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Diversity came under the spotlight at Midem this morning. A session organised in the context of the Keychange Initiative and moderated by Vanessa Reed of PRS Foundation featured Songtrust‘s global head of business development Molly Neuman; MusicTech Germany founder and VP Claudia Schwarz; and Resonate industry relationship manager Jim Hatch discuss whether talented women are getting opportunities they deserve – be it through music-streaming recommendation algorithms, or tech-industry recruitment policies.

“It’s definitely an opportunity… This is a rather new space where people can start building their own ideas about how they want to work, and how they want to build a team,” said Schwarz. “That’s an opportunity, I think, but at the same time there’s the question of how many women are going to be involved.”

Resonate’s Hatch explained how his startup – a streaming service due to launch in October – is writing a diversity charter, which will start as a blog post for the community to give feedback on, before being developed into a set of guidelines. “That’s the key: that there’s awareness that there needs to be different dimensions to the makeup of the executive team, and that if there’s a gap… you’re missing something if you have homogeny in how you organise your company,” said Neuman.

Reed cited a recent article by journalist Liz Pelly – Discover Weakly – which identified a male skew to some of Spotify’s biggest playlists, while suggesting that its algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly may then perpetuate this imbalance. “What I have struggled with is the companies in our ecosystem not accepting that there’s a majority of women in the world,” said Neuman. And something’s wrong with the ratio of only 13% of a playlist being women… It’s just not really okay, and we have to think more deeply about what we can do, and put more strategy in place.” Read Music Ally’s full report on the gender-gap panel.

Snapchat is facing strong competition from Instagram for the hearts of young social snappers, but parent company Snap, Inc took the limelight at Midem yesterday, courtesy of a joint keynote with Geffen Records, moderated by Billboard / Forbes journalist Cherie Hu (above and top photo). The latter’s president Neil Jacobson talked up the power of Snapchat’s augmented-reality lenses, which artists can now create themselves, for fans to use in their snaps.

For me, the future of this business lies in augmented reality. I’m really trying to get in front of what that space is going to look like, and what it’s going to be for my artists,” he said. “The lens, and how they’re able to play with that toy, which is such a fun thing that they don’t think much about, but is so powerful… That is everything to me… I’ll put a global Snapchat lens on the table, and will watch it explode. We’re top 10 in Shazam in 35 countries in 10 seconds flat!

“People talk about augmented reality a lot, and sometimes it sounds like a tech demo in search of a use case,” added Snapchat’s VP of partnerships Ben Schwerin. “But we’ve said we’re going to use augmented reality because it’s emotional, it’s fun, it puts a smile on your face, and that’s what you want to share with your friends.”

He also fielded a question about music licensing, with Instagram now included in Facebook’s recent set of licensing deals covering music in user-generated videos. Could Snapchat do more with music if it had its own licensing deals with labels and publishers?

“We’d like to have music be an even bigger part of the app. And we’ve also been an artist-friendly company from the beginning – we’re based in LA!” he said. “We ultimately want artists to be compensated for their work. We’ll see where this goes. Broadly we want to continue to build stronger relationships with rightsholders, and we want to see how music evolves on Snapchat.” Read Music Ally’s full report on the keynote.

The Snapchat / Geffen keynote was followed by a keynote interview with Ghazi Shami, CEO of Empire, which has made its name working with artists including Kendrick Lamar, Anderson.Paak, Cardi B and XXXTentacion.

Shami. an entrepreneur extraordinaire who founded his Empire music group with a loan and his credit card, explained why the streaming format just clicks for him. “I have been a big proponent of streaming for a very long time. I realised a long time ago that it had the potential to change user behaviour because it could cannibalise piracy,” he said. “For me, streaming is a global phenomenon. In the physical era, you had to be with a major label with many sub-distribution deals around the world.”

He added: “When it comes to social media, every artist has a different energy: some get a lot from social media, some from blogs, some from radio. Many legacy acts will still sell via downloads.”

Yesterday afternoon also saw Midem play host to Afrobeat royalty, in the form of ‘King of Afrobeat’ Davido  (below) and ‘Queen of Afrobeat’ Yemi Alade (above) with back-to-back sessions exploring their careers so far, and the wider music environment in Africa.

“Music comes in cycles,” said Nigerian superstar Davido during a live stage interview yesterday.

Pointing to the de-luxe attire he was wearing, he said: “It looks like an African-made style, but it is in fact Dolce & Gabbana. Africa is influencing many parts of the Western culture – in fashion, food, films like Marvel’s Black Panther, sports and now music. When you have a cycle like that, it is hard for it to be stopped.”

Yemi Alade, for her part, is behind the most-viewed YouTube video by an African artist, and discussed the pressures that celebrity imposes on the art. “When you start in this business, you must have a goal, an objective, a plan. First, I started spreading my music in my street, then in the community, then in my state, followed by several other states throughout Nigeria, then in other parts of Africa. People think you came from nowhere to make it big. But it takes a lot of hustling to get here.”

Meanwhile, this morning saw attention shift to Latin America, with an interview with Puerto Rican hitmaker Visitante, who has worked with artists including Shakira, Monsieur Perriné and Silvio Rodriguez.

“After working on 30 albums in three years, I feel I have been inside a cage, and now I am getting out to work on new projects,” said the highly prolific Visitante. “For me, music production is a creation and the time you spend inside a studio with artists in different areas is like a holy place,” he told the Midem audience.

Today also saw Midem’s inaugural Live Summit, in association with Pollstar. A morning panel session cast its eye over trends in the global touring market. In an uncertain global economy, a live-concert or music-festival brand need not suffer as long as the promoters involved ensure high standards are maintained, the speakers said.

Anuj Gupta, business head at Indian live-concert promoter OML Entertainment, said: “Our festivals are long-term investments. We sustain the business by focusing on the best that we can do.”

Live Nation president of Europe John Reid observed that “Darwinism is alive and well in the festival market. Many are closing down in India, England, America. But the tried and tested brands with something really special are the ones that last.”

As for the tough regulations that might affect artists’ visa applications and hence their ability to perform at a festival, John Boyle, president of Live Nation Japan, stated: “As long as you are not criminals, it is easy to get visas.”

The third keynote last night saw Concord Music talk about its growth in the publishing, recordings and theatrical markets, with CEO Scott Pascucci providing a few figures. “Our revenues are in the good handful of hundreds of millions of dollars… By our measurements we’re the fifth biggest music company in the world, whatever that’s worth. Our margins are very good, and we have good cash flow. We’re a good, profitable company,” he said.

Concord made headlines a year ago with its acquisition of Imagem for a reported $600m. While that kind of deal may not be happening again for a while, the company continues to keep its eye out for potential additions.

There are no deals of that scope on the horizon, which is fine. There are still plenty of opportunities that come along. We’re known enough now that we get every phone call,” said Pascucci. “I think the next couple of years are going to be a combination of growth through various acquisitions, as well as organic growth: doing more with what we have. If a sizeable opportunity comes along we’ll be ready to think it through, and maybe seize it. But we’re not determined to do that.” Read Music Ally’s full report on the Concord keynote.

Keynote speaker Michel Magnier, the European Commission’s director for culture and creativity, said the EU’s music industry must be more vocal about what it requires from regulators, especially when it comes to funding.

“To be frank, I don’t think your voice has been heard loud enough in the recent months or years.”

He reminded the audience that the EU’s Music Moves Europe, the initiative designed to inject a share of the region’s cultural funds into music, will be gaining momentum over the next three years as the Commission works out what is needed. “Then, we expect an increase in the budget and, for the first time, music will be included.”

This morning, the keynote was followed up with a dedicated Music Moves Europe session, focusing on policy statements and views from the music industry on the regulatory landscape on the continent. Click on the below tweet for the full lowdown!

Trap Nation founder Andre Benz was also at Midem today, talking about how he’s built an empire of YouTube music-curation channels, and how he works with labels and artists. “It took a while to convince the guys at the top (of the music industry) to understand what we do“, he said. “At first the challenge was getting rights, as we just kept getting strikes (on YouTube). Now I get lists of songs for me to remix.” So what are the fairest deals Benz offers creators, moderator Stem’s Milana Lewis asked? 50/50, he answered. ““Anything else ruins the whole point. You don’t have to be an asshole and take master rights. You don’t need 80/20 just because you built the platform. (My system) works just fine.”

Elvis Crespo

Latin American pop star Elvis Crespo also took part in a panel, on “How to Market your Artist in Latin America?” It notably focused on the chalenges of breaking out of your local market (Crespo is US-born but raised in Puerto Rico). In 1998, “Sony was telling me I had to break new markets,” said Crespo. “So I had to cancel local senior proms. It was difficult, especially re. paying the band: they quit! But that kind of decision put me in a good position, as now I see myself as a global artist.” The panel also featured Elastic People’s Carlos Perez (creator of the Despacito video & more). “I’ve never been one to show big boobs to try to get attention”, he said, insisting on authenticity. “With social media, video is now a celebration of a song. A video release now requires as much strategy as that of an album.”

Additional reporting by Juliana Koranteng


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Stuart Dredge

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

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