Twitter continues to be an important platform for artist expression as well as for music marketing. Its head of music Kevin O’Donnell hosted a keynote tonight at Midem with Lisa Kasha, VP Digital Marketing and Social Media at Epic Records, and Tarek Al-Hamdouni, SVP, Digital Marketing at RCA Records, to talk about how they are using Twitter for their artists.
“Twitter is a great tool for being your authentic self and interacting with your fans,” said Al-Hamdouni. “It’s a matter of us connecting with an audience and building fans… Twitter is about getting to the core of who the artist is, and encouraging them to tell their story and interact with their fanbase in a way that feels organic and comfortable for them.”
Kasha talked about how she helps reluctant or nervous artists to get involved. “I tell them if you have 10 minutes, get on there and do a Twitter Q&A. They get to see the fan reaction straight away.” She also reminisced about the days when girl-band Fifth Harmony would get the hashtag #FifthHarmonyFriday trending by rewarding fans with Q&As, Periscope live-video streams or teasers of new music. “We ended up really building a strong fan army, that now we see all the girls separately using, as they’re starting their solo careers.”
Kasha said that label teams are all over Twitter on the day of a big release, checking whether an artist is trending, but also whether other terms relating to their music are on Twitter’s list of trending terms. “If you look down the list and start seeing lyrics, or start seeing titles, that’s when I’ll think ‘maybe we’ll get a number one album’,” she said.
Al-Hamdouni talked about what he sees as the most important impact Twitter (and social media generally) has had on the music industry. “The democratisation of fandom: anybody can say anything. Fans have so much power, they have no idea,” he said, before adding that labels are all-ears for this. “Just being able to know what people are feeling, what they’re thinking, what they’re emotionally reacting to, is so important.”
Both executives are frustrated by artists who steer clear of Twitter and other social-media services because they want to maintain a level of mystique. “Artists say ‘we wanna be mysterious, we want people to discover us’. But doing nothing is not being mysterious! If you want to be mysterious, say something mysterious,” said Al-Hamdouni. Kasha agreed. “The biggest mistake that artists do is they think they’re too cool to engage. That’s horrible.”
The first keynote slot was taken solely by Dina LaPolt, president of LaPolt Law, after Epic Records’ chairman and CEO Sylvia Rhone was forced to pull out by illness. LaPolt, who had been scheduled to be in conversation with Rhone, was now interviewed by Billboard’s Hannah Karp instead.
“We are going to channel our inner Sylvia, so she’s in this room with her energy, and we love her!” she said, before settling in to give streaming service Spotify a piece of her mind over its recent decision to appeal against new songwriter-royalty rates set in the US.
“Here comes Spotify with its Secret Genius awards and putting credits on their service… Bullshit! All this time they’re behind closed doors scheming and strategising,” said LaPolt, who believes the US publishing community’s anger is partly because Spotify would have been planning its appeal while working with publishers to get the Music Modernization Act legislation passed.
LaPolt thinks Spotify can restore its relationships with publishers and songwriters, though. “It’s not in anyone’s interest to have a divisive relationship with any of the tech companies,” she said. “I think there’s a way out for Spotify. I think if they withdraw their appeal, there’s a way out… At the end of the day we all need Spotify too, so it’s kinda this conundrum… All relationships can be fixed: it just takes communication.”
LaPolt also talked about her commitment to diversity in the music industry, promising to call out companies who offer men more money than women for the same roles. “Lawyers are at the front lines of closing the deals and agreeing the contracts. We are the ones who can make it happen… so if we call out companies: ‘No you’re paying a man a lot more’… If we start doing that, we can solve a lot of the problems.” Read Music Ally’s report on her keynote.
The need for legislation for a fairer music ecosystem was also addressed by Franck Riester, France’s Minister of Culture, who inaugurated Midem today before addressing music industry professionals in Cannes. “French and European ecosystems have been sorely tested by the tech giants“, he said. Which is precisely why France will apply the recently voted Article 13/17 into national leglisation “very quickly”, he promised. “The industry’s return to growth is a great opportunity. You will succeed, I’m sure. You were the first to be hit by the digital revolution,” he said, adding that the music industry is also the first to emerge from it. He also commented on the Centre National de la Musique, whose creation was recently voted for by the French government; an institution set to be a “place of exchange for the whole industry”, which will notably support music export, currently 20% of the French industry’s revenues.
Today was also the day of the Midemlab 2019 startups contest, with 20 music/tech companies pitching their products and business models to industry jurors, with Midem attendees looking on. The winners of the four categories were announced at the end of the afternoon.
The music creation and education category win was, for the first time ever, granted to two startups! The two winners were music creation apps Jambl (Germany) and Endlesss (UK). Founders Gad Baruch & Tim Exile accepted this rare joint prize. Read Music Ally’s full report on the pitch session here.
The winner of the music distribution and discovery category was the UK’s ClicknClear, which licenses music for performance sports like gymnastics and cheerleading, pre-clearing all the necessary rights. Chantal Epp accepted the prize. Read Music Ally’s full report on the pitch session here.
The winner of the marketing and data analytics category was Legitary, from Austria! It makes tools to audit streaming royalties, uncovering what money has gone missing, and where. Nermina Mumic accepted the prize. Read Music Ally’s full report on the pitch session here.
The winner of the experiential technologies category was Israel’s Tunefork, an audio personalisation service for people with hearing difficulties. CEO Tamer Shor accepted the prize. Read Music Ally’s full report on the pitch session here.
Thanks to all our excellent Midemlab finalists, and to sponsors Deezer & Recochoku.
Lady Gaga’s producer, DJ White Shadow, gave a fascinating Artist Masterclass this afternoon. “LA is great for a lot of reasons, but too many people there are full of shit,” said (real name) Paul Blair, discussing his big break wth Lady Gaga. Yet when the star’s artistic director asked him to consult on some songs, he said yes! “It’s fun to work with her, as making music should be. This isn’t a poop-shovelling convention!”
“The good thing about music is it finds you. Growing up, there was nothing. But then I discovered DJing, & saw I could do that. Detroit is a hotbed of creativity, a great place to grow up.” The Electrifying Mojo was a big influence, added Blair; “the reason techno exists.”
He went on to give tips to aspiring producers. “It took me a minute to understand the business aspect. But if you don’t know it… the whole thing is set up so that you can create, and others can make money out of it. Know the business, then make decisions based on where you want to be,” he advised. “Also: learn to collaborate! Don’t create on your own. It used to take a village to raise a child. Get in with that mentality.”
Maleek Berry, a leading figure of Nigeria’s burgeoning pop scene, discussed his career with Spotify’s Tunde Ogundipe (left) as part of the Midem African Forum. Berry’s big break was working with Nigerian star Davido, who introduced him to the whole scene, including Wizkid, with whom Berry “just clicked. At that time, a lot of producers in Nigeria were trying to get noticed. A few of us sat down to work out how we could make (personal) brands like Pharrell’s.” The answer to doing that is, of course, shaping a unique musical identity; but not without difficulty. “If you feel like quitting, it means you’re doing what you were meant to do, there’s always toiling! The hardest thing I did was struggling to be respected as an artist. So I worked hard to define my own sound.”
Tom Bohne, head of domestic for Universal Music Germany, also gave a rare address as part of a focus on his country. Responsible for half of its country’s music revenues, Universal isn’t without international success: Rammstein just scored its highest chart position ever in the UK. “Germany’s Music market is now stable,” he said, “and forecasts for the next 5 years all point to growth. Plus almost half of our domestic artists are international; Dua Lipa and Lana del Rey were both first signed in Germany.”
Not that it’s all roses: Germany is a slow streaming adopter, said Bohne. “Only 11% of Germans have streaming subscriptions,” he said; “this is not enough. We expect 30% within 5 years.”
Last but not least, “clearance queen” Debora Mannis-Gardner told Emmanuel Legrand about her sample experiences with Eminem, Rihanna and more. “There were no rules (for sampling deals) in the beginning, so we just winged it”, she said. “But it’s biting us in the ass now, because we did buyouts. Now that information is lost, so people don’t know what the deal was.” So how long can sample clearance take? “The process depends on the artist,” she said. “It can take 3-6 months (to get an album’s samples approved), but sometimes you only have 24 hours. My larger artists don’t release uncleared stuff; younger, independent artists sometimes take a chance.”
Sampling can also make great business sense for the sampled, concluded Mannis-Gardner: “Some people don’t want to be sampled. But there’s a lot of back catalogue out there from artists who do. And 3% of a Drake or Eminem album? “That’s a lot of money.”