Midem 2018 is underway, and Africa was at the heart of the first morning’s conference sessions thanks to the Midem African Forum, which is taking place all day on the Worldwide Village stage.

The day started with Midem’s first ever African Forum, following up on a roadshow tour of four key African countries last April. After an introduction by Midem Director Alexandre Deniot (above), the first panel was an exploration of “connectivity, access and music distribution” across Africa, including a heavy focus on mobile-first listening. “One thing that is very significant is to see it as a very fragmented market. Within every market you have many groups of devices and types of consumers,” said Martin Nielsen, CEO of Kenya-headquartered music service Mdundo. “The right way to try to size that opportunity is to deliver a solution that is very flexible, and which can optimise the needs and the potential revenue for each of those groups.”


Ben Oldfield, VP of France, Benelux and West Africa for distributor The Orchard, agreed, and noted that despite the differences between countries, some positive trends encompass them all. “Obviously there are different levels of wealth between Mali and Nigeria, between Mozambique and Ivory Coast… but you still feel that there is, in all of these countries, a young, dynamic, upwardly-mobile, digitally-savvy group of young people,” he said. “They want to have music. The question now is how to bring that closer to a reality… We really are seeing progress happening across the continent. I’m really positive about how things are changing.”

Akotchayé Okio, international development officer for Africa at collecting society Sacem, provided a collecting society’s perspective on a group of markets where there can still be headaches around rights and monetisation. “The market is progressively growing. There is more and more traction, but legally there is a lot to address. We even have to go back to the basics. The stakeholders: musicians, artists, creators, the professional environment, are not aware of authors’ rights in the digital field,” he said. “They are obsessed with the master rights when it comes to monetisation… and they don’t know that their works are generating authors’ rights in the digital world. So we need to explain that to them, to let them know how it works. and to also make sure that the platforms are playing fairly.”

WP Africa

Dayo Olopade, who handles content partnerships for YouTube in Africa, drew attention to another challenge: “Generally speaking, the price of data in South Africa is 4.4x the price of data in the US. In Nigeria, 3.9 times. And this is a base of population where the income is lower… It’s clear the demand is there, it’s clear that music is one of the core use cases for the internet in societies of all kinds where music has always been fundamental. So the question is in the short run – because in the long run I believe the telcos will start to see a high-volume low-margin business as important to them – in the short run, how can people meet their interest in consuming music with new digital tools?”

Even so, the overall sentiment was positive. “We’re trying to build, trying to leap forward, and not having to follow the European and American model. We can build our own model,” said Yoel Kenan, CEO of distributor Africori, which is seeing its revenues in Africa grow by between 10% and 15% every month. “The best music in the world is coming from Africa at the moment, and that’s why we’re excited.”

That session was followed by a panel about independence and artist development in Africa. It featured Toya Delazy, a South African artist (above centre), UNICEF Africa ambassador and founder of independent label Delazy Entertainment; Krotal, aka Georges Williams, manager at label Kingstone Records; and Congolese producer Maya Muesa Moanda (aka ‘Philo’) who also founded independent label Bomaye Musik. Alain Bidjeck was the moderator again.

Philo talked about his story of building a label, Bomayé Musik, “Today in France, it’s digital that helped me to develop my label. Social media too. We started with Twitter, and after iTunes and the streaming services,” he said, about a label focusing on urban music by African artists, which is finding a large audience in France. “I worked with majors, and after I finally chose to be independent, to be closer with the artists, and to use digital to help artists to be spread all over the world.”

Delazy praised major labels, if an artist gets a good deal and a good team around them, but also expressed reservations. “I don’t see the investment going into the local acts, I see it going into international acts more than local, and local feels like it’s more just to keep the ship floating. I don’t like that aspect to it,” she said. “It’s good, but it’s not for everyone. And supporting independence will lead to more diverse sounds coming from Africa.”

Williams talked about the importance of ensuring that African musicians receive royalties for their songs and recordings, wherever they are being listened to in the world. “Today, the music business can save lives in Africa. We have very good artists who have heir song getting played everywhere, but who will get malaria and die because of the lack of a few dollars,” he said.

One of Africa’s biggest music stars, Black Coffee (top photo) is at Midem this year: ahead of his keynote later this afternoon, he held a Masterclass session for this year’s crop of Midem Artist Accelerator finalists, sharing his tips for building their careers. One key piece of advice: don’t be afraid to make mistakes…

The South African DJ/producer and MAA ambassador principally encouraged artists to focus on being themselves first and foremost, otherwise no one else would understand them as they try to develop their careers. In an interview with Abiola Oke of Okay Africa, he also pointed out how African music is on rise… and yet concert and festival promoters continually fail to understand African artists’ creative needs.

“In the past, African music was in the World Music category. But I don’t want to be pigeon-holed in that world where we’re always at the big festivals but on the smallest stage. I believe that the voice that we have is as strong as everyone else’s. Every African artist’s dream is to go to the world, so go and tell your story.”

The masterclass followed a session where the Midem Artist Accelerator finalists presented their pitches, offering an insight into some of the exciting new artists handpicked for this year’s accelerator.

Another key strand for day one of Midem 2018 is the Streaming Summit, which included a morning of panel sessions exploring what the growth of platforms like Spotify and Apple Music will mean for the music industry.

It was opened by Zach Fuller, media analyst at Midia Research, presenting his company’s views on “streaming’s new world order” and the trends that are driving it. Music is “locked in to growth” thanks to streaming, he affirmed, with related revenues up 32% in 2017, representing 43% of total label sales.

Zach Fuller streaming summit

Whilst Warner and Universal are the labels best taking advantage of this trend. But artists without labels are the “biggest success story” of 2017, said Fuller representing €472m in revenues, up 22% compared with last year. And looking ahead, voice-controlled services are set to be key growth drivers for the future, he predicted. “We’re about to witness a revolution in advertising” thanks to voice controlled devices, he said, “because of the frictionless purchase experience they offer. (Ultimately, Amazon) Echo and podcasts will be the only meaningful ways to reach consumers.”


That said, it won’t all be plain sailing, as a metadata panel highlighted later in the morning. “I asked my Echo for ‘Yellow Submarine’, it didn’t work. I asked for ‘Yellow Submarine remastered’, and it did!”, said Vistex‘s Head of Sales, Rights and Royalties, Phil Bird. The rest of the panel — Kristin Graziani, director of artist and label relations at Stem and Peter Van Rijn, CEO of FUGA — agreed the accuracy (or, too often, the inaccuracy) of the metadata around the music itself, which is vital to its licensing, reporting and distribution. Music Ally‘s Paul Brindley moderated.

Elsewhere at Midem this morning, the Music & Brands strand included a session exploring how brands are creating music-based campaigns and experiences.

Speakers included Olivier Robert-Murphy, global head of new business at Universal Music Group; Georgia Meyer, marketing and media brands analyst at Midia Research; Tej Brar, MD at Third Culture Entertainment; and Matthias Leullier, deputy MD of Live Nation France. Manic Monkee CEO Allison Shaw moderated.

During the Midem session Are You Brand Experienced, experts concluded that artists and brands need each other. TEJ Brar, from India-based Third Culture Entertainment, pointed out how in several cases, brands need artists more than artists need them when it comes to brand endorsements and sponsorship deals.

“In nine out of 10 cases, brands will go to the artists and tell them what they want,” he said. “For the artist, the concern is whether the fans are going to be offended, will feel they have sold out or think it is cool. Red Bull is a good example of a brand understanding artists. They have a different ethos and believe in empowering the artists, and not just sponsor them.”

Meanhwile in Cannes’ Villa Antoine, the Midem Songwriting Camp was in full swing, as a group of 12 musicians and producers from around the world came together in the first event of its kind to be held at Midem.

Then this year’s Midem concerts got underway early, with four Chinese musicians playing at the new Midem Beach venue this lunchtime. The four were the winners of the inaugural ‘Voice of China’ Competition by Ling, whose final was held last month. Just the start of countless live music delights to come this week!


Additional reporting by Juliana Koranteng

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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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  1. Pingback: Midem Wrap 1: African Forum, streaming trends, brands and more – Association internationale des experts culturels francophones

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