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This is the first in a series of in-depth posts, by Music Ally’s Stuart Dredge, giving you the full low-down on Midem 2018’s biggest highlights and industry trends. First up: how the business moved forwards last month in Cannes!

Midem truly is the place where business happens for the global music industry and the word ‘global’ was key to this year’s conference, with speakers, stands, delegates and musicians from Africa, Asia and Latin America playing a crucial role. Not forgetting Europe, of course, plus the booming live and sync sectors. Find out about them all below!

 

Midem African Forum: “We’re trying to build, trying to leap forward…”

Africa took centre stage at Midem this year thanks to the inaugural Midem African Forum, organised in association with pan-African music media network Trace and French collecting society Sacem.

One of the key points made repeatedly over the course of the event was that Africa must not be seen as one territory, but rather as a collection of countries, each with their own music scenes, level of digital maturity, and challenges for the industry. Some generalisations were positive, though. “There is, in all of these countries, a young, dynamic, upwardly-mobile, digitally-savvy group of young people,” said Ben Oldfield, VP of France, Benelux and West Africa for distributor The Orchard. “They want to have music. The question now is how to bring that closer to a reality.”

There was a strong emphasis on African musicians and tech entrepreneurs controlling their own destinies, rather than relying on western labels or digital service providers. “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.

That was a sentiment reflected by artist, startup founder and label owner Black Coffee in his Midem keynote. “Africa is ready today to create a new Africa where we create solutions that are for us, and by us. That is my African dream,” he said. “I’m trying to change the narrative of the continent. How can we create things that work for us? How can we stop plugging in to things brought to us by other people?

The theme of artists taking control of their business in Africa ran throughout Midem. There was Congolese producer Philo, whose Bomaye Musik label is finding an audience in France. “I can use finance from my French label to reinvest in Africa… I know it can take time to invest in Africa, but I know that with time, I will obtain returns,” he said.

“Young Africans, we are part of a born-free generation: we don’t mind investing in ourselves and trying to do things,” added Toya Delazy (above), an artist who has also founded her own label.

Midem 2018 was also visited by the king and queen of Afrobeat and Afropop: Davido (top photo) and Yemi Alade, who talked about their careers to packed rooms at the conference.

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,” said Davido, while Alade outlined her path from spreading her music in the street, to having the most-viewed YouTube video by an African artist. “People think you came from nowhere to make it big. But it takes a lot of hustling to get here,” she said.

African artists also starred on-stage at Midem this year, from South African Midem Artist Accelerator finalists T$hego, AKA and BigStar on the Tuesday night, to Yemi Alade, Kiff No Beat and Adango on the African night the following day.

 

Latin American surge: “The internet is everywhere, and we have legal platforms everywhere…”

The business at Midem this year focused on some of the most exciting, emerging markets in the music industry, as well as the established countries around the world.

Latin America is a region of intense focus at the moment. David Price, director of insight and analysis at global trade body the IFPI, presented figures from 2017 showing that Latin America recorded-music revenues grew by 17.7% last year – the fastest growth of any region.

“Where’s that growth coming from? It’s coming primarily from streaming,” noted Price. “Physical revenues have dropped quite substantially… downloads were never a huge part of revenues in Latin America, but those have started to fall as well. But it’s here in streaming where you see this huge growth now.” From $161m in 2015 to $377m in 2017, in fact. “That’s really driving the growth that we’re seeing in Latin America.”

One panel focused on the boom in Latin urban music, which is exploding well outside its home continent. “We’ve had an insane amount of growth,” said Sandra Jimenez, head of music, Latin America at YouTube / Google Play Music. “It’s double-digit growth. From 2016 to 2017 was more than 90%, and last year was 86% – just music in Latin America on YouTube.”

Juan Paz, founder of M3 Music, agreed. “Latin America has historically been a market where music consumption is huge,” he said. “At the time, we were seeing that all the consumption was pirate… And it took a while until the services were live in Latin America.” iTunes, then YouTube, then Spotify all launched eventually. “Now that we all have mobile phones, the internet is everywhere, and we have legal platforms everywhere. It’s free consumption, but it’s legal!” Watch the full panel on YouTube.

Individual markets profiled at Midem included Brazil, with a session in which Sandra Gama, chief legal officer at iMusica, talked about the positive landscape of a country with “huge connectivity combined with a huge population, that is crazy about smartphones”.

Ana Cristina Falcão, partner and COO at publishing company Fermata do Brasil, also talked about the rights landscape in Brazil. “The market is really important, and we have grown a lot in the last few years,” she said, adding that publishers there have ditched their traditionally “passive” approach.

“We have to change ourselves, change our companies, change our teams, invest in technology,” she said, while warning that the booming popularity of music video-viewing in Brazil is not quite yet matched by royalties coming back to publishers. Watch the full Brazil panel on YouTube.

Another panel, moderated by leading Latin music industry executive Mayna Nevarez, on how to market artists in Latin America, provided some useful tips for western labels and managers hoping to build their audiences in the region.

Puerto Rican / American artist Elvis Crespo was the star of the show. “As an artist, I want to find a new audience,” he said. “And these kinds of collaborations push myself and I can reach a new audience, and the audience, when they hear different kinds of sounds, different kinds of languages, the songs sound more interesting.”

Ana Rosa Santiago, VP of Latin Music at Universal Music Publishing Group, gave her views. “Where we used to beg to put a writer with an Anglo artist or with another Anglo producer, now I get calls every single day!” she said. She also said it’s vital to understand the differences.

“Even though we are all Latins and we speak Spanish, we have different cultures in different places, and it reflects in our music,” she added. “For example, if you go to Argentina, even though the reggaeton and the urban, it’s all over right now, and it’s very high in South America, Argentina has more of a taste, it’s been recognised as Spanish rock. Mexico, they’re very like the pop, but they also have original Mexican…”

Are there too many collaborations afoot? “There is no mystery that Latin culture in general is extremely passionate about music,” said Carlos Perez, director and designer at Elastic People. “The word collaboration is very popular nowadays. But there is a more important word, which is the authenticity behind those collaborations… It is a key to open a door, but it can also be a key to shut down a door if that collaboration is not necessarily the right one.” Watch the full panel on YouTube.

Meanwhile, one panel described Colombia as “a musical goldmine”. Nicolas Diez, president of Tronex, talked about the importance of streaming. “For us, the piracy times were very difficult. It was a time where definitely the market form legal to the pirate was completely inverted: it was about 70% piracy,” he said.

“YouTube is the most important platform, and it’s the platform that generates the more income for us as well. But also now with Spotify, iTunes, Deezer and all the others, I think it has been basically that light we always wanted to see at the end of the tunnel. I think platforms have done that for the music industry.” Watch the full Colombia panel on YouTube.

 

Asia’s streaming evolution: “There are really clear market leaders right now”

Besides Africa and Latin America, Asia was also a key theme of Midem 2018, with a series of panels on Japan, China, India and South Korea among others.

A session on success in Japan explored some of the routes that independent musicians are using to succeed in the world’s second-largest market.

Lauren-Rose Kocher, who handles business development and international marketing for Sony Music Entertainment in Japan, talked about the evolution of the market there. “Those services with the most subscribers: Line Music, D Hits and Apple Music, the three of them are responsible for over half of the streaming revenue that we get. There are really clear market leaders right now,” she said.

“Now the Japanese digital market is really small, but even the Japanese labels, the small-sized labels… are struggling to shift to the digital market… but now it’s totally changing,” added Iichiro Noda, CEO of TuneCore in Japan. “It’s good timing for international catalogues and repertoire to come in to Japan, because the people are starting to look at the new things in Japan. Especially the young kids.” Watch the full Japan panel on YouTube.

China was also in the spotlight, with a panel featuring DJ and artist manager Allyson Toy from Tiger Mom Management and Zhao Yue, content and operations director at Douban Music. The latter explained that her service has a Bandcamp-style artist community uploading their music, but also runs its own label and festival – showing the fluid opportunities available to companies operating in China as its digital market grows.

She also stressed the need for flexibility when trying to break new artists in China. “For different artists you really need to get different strategies. You really need to figure out what type of demography you are trying to reach. In China right now is probably the opposite to what other people might think. The market, as well as the music scenes, are quite varied. So there’s no one strategy suiting all.”

Allyson Toy talked about the dynamics on the big Chinese social networks, as they relate to building artists’ careers. “Everybody’s on WeChat but it was hard for us to quantify how many people were actually being reached on WeChat, just because of the nature of the platform I feel was not really designed to be promotional,” she said. “I could not have underestimated more the power of what I would call word of mouth: whether that’s two people talking to each other, or two people talking on WeChat or something like that… and working with good partners on the ground who put a good amount of effort in to promoting the shows.”

Four Chinese artists also played at lunchtime on the first day of the conference, having won the inaugural Voice of China’ Competition by Ling, whose final was held in May.

Another session focused on South Korea, and tales from its music scene with K-Pop producer and songwriter Kim Hyungsuk, who has written more than 1,300 songs in his career, and now heads entertainment and branded-content group Kiwi Media Group. Speaking through an interpreter, Kim suggested that the digitalisation of the music industry was the biggest moment in recent history, followed by the ‘Korean Wave era’ of the late 1990s, when South Korean music started to have an impact beyond its domestic market.

He also said that past struggles with piracy had forced Korean labels to explore new business models, which has been an advantage. Meanwhile, the Korean Wave started with TV shows becoming popular in China, but that led to a boost for music as well, as K-Pop artists’ audiences began to build there, and in other Asian countries. Watch the full Kim Hyungsuk interview on YouTube.

Another fascinating market in 2018 is India, and the panel session exploring “India Beyond Bollywood” offered plenty of food for thought for any music companies and artists hoping to do more business in the country. Moderator Ed Peto of Outdustry said that the narrative beyond Bollywood is about roughly 470 million mobile-data subscribers in India, which is creating direct-to-consumer access that Bollywood “never allowed for the creative class, to put it mildly”.

Priyanka Khimani, partner at law firm Anand and Anand and Khimani, talked about some of the shifting sands of the Indian music industry, including YouTube and social media. “No matter what tier of talent we’re representing, the one thing that’s common is that really, YouTube revenue is not revenue. It’s not a revenue stream in itself in India, no matter what people like to say. I end up spending a lot of my time explaining to a lot of artists that nobody is making money off of YouTube. But having said that… it definitely serves as a trigger to a lot of other revenue streams,” she said. “So on the back of YouTube, you have branded content, you have endorsement deals, you have other live income coming in. But it’s not just the pure YouTube ad revenue. Today, some of the biggest talent in the music space actually doesn’t have any YouTube revenue at all… The monetisation that’s happening on YouTube is really only coming through brands, and branded content.”

“There is a myth… that people in India just don’t pay. And I think that’s wrong. I think people look for more value. As Indians, we like a larger buffet rather than doing a la carte! It’s just cultural,” said Mandar Thakur, COO of Times Music. “It’s got nothing to do with anything else! So we do believe, as an industry, that if people see value in what they’re getting, they will eventually pay. The quantum of what they may pay is a long discussion over a bottle of Scotch!”

But he noted that there are three tiers of streaming in India. Free, bundled – telcos who have their own streaming services or Amazon’s Prime Music – and then pureplay subscription services. “Consumers are just getting the idea of moving from free to bundled, and then eventually pureplay subscription… And the Indian music industry is very supportive of music subscription, of working with the local streaming players as well as the international streaming players, to entire the entire ecosystem to move in a phased manner, from free to bundled into a subscription system. For any ecosystem to survive, people have to pay. Nothing survives only on minimum guarantees.”

 

Business in Europe: “Monetisation is not a dirty word for art…”

Shifting back to Europe, one of Midem’s keynotes came from Michel Magnier, the European Commission’s director for culture and creativity, who called for the music industry to be even more dynamic in how it interacts with regulators and policymakers.

“To be frank, I don’t think your voice has been heard loud enough in the recent months or years,” he said, while promising more momentum for the EC’s Music Moves Europe initiative over the next three years – including an increase in budget.

A panel the following day fleshed out the potential, with PRS for Music’s Simon Darlow calling for better education around music and the music industry, notably in schools. “Monetisation is not a dirty word for art. It’s realistic, and it needs to happen,” he said.

First Music Contact Ireland’s Angela Dorgan talked about the business potential in Europe if local music industries can work together in a better way. “I’d love to see more Irish bands play in France, so that’s an export matter. It’s important that we know enough about each other (in EU) to be able to collaborate. We’re in the position to be world leaders when it comes to music,” she said.

 

Live business prospers: “There is clearly an opportunity to think out of the box…”

Alongside the Midem African Forum, there was another new strand to the conference this year: the Live Summit, organised in partnership with Pollstar. Oak View Group boss Tim Leiweke gave a keynote speech to cap the day, in which he outlined the room for more innovation in and around live music.

If you look at the top 50 arenas in the world, the average age of those arenas is almost 25 years old. There is clearly an opportunity to think out of the box and build new arenas and theatres that fans can enjoy,” he said. Live and recorded music have often been silos in the past, but Leiweke said that the growth of music-streaming is having a notable impact on artists’ touring businesses.

“I’m a big fan of streaming, if you look at the impact it’s had on the music industry, and the labels… The labels to me are critical, because they’re the ones out doing a lot of the heavy lifting on discovery,” he said. “Spotify did $5bn last year as a company. It’s good for the music industry, it’s good for the artists, it’s good for the labels. But I also think Spotify recognise that the live part of the business is an extremely important piece for them as well.”

A panel earlier that day explored trends in the global touring market, including the question of whether the festival bubble has burst, or whether the market is simply renewing itself with healthy events replacing those that have had their day. “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,” suggested John Reid, president of Live Nation Europe – Concerts.

Anuj Gupta, business head – IPs and International Touring for OML Entertainment in India, gave the perspective on that company’s burgeoning live market, with a similar emphasis on Darwinism. “There is, I’d say, about 20 different festivals in the country. Every year, 10 new ones crop up, and they shut down, because they all like to make an impact in the first year and not really think long-term,” he admitted. “Currently, most festivals are losing money… There’s a lot of festivals cropping up, but the key to sustaining in the market is to focus on creating the best thing you can, and not worry too much about competition. When you have a quality product, you will be sustainable,” he said.

 

Brands and sync business: “It all starts with insight…”

Another aspect of the music business that was on show at Midem this year was brand partnerships and synchronisation deals, with the Music & Brands strand on the Tuesday followed by the Sync strand the following day – sponsored by Synch Audio in the latter case.

“You don’t [just]match any artist with any brands,” said Universal Music Group’s global head of new business Olivier Robert-Murphy, in the ‘Are You Brand Experienced?’ panel on the Tuesday. “The artist has passion points. The brand wants certain things. And it’s not only the daughter of the CMO or CEO deciding what should be the artist! So it all starts with insight. We have today the tools to match the right artist to the right brand. Then it’s about the idea, the creative. What would be the good idea? And finally you deliver it, and you end with the KPI, the ROI. Return on investment. Because if a brand pays money, they want to know what they’re paying for.” Watch the full panel on YouTube.

A subsequent session on ‘How Deep is Your Music Strategy?’ saw more focus on authenticity and data to ensure that brand/music partnerships are effective. Judith Massia, founder and CEO of Rbellion Music, said that some brands are still “trying to jump on the cool bandwagon: ‘you’re the next hot artist, do a rap for us for our new product’ and it comes out really terribly! As an artist you have to first assess where you are as an artist: where in your career you are. If you’re just starting out as an artist, you’re probably looking for ways in which the brand can help you, not just monetary-wise, but exposure, more showcases down the line.”

Nadia Khan, manager at CTRL Management, agreed. “I’ve found that I’ve been able to actually create brand partnerships with my newer artists, which is really important, because it’s really difficult for newer artists to maybe have avenues to get out there… There are brands out there that are willing to work with more new and up-and-coming, emerging artists.” Brands like Red Bull and Nandos, who have music studios available for artists to use, are finding particular favour. “In the general landscape, relationships with brands have almost become the second biggest revenue stream for artists after touring, because they’re not making much money from releasing recorded music,” added Gary Cohen, brand partnerships director at ATC Management and ATC Live. Watch the full panel on YouTube.

The Sync day, meanwhile, explored some of the current business trends around synchronisation deals for musicians – still an important revenue stream. Its opening panel (above) offered valuable practical tips on how supervisors go about their business, and how artists can fit in to that. Meanwhile, another session focused on new opportunities around sync in the digital realm, from apps and virtual reality to corporate videos.

It also tackled the question of whether songwriters should focus on sync over other things. “If you’re a self-creating songwriter, so you have a studio and you can produce music, then there are a number of avenues if you’re prolific. If you can turn out a track a day, and many do, and send them to libraries or production-music libraries or platforms that have access to opportunity, you’re able to potentially have a niche where you do something that is often needed or often useful, and studying the market and studying what other production libraries push to the front of their pages is definitely a strategy,” said Paul Wiltshire, CEO of Songtradr. “If you don’t have access to production, then it becomes harder.” Watch the full panel on YouTube.

 

Business is done at Midem

Overall, Midem wasn’t just about listening to the speakers on the stages: it was about connecting for conversation, and for business. This year’s show included new and revamped pavilions for countries including Indonesia, Kenya and the US, for example.

“As a first time participant, I was incredibly thrilled to have participated in the 2018 Midem edition: the immense value I received as a professional in the music business from Africa was immeasurable and so were the opportunities that were created by simply being in the room with movers and shakers in my industry,” says Tim Rimbui, A&R director at Ennovatormusic in Kenya. “Additionally we also created a lot of opportunities for other Kenyan companies in the music business , and this is also really good for a growing creative industry back at home in Kenya. I will definitely return!”

“Midem 2018 was a great opportunity for Kenya to network with industry players, leverage on opportunities for investment, position Kenyan Music optimally to the World and also pitch to host Midem Africa 2019,” adds Maureen Mambo, head of media and publicity at Brand Kenya Board. “The set up was excellent, the team was able to deliver the Kenya pavilion on record time and the hospitality by the Midem Team was exceptional. We look forward to the next Midem, hopefully in Kenya.”


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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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