This is the second in a series of four Midem 2017 review posts. More soon!

Midem 2017 was a hotbed of discussion about digital trends, hot startups and the opportunities in emerging and developed music markets alike. But policymakers and the drive for more transparency within the industry was also a key theme this year.

With senior politicians having their say; renewed debate about the ‘value gap’ problem posed by YouTube and other user-generated content services; and a day-long Copyright Summit exploring other issues around rights and music’s value-chain, there was much to ponder.

Martine Reicherts

Martine Reicherts, director general of the European Commission’s directorate general for education, youth, sport and culture, outlined the Commission’s efforts around the Creative Europe and Music Moves Europe initiatives.

That included some hard news: hopes to launch the music industry’s equivalent of the MEDIA programme that supports the European film and audiovisual industries.

“We have started to work on a programme whereby we would have a similar MEDIA programme for music,” she said, outlining a three-year timescale to put together the contents of this programme.

“This is not a quick fix and we will not save the world immediately, but in three years’ time we can make it better. The plan is to replicate the success story of MEDIA… We have our programme supporting the movies. Can’t we do the same for music?

Reicherts also delivered support for the music industry in its efforts to ensure that large technology companies pay fair royalties for their usage of music.

“People are used to getting things for free – but there is no free lunch. If you can’t find a way whereby the youngsters can make their living out of their music and their art, in five years or 20 years there will be no European music,” said Reicherts.

“We need to address this issue – not only for the sake of making jobs but also for the sake of keeping this cultural diversity in Europe. This is one of our fundamental values.”

Francoise NyssenMidem 2017 also played host to the newly-appointed French Minister of Culture, Françoise Nyssen (pictured above and at the top of this post, opening Midem with show director Alexandre Deniot, Cannes Mayor David Lisnard and more) who has just taken up the role after a career in the publishing industry. In her speech at the conference, Nyssen delivered a strong message of support for the music industry and its creators.

Defending authors’ rights is a French cause. I will make it an EU priority. Count on me to defend your industry,” Nyssen told the audience. She elaborated that “defending equitable revenue-sharing between platforms, artists, labels and publishers” was a top priority for the new administration in France: words that will have been music to the ears of rightsholder bodies who have been lobbying keenly for reform of ‘safe harbour’ legislation covering services such as YouTube.

“Just a few days after my nomination, I fought to defend the audiovisual sector,” added Nyssen in her well-received speech. She also took part in the official opening ceremony for Midem 2017, and toured the exhibition visiting stands – including French music-streaming service Qobuz (above).

European Parliament member Jean-Marie Cavada also defended copyright at Midem, accusing labels, broadcasters and artists of not doing enough to “stop European cultural heritage being pillaged by companies I consider as outlaws,” he said, referring to Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

Speaking of web giants, the ‘value gap‘ debate remains high on the agenda of music-industry bodies in 2017, with Midem playing host to two panels that put forward the rightsholders’ point of view on how current safe-harbour legislation should be modernised.

The first of those sessions explored European perspectives, with Enzo Mazza from Italian trade body FIMI; Dr Florian Drücke from German body BVMI; and Guillaume Leblanc from France’s SNEP joined by MEPs Jean-Marie Cavada and Christian Ehler, and chairman of the permanent advisory committee for copyright at the ministry of cultural heritage Professor Paolo Marzano.

YouTube loomed large, although the panelists tried to frame their arguments as a matter not of personal rancour, but of professional concern. “The value gap is a problem of fairness,” said Mazza. “This is not sustainable and not fair. No one here is against YouTube. We are partners with companies like YouTube, but we need to work in the same way. Streaming is a boat in which everyone should row in the same direction.”

Drücke said that European legislators must play a key role in encouraging this. “What we need to fix the value gap is a clarification at the EU level. I strongly believe that not every European country should find their own way to tackle a global player,” he said. Later in the discussion, Drücke also said that music-streaming services are entering the fray.

You see more and more of the other platforms like Spotify are now being more vocal because they understand that it is unfair competition; that it is unfair competition that has be solved,” he said, before turning his attention back to politicians.

“It is not only the time that the artists and the music industry should be vocal; it is the time when the national governments should get involved and not stay silent. Now it is time to take a position and show that, yes, it’s about the national industries, but it’s also about the cultural future of Europe. That is where you have to take your stand.”

The second ‘value gap’ panel at Midem 2017 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 chewing over the issues around safe harbour and potential modernisation. Once again, YouTube’s ears may have been burning.

Let’s be absolutely clear, YouTube is not radio – it is the biggest on-demand service around,” said Reichardt. “People do not go there to discover music. They go there to listen to music they already know.” She added that labels see the ‘value gap’ debate as one of sticking to the spirit of existing legislation, rather than tearing it up and starting again.

“What we need is the national courts and countries to apply the law as it was intended to be applied when it was enacted into the Copyright Directive in 2001 and the E-Commerce Directive,” she said.

Coldrick made an extremely valid point however: the task does not end if and when platforms like YouTube start paying higher royalties for their music usage. She addressed the issue of transparency within the music industry over how those royalties flow through the system.

Yes, there is a value gap – but you mustn’t forget the value chain. In the value chain, you are talking about the audience all the way through to the artist. That includes services like YouTube, but also Spotify, Apple Music and others, the labels, the collection societies and the publishers,” said the MMF boss.

“Great – get all the money from the DSPs and YouTubes of this world and get that into the labels and publishers; but we want the guarantee that that money will be shared fairly and transparently back with those who created the music in the first place.”

Midem’s Copyright Summit wasn’t just about calls for copyright reform from policymakers. One of the most talked-about sessions looked at how the music industry and startups are working together around one particular technology, blockchain, which could play a significant role in the future of copyright.

Carlotta de Ninni of Mycelia (above), the initiative launched by musician Imogen Heap, talked about the importance of blockchain technology benefiting artists. “We are like the artist voice in these kind of developments and topics. We position ourselves as researchers: we are absolutely neutral… tech-agnostic and blockchain-agnostic… A little bit more focused on the remuneration, the transparency, and having an ecosystem that is a little more artist-centric,” she said.

Vaughn McKenzie of startup Jaak provided an overview of blockchain’s significance – and the nascent status of the music industry’s engagement with it.

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… Blockchain is just a way to connect information. The problem is that today, the information isn’t connected… this is the core problem of rights in the music industry. That’s where we need to focus.”

Dot Blockchain founder Benji Rogers gave his view on the key benefits of blockchain technology, if it gains traction. “The cost of doing business in the music industry is incredibly high. And one thing the blockchain will do is bring down the cost of trust,” he said.

“It’s 2017, and if a VR company wants a song, they have to phone people. That’s an absurdity of this business that is starting to be fixed… If everyone’s pushing towards it, it’ll be messy, but that’s okay. Because innovation tends to pop out of the mess… What’s great about blockchain thinking is it does revolve around a whole bunch of people solving a really difficult problem. That’s the exciting thing.”

The Copyright Summit also saw a thoughtful discussion of the music industry’s need to build more-transparent rights management systems, moderated by Andy Edwards from the Music Managers Forum.

Antony Bebawi, EVP digital and society relations Europe at Sony/ATV, gave a publisher’s perspective on the benefits of developing these kinds of systems.

A huge amount of value is locked up in the processing and the analysis of usage reports that are coming from the DSPs,” he said. “Actually unlocking some of that value and creating a level of efficiency in the system, will actually deliver increased revenues to our songwriters without us necessarily having to do anything dramatic to the way that our licences are structured.”

The meat of the session reflected on the past failure of the Global Repertoire Database project: the attempt to build a common database of rights that foundered in 2014, and which has cast a shadow over similar attempts ever since. The panel suggested that some reassessment may be in order though.

“As an industry we’re very good at giving ourselves a hard time,” said Bebawi. “The GRD was in many respects a fantastic project to be involved in. Apart from the conclusion, which wasn’t so fantastic! It was probably slightly ahead of its time. I would probably liken the GRD project to a bunch of nations trying to address climate change. Everybody knows there’s a problem… At the time the GRD was running there was less of an acceptance of the facts that the problem is what it is.”

Panos Panay, co-founder of the Open Music Initiative, also suggested a reframing of the GRD narrative. “At its heart, innovation for me is a relay race. Or it’s akin to learning a musical piece. You’ll just get it wrong the first and the second and the third and the fourth time, and then at some point you’ll get it right. We need to stop looking at efforts like GRD as a failure. They were a just a step towards whatever the next thing is,” he said.

Lucie Caswell, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), said that the industry can learn important lessons from the GRD project.

“There are potentially two aspects of why the GRD didn’t work. One of those is that artists, creators, students, technology works very fast. It’s very quick, it’s very flexible, it’s very agile, and it’s always moving forwards. The music industry, and the industry particularly predicated on law, moves very slowly. And that separation of speed is often a real central point of conflict I think,” she said.

“The second piece: innovation, ideas, endless analysis, will solve any of these problems. It’s all technologically possible… But what we learn from things like the GRD is that’s not the problem. It’s the question of how we as an industry deal with each other, and how long-sighted we need to be.”

Caswell also talked about the importance of putting artists in the middle of all these debates and developments.

It’s making sure they have that central seat at the table. Whether it’s regarding innovation or legislation, whether it’s about education and development, these are the voices that need to be heard,” she said.

Andrew JenkinsThe Copyright Summit threw up some strong opinions, unsurprisingly. Andrew Jenkins, who has just stepped down as chairman of the board of the ICMP, but remains president of Universal Music Publishing Group for Australia and Asia-Pacific, was a case in point.

“I’m going to say something very controversial now. I don’t think there should be a term of copyright. If I buy a house, I own it forever. It’s my property. If I have intellectual property, I should have it forever,” he said.

It shouldn’t be 50 years. It shouldn’t be 25 years. It should be forever. I should be able to pass it on to my family. I don’t understand why we treat one type of property differently… I can certainly pass on the value of my house to my children, they can pass it on to their children and their children’s children.”

Jenkins returned to the theme of what the music industry would like to see policymakers in Europe and elsewhere doing to address the ‘value gap’ debate.

We all have to lobby, we have to do whatever we can. There are more lobbyists lobbying for the other sides, for those people who would rather see copyright reduced and devalued,” he said. “There is something that is thankfully on our side, which is common decency with some governments. You see people actually care about their cultures, and I think that’s fantastic.”

Talking of Midem’s home continent, Creative Europe’s Music Moves Europe stand and associated conference sessions explored a range of issues, from policymaking to exciting European startups.

On Wednesday, that included panel debates on EU funding for music and the European perspective on the importance of live music, as well as an introductory address from MEP Christian Ehler. “Europe is willing to use the European Investment Bank [EIB] to grant financial support to creative industries,” he told the audience.

The next day saw lawyer Sophie Goossens presenting her views on musical diversity in Europe; a panel on promoting that diversity online; and a presentation on ‘the new European playlists’ curated by the European Music Export Exchange.

“Spotify believes in mixing the best of algorithm and human curation to foster diversity,” said Spotify’s Marine Elgrichi. “Tech should be an enabler of music diversity via things like music mapping and new forms of presentation,” agreed Yvan Boudillet of Startup Sesame. However, Jean-Baptiste Gourdin of the French Ministry of Culture raised a warning: “Could algorithms eventually make us prisoners of our own tastes?”

Music Moves Europe also played host to pitches from eight startups, chosen as part of a contest launched by Startup Sesame on behalf of the European Commission. They included Belgian music-recommendations firm Musimap; German social-discovery service TrackRecord AI; French ‘musical space-time machine’ Radioooo; Norwegian social-streaming platform Requestify; French playlist-curation startup Soundsgood; British blockchain firm Blokur; Slovenian musician network Viberate; and Danish radio-monitoring service WARM.

Midem also saw the publication of a study of the creative value chains for industries including music, but also film, television, book publishing, visual arts, performing arts, artistic crafts and multimedia. Its aim was to outline not just how these ecosystems work, but how they have been affected by digitisation. You can read the full report here.

Midem 2017 also saw attendees get an update on the Open Music Initiative, which launched as a collaboration between Berklee College of Music and other academic institutions a year ago.

“The ambition from the beginning has been to use our academic neutrality to be a convening mechanism to get the industry – and I’ll use that term very broadly: not just the traditional record industry or just the PROs or just the DSPs – to come together and create what we call an open protocol for uniform identification of rights ownership,” said Panos Panay during the Copyright Summit’s transparent rights systems panel.

At its core our belief is that unless you have interoperability, you can’t really have transparency. And this is what open protocols do: the internet exists because it’s based on an open protocol.”

193 companies have now joined the OMI including all three major labels, PROs and services including Spotify, Pandora and SoundCloud. The initiative now has five working groups, which Panay stressed have not been divided by participant type – “labels, PROs, DSPs…” – but rather by the problem to be solved.

“We said ‘we have a metadata issue, we have a payments issue’ and so forth… We’re orchestrators more than builders. That’s fed into two documents that we’re distributing to the members: a business requirements document and a API-specifications document,” explained Panay. At a standalone Open Music Initiative session later in the week (above tweet), he provided more details on the rollout of a live API for people to start building projects.

So further to this Midem, the music industry can look forward to new, concrete support from Europe; new terms for copyright; new transparency through Blockchain; and new interoperability via the Open Music initiative. A whole new world, in short!

Stay tuned for the third part of the Midem 2017 Review, which will highlight the incredible music talent that emerged through the Midem Artist Accelerator artists’ programme, and the Midemlab startup competition. Out next week! 

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Stuart Dredge is a freelance journalist, and a regular contributor to Music Ally, The Observer and more... including midemblog :)

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