This is the third in a series of in-depth posts, by Music Ally’s Stuart Dredge, giving you the low-down on Midem 2019’s biggest highlights and industry trends. The Midem 2019 Inspiration & Education Review focuses on the inspiration and education happening at this year’s conference, from high-profile speakers drawn from across the industry.
Troy Carter (top photo) came to prominence as Lady Gaga’s manager, before turning his hand to tech investment, and then heading up Spotify’s global creator services team. Having left Spotify in 2018, he now runs Q&A, a company combining artist services with distribution.
“One of the biggest problems that I saw and that I still see now, is the industry takes this monolithic approach to artists. Almost this equivalent of Nike using the word ‘athlete’… No, Nike is in business with runners, footballers, basketball players, golfers, and they make product that’s specific to each one of those genres,” said Carter, about why he launched Q&A.
“In music right now, the way people describe artists is so generalised, and they’re making very generalised products and very generalised assumptions. A rapper might have a different approach than a country star… than a DJ… than a pop star. So it’s really about distribution that understands the artist at their core, and building products for those artists to be able to reach their specific goals.” Watch his full keynote here.
Mathew Daniel, VP international at Chinese music-streaming service NetEase Cloud Music, offered the audience an education on trends in a market where hundreds of millions of people are already streaming music.
“A lot of people are attracted by the big numbers… I don’t think there is a proper grip on where the market is. People are not really sure. I call it the tyranny of large numbers,” said Daniel. “There are artists going there without doing any homework. Labels thinking ‘Ah, I just go to China, I can just sell a lot of stream a lot of music’. But they forget that sometimes you have to make the music relevant to the audience, and then build from that.” Watch his full keynote above.
Epic Records boss Sylvia Rhone unfortunately had to pull out of her keynote due to illness, but LaPolt Law president Dina LaPolt – who’d been the other half of the planned keynote – ensured attendees had plenty to think about.
LaPolt lambasted streaming service Spotify over its decision to appeal against new songwriter royalty-rates in the US, while offering a potential olive branch: “I think there’s a way out for Spotify. I think if they withdraw their appeal, there’s a way out… All relationships can be fixed: it just takes communication.”
She also promised to continue pressing for more diversity and pay equality in the music industry, including calling out companies who fall short on the latter score. “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, for example saying ‘no, you’re paying a man a lot more’… If we start doing that, we can solve a lot of the problems.” Watch her full keynote here.
Artist manager Rebeca León also addressed the important role that women are already playing in the music industry, in her Midem keynote. One of 2019’s brightest new stars, Rosalía, is one of her clients.
“She’s supported by a team of women… It’s really been incredible to build this team of women around her, and to see her meteoric rise. It makes me so proud that it’s a girls’ club!” said León, who talked about her own rise to her current position.
“Most of the jobs that you saw women in were marketing or PR jobs, and not necessarily the jobs that were around money,” she said. “I come from marketing, but I was also really driven and wanted that seat at the table. I wanted my voice to be heard… If you are ambitious and you want to make money, you have to make other people money. That’s just the way it goes.” Watch her full keynote here.
Also keynoting at Midem was Marsha Vlasic, president of Artist Group International and one of the most respected talent agents in the world, having worked with the likes of Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, The Strokes and Lou Reed.
“I never felt different. It wasn’t like ‘oh gee, I’m a woman and he’s a guy and I have to do this differently’. It never entered my mind: I just ploughed along,” she said, before explaining her journey from a big agency to independence, and then to building up her own firm.
“I was always a rebel and couldn’t follow the rules. Being in the big agency was hard. It was hard to be part of the boy’s club and the team… Being independent worked for me up to a certain point, but then I started feeling very lonely. I felt like I wanted people around me… It was just me and an assistant doing it all.” Watch her full keynote here.
Midem has enjoyed keynotes from nearly all of the key digital platforms down the years. This year it was Twitter’s turn to occupy the main room, with head of music Kevin O’Donnell interviewing 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 market artists on Twitter.
“Twitter is about getting to the core of who the artist is, and encouraging them to tell their story and interact with their fan base in a way that feels organic and comfortable for them,” said Al-Hamdouni. “The biggest mistake that artists do is they think they’re too cool to engage. That’s horrible,” added Kasha. Watch the full Twitter keynote above.
The other keynoter at Midem this year was legendary musician Femi Kuti. You can read more about his appearance in the first post in this series: Midem 2019 Business Review. Beyond the keynotes, there were a number of other speakers inspiring and educating the Midem audience this year, including artists like Maleek Berry (who like Kuti, was featured in the Business Review post) and Indian hip-hop star Divine (featured in the Artists & Creativity post.
The outgoing president and CEO of the Recording Academy in the US, Neil Portnow, joined Midem for a discussion about trends in the music industry. He went back to its core for one of his key points.
“At the core of music and creativity is creativity, so I don’t think you can substitute analytics and numbers and playlists and things of that nature for the determination of great art and great careers,” he said.
“It’s certainly a tool, and it’s important, but there’s still a lot of gut that has to go into this business, and finding the true artist is not necessarily about what’s the most popular. Sometimes it’s the things that are on the fringe, that are on the outside, that are trend-setting rather than trend-following, that make for great careers.” Watch his full session above.
Midem 2019 also hosted ‘the queen of sample clearance’ Deborah Mannis-Gardner, who’s widely respected as an expert in securing music for use in films, TV shows and games, as well as helping artists clear samples. She talked about the latter process.
“My larger artists do not release stuff if it’s not cleared. We’re really careful of that stuff. It’s usually the smaller independent ones that are willing to take a chance and see if they get caught,” she said, noting that digital trends have shortened the timeline available to clear samples.
“Our timeline has become so short because of Apple and Spotify, and the fact that people can just upload as quick as they can when they finish with product. With Drake, he’ll be working on something up until hours before he has to deliver it to the internet servers… I like the challenge of it! Sometimes I might get angry, but I get kind-of excited if I’m successful!” Watch her full session here.
Diversity and equality are topics that have been inspiring many people within the music industry in 2019. Midem’s Women in Music Global Leadership Summit, organised once again with Women in Music, brought together a cross-section of women from all levels of the industry to share their experiences, and discuss how things can continue to move forward. “Every opportunity is gender neutral,” said Priyanka Khimani, partner at Indian law firm Anand & Anand & Khimani, who was one of the featured speakers.
Monika Tashman, partner at law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips (which sponsored the event) also spoke, and says that it was a success. “The Summit brought together female business powerhouses from all over the world to promote and foster meaningful connections.” she said. “We drive change in all industries when women come together to empower and inspire each other. The stories, challenges and victories shared by the four women from completely different social and professional spheres on the panel served as a perfect example of this powerful force of change in action.”
Neeta Ragoowansi, Women in Music’s global co-chair of chapter expansion, said “the Summit gathered industry
Midem’s legal and copyright summits have become familiar parts of the conference programme, bringing together experts to discuss the latest trends that keep the industry’s lawyers up at night. There was plenty to digest in this year’s strands.
Merlin CCO and general counsel Charlie Lexton provided a keynote speech, digging in to the current anti-competition dispute between Spotify and Apple. “There’s two issues. Does Apple have a dominant position in a relevant market, and if it does, does it abuse it?” he said. “The key point is that Apple is not only the gatekeeper of the App Store, but it’s a key player itself on what’s called the downstream market. In other words, it has a competing service to Spotify – being Apple Music.”
Meanwhile, SOCAN CEO Eric Baptiste offered some views from a collecting society on potential modernisation of the industry. “There are delays. Money is not coming as quickly as it should, and as quickly as people expect money to come these days,” he said, referring to royalties. Watch the full Legal Summit opening session above.
The Legal Summit also included a masterclass session on fair use and copyright exceptions, comparing the way the US approaches fair use with that of other countries. Christine Lepera, Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, summarised the central question: “What happens when you have mass content, when you have these large digital platforms where content is being constantly posted, uploaded, streamed etc, and there’s infringement claims on the content side and on the platform side? Are there burden-shifting mechanisms that are coming into place, and are they varying and different in the jurisdictions as to what to let in, what to keep out?” To find out, watch the full session here.
The Legal Summit also saw the launch of the 2019 IAEL Book, with a related session exploring the book’s theme of transparency in the music industry. “The concept stemmed from real-time issues we currently face in our practice, and we wanted to make sure they were addressed fully in the book,” said Jessie Winkler, senior attorney at LaPolt Law. “With the massive amount of data we have available now, due to increasingly transparent business practices, we are faced with the issue of how to effectively manage that data, and protect it and maximise its benefits to our clients.” Find out how a panel of experts tackle that issue by watching the full session here.
Meanwhile, Midem’s Copyright Summit wasn’t afraid of facing up to one of the modern music industry’s biggest challenges: bringing together data on music rights into one global database, in an effort to make licensing easier, and ensure the correct creators and rights holders get paid royalties.
Cécile Rap-Verber, Executive Director of Operations, Licensing & International at collecting society SACEM, was optimistic that music publishers are playing ball. “There is more and more communication between publisher rights owners and societies, providers, tech companies, to clean the data. And now nobody is afraid now to send all of the repertoire information to two different parties. That’s unbelievable! Ten years ago, everybody had this documentation that was hidden. That was the secret! And now, everybody understands that the secret of success is to get the right writers, but not to keep the documentation [secret].”
Molly Neuman, global head of business development at Songtrust, warned there is more work to do, particularly with independent artists and songwriters. “So many people that we speak to on the individual creator level have sort-of washed their hands of publishing, thinking that it’s too confusing, it’s not available to them. And historically that’s almost true for this strata of creator,” she said. Watch the full session above.
After a speech by Tamas Szucs, director for culture and creativity at the European Commission (see our Business Review post for more on that) the Copyright Summit moved on to the future: what will be the impact of the recent Music Modernization Act in the US and the European Copyright Directive in Europe, both in terms of their implementation in those territories, and the knock-on effects elsewhere?
“The move with the Copyright Directive was part of a much broader strategy, where the ultimate end game was to have more fairness and sustainability in the online world, and this is just one element of that,” said Helen Smith, executive chair of IMPALA, who added a warning: “We will continue to see more opposition and more resistance to any kind of move to curb the power of platforms and online actors. I think that’s very clear.” Watch the full debate here.
Today at @midem, we are proud to co-present a session on 'Addressing the Value Gap', alongside the #IAEL.
Music Canada's @GFHenderson is sharing insights from our upcoming report, incl. recommendations to close the #ValueGap; & why policymakers must act urgently to address it. pic.twitter.com/q7HwPu0kby
— Music Canada (@Music_Canada) June 5, 2019
Key to the European Copyright Directive was the issue of the ‘value gap‘ – which is how the music industry describes the perceived gap between the amount of music being consumed on platforms like YouTube, and the revenues that this generates for rights holders. The issue was also debated at a session co-hosted by IAEL and Music Canada, which is publishing a report on the topic. For more on the situation in Canada, read this recent blog post by Miranda Mulholland, president of Roaring Girl Records.
Finally, Midem 2019 saw plenty of inspiration and education from the independent-music community, including a dedicated Global Indie Voices strand for the conference in association with IMPALA, WIN, Merlin and IMPF.
They included a session on the burgeoning music scenes of Central and Eastern Europe, with speakers from Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Serbia. “I would encourage everybody from the independent community to spread out and try to reach out to those outer limits of Europe, and try to have their presence there,” said Slobodan Nesovic, Founder of Mascom. Watch the full session above.
Another session explored some innovative new business models for independent music companies. “There are so many artists that are taking their careers in their own hands, and they are becoming their own labels, and then they are signing new artists to their own indie labels,” said Carina Sava, founder of Agentia de Vise in Romania. Watch the full panel here.
The Global Indie Voices strand also saw an interview with Stephan Bourdoiseau, founder and president of French independent Wagram Stories. “Labels and music companies faced this situation where an artist would look at you and say ‘Well, I don’t need you that much anymore, or if I need you, I need you only for this, and I’m not going to give you a lot for this…’” he said. “Either you go into this very small added-value market that a traditional label would do, and then the competition is very hard… or you try to see and look at how you can recreate value or invent new values that you are not used to doing.” Watch the full interview here.
Independent publishers were also present at Midem, with their own session in the Global Indie Voices strand presented by IMPF. Annette Barrett, MD of Reservoire / Reverb Music, talked about the benefits of cooperation and sub-publishing partnerships. “Every territory has its own nuances of how it works,” she said. “Everyone is different and individual and unique in its own way, so it’s about understanding those territories… and I think by building those relationships and building your network – and Midem is the perfect place for that – you find out what works for you.” Watch the full session here.
The strand ended with Merlin curating a session on how the current generation of independent music companies are reimagining themselves in the digital economy. Kaori Matsuda, global business development for Space Shower Networks, talked about what’s driving Japanese indies to go global. “Streaming doesn’t make enough money [in Japan]for independent artists, or new artists or mid-level artists, so now we have to broaden our audience by going to international markets,” she said. “We have high hopes for China…” Watch the full session here.
The Global Indie Voices programme also included an invitation-only Spotify workshop, for attendees to learn more about helping their artists build audiences and drive more listening on that streaming service.