over €300m in revenue,” he said. “We have developed a very strong direct customer business which is growing 40% year-on-year. We now have more than 12m active users. We have also adjusted the model a bit to focus more on direct customers and not only partnerships with telcos, for example. Those things we did over the past three years are starting to pay off. It is going well.”
Albrecht also addressed the topic of artist exclusives. “I always said that I don’t believe in having certain songs as an exclusive on a platform. To have some artists exclusive [forever]or exclusive for 14 days doesn’t make the trick. I don’t believe in it,” he said. “One of the reasons streaming has become so successful is that we made it – compared to the old days – very easy for the customer to find all the music they want to listen to on one place […] We would rather focus on non-music exclusive content like Deezer Originals.”
Deezer is also eyeing consolidation in the streaming market. “It has happened already. Some mid-size and smaller services have been leaving the business. If you can hold up with the big guys like Apple, Amazon and Spotify – and you grow like Deezer has – then you have a good chance to survive. We always believed there would be four or five big players in the world.”
One of the most anticipated keynotes of this year’s Midem was that of First Access Entertainment CEO Sarah Stennett. Her joint venture with Access Industries combines recorded music, management and publishing services, as one of the companies exploring new shapes for a music industry company. She was interviewed by journalist Lisa Verrico.
“If you look at what is happening with the emergence of grime in the UK, that scene existed outside of the more stable music business and corporate system,” she said. “Those artists, the audiences and the community – let’s call it a movement – has forced its way into the system. They have made their own space within the system.”
Stennett also criticised the emphasis on data in some quarters of the music industry. “I know catalogues do well statistically on streaming platforms, but for me and my business, I think it is really important that you look outside of the stats,” she said. “Once you start focusing on statistics, you miss what’s happening and what things are going on in a place where there aren’t even stats available.”
She also discussed her latest discovery, Lil Peep (pictured above), who she literally extracted from an artists’ squat. “If someone’s so committed to their craft that they tattoo ‘cry baby’ on their face, I want to meet them,” she said. Now you know how to get her attention!
Read Music Ally’s report on the Sarah Stennett keynote – watch session in full
Closing off this year’s keynote series, Chris Taylor, Global President of Entertainment One Music, explained why this entertainment giant, best known for its TV productions, is now focusing on music. Just one example is kids’ show Peppa Pig, one of the largest animated properties in the world. “The music is now available on Spotify and Deezer and doing great,” said Taylor. Indeed, his team is poised to leverage streaming even further. “I think the growth in streaming has been phenomenal, but there’s still a lot more on the horizon,” said Taylor. “Everyone we are hiring understands or comes from the streaming universe.”
One of the sparkiest sessions of Thursday was when manager Amaechi Uzoigwe from Monotone, and marketing agency The Other Hand’s Zena White discussed how rap duo Run The Jewels have made the most of various marketing channels, including giving away their music for free.
“Actually, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. The free record we found was a way for people to come to the music, and then they’d stay. If that meant they were buying tickets or t-shirts or vinyl… or even buying it on iTunes as a download, even though they can get it for free. Because they want to pay for it,” said White.
“It’s not about the fame and being on TV. Who gives a fuck? It’s about being paid correctly for the work you do… We work with Apple, we work with a lot of great brands, but we work with them on our terms. Because they [Run the Jewels] have earned the right… If there isn’t a proper value exchange, what’s the point?” added Uzoigwe.
“We get the music out there in any ways possible. Sometimes people come to the music not through the music. They may see Killer Mike on television doing an interview about politics… they may see the artwork,” he continued. “We try and keep the ball in play always. Visually, because especially young people, they listen as much with their eyes as their ears these days, so you’ve got to make it interesting.”
A panel on the ‘value gap‘ debate about YouTube and other safe-harbour-protected internet services saw IFPI director of legal policy and licensing Lauri Rechardt; GESAC senior legal adviser Burak Özgen; BMG SVP of business and legal affairs Götz von Einem; and MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick gave their views, moderated by CMU‘s Chris Cooke.
“Let’s be absolutely clear, YouTube is not radio – it is the biggest on-demand service around […] People do not go there to discover music. They go there to listen to music they already know,” said Rechardt. “It should be up to the rights owners to decide how they promote their music – not one service deciding for them.”
Coldrick drew a comparison to another big internet service, though. “It is going to be fascinating because, at the moment, we are paying Facebook to reach our fans. At least from YouTube we get some money – even if it’s not very much!”
Meanwhile, Midem’s now-traditional wrap session cast its eye on the big trends of this conference, and of 2017 more generally. Moderated by Reed Midem’s James Martin, the panel included a selection of this year’s midemblog ambassadors: Warp Records’ Grant Bussinger; Hospital Records’ Romy Harber; Unicum Music’s Emily Gonneau; and Whitesmith Entertainment’s Emily White.
White talked about the theme of streaming. “It is now the format in our industry, finally. There’s still a lot of infighting, a lot of complaints. But there’s also competition! We have Spotify, we have Apple Music, we have Deezer, we have Tidal,” she said. “It’s a really exciting opportunity to really expand artists into all these new markets… And something like Amazon Music is really focusing on streaming, and think of the wealth of customers they have who are not hardcore music fans.”
Bussinger cited another theme of Midem 2017: blockchain. “It’s always been a stitch in my side. The industry’s been talking about blockchain for years now, and nobody’s pulled the trigger,” he said. “PROs and publishing companies are using blockchain technology to solve some of the issues they have with matching and splits… Am I convinced? We’ll see!”
Harber, meanwhile, recommended more experimentation with live-streaming, suggesting the music industry should be more inspired by video gamers’ frenetic activity in this field. “It’s a very strange sort of world: people watching other people playing games, and they get hundreds of millions of views! People are earning a living from this. And I just think it’s something the music community should embrace a little bit more.”
Midem’s final day featured a flurry of sessions, including an Open Music initiative meet up:
— Midem (@midem) June 9, 2017
And an A&R-focused panel featuring some of the world’s most prestigious indies:
— Midem (@midem) June 9, 2017
“An artist like Kate Tempest makes a point & tells her story; We just have to amplify that. Artists speak though their music and we build around that,” said Ninja Tune’s Vidi Gandhi, perfectly resuming these venerable labels’ approach to A&R.
“We have always been international,” said Mute’s Daniel Miller. “[Digital] lets you hear international music on a much broader level. In terms of using data in decision-making, that doesn’t come into for it for us. We don’t ignore it, but it’s not a major part of the decision-making process. Gut reaction and emotional feeling are the most important things and you take it from there. When you find a new artist, there usually is no data – it’s only 10 people at gig.”
Moderator Rhian Jones also raised a point made by Sarah Stennett yesterday, namely the notion of “too soon“, i.e. majors being reluctant to sign acts too early, preferring to analyse data before committing. “I love ‘too soon’, said Miller and Playground Records’ Patrik Larsson, practically in unison. “Not all labels are scared,” added Larsson after the panel.
Then BBC Radio 1’s Head of Music Chris Pricey rounded off proceedings with a simple message: “Radio & streaming have a good relationship; but I believe it can be stronger.” Food for thought for all!
— Javier Lopez (@spanglishjav) June 9, 2017
Catch up on all of Midem’s conferences in full on YouTube. And see you next year!