For the past three years, Midem has partnered with four of the world’s leading independent associations – IMPALA, Merlin, WIN and IMPF – to give the voice to the indie music scene and provide a global overview of the state of the independent music ecosystem by creating the “Global Indie Voices” programme at Midem.
This half day of panels and case studies is designed to take the pulse of the indie community today by bringing together both high-level and new generation executives to share their experiences and visions for the future of the music business.
Before taking part in Midem 2020 next June, the heads of these associations share their vision of the global indie community in a series of interviews. Next up is Kees Van Weijen, President of IMPALA.
> What was the intention behind the creation of the Global Indie Voices at Midem?
The idea was of course to showcase the different aspects of the independent music sector. Indies, be it in Europe or in the rest of the world are the most innovative actors of the music sector and they specialise in developing new talents while covering all the music genres and niches one could think of. It felt important to highlight their diversity, not only in terms of music itself but also in terms of business approaches, relationship with the artists and adaptability to new trends and technological developments. Be it from the recording or the publishing sides, the independents cover a very large spectrum of activities and the GIV aims to give MIDEM delegates an insight into it..
> What are the main themes that will be discussed during the 2020 edition?
As in previous years, IMPALA will work with a handful of partners (WIN – the worldwide independent network, Merlin – the indie digital champion, IMPF – representing the independent publishers and A2IM – our U.S. sister organisation) to tackle quite a lot of topics during this GIV set of panels.
We will talk about metal music, streaming, switching distributors, and label services among others. But we will also discuss more specific issues such as how to deal with success. Two Spotify workshops and a speed-meeting session with central and eastern European record labels are also on the menu, it should be a packed yet stimulating afternoon.
> How has the place and role of the indie community changed in the past years?
The independents have to navigate a music market that is more and more concentrated (with only three majors left in) and fast evolving due to permanent technological developments, yet more and more demanding. The relationship with the artists is, more than ever, key in the indies’ business model.
At the same time, the indie community is getting more organised, and new associations of independent record labels are being established on a regular basis in new emerging markets. We see an increase in international collaborations between labels, these are quite exciting times.
> How do you expect it to evolve?
We expect the independents to keep getting more organised and, as a consequence, becoming more and more vocal on issues affecting the music eco-system. The focus will remain on talent development and a better relationship with artists while at the same time embracing new tech developments. The key word will, more than ever, be flexibility.
> What are the main challenges faced by the indie community globally and how could they be resolved?
Obviously, the issue of the value gap has taken over a lot of our attention over the past few years. With the EU copyright directive now adopted, the focus has turned towards the implementation of this directive, which will take a lot of energy and discussions in every EU member country.
The discussions launched by Deezer around a “user-centric” remuneration model for streaming are also of great interest, as are numerous other tech developments such as AI-generated music, blockchain, virtual reality or cloud-based voice service platforms. The list is quite long!
Yet, the usual issues of concentration seem to keep affecting the music business, with UMG in the process of selling half of its shares to new shareholders including Tencent. Is this a positive move for the music sector? We pretty much doubt it.
> In this fast-changing environment, how has the role of trade associations evolved and how have you adapted?
Trade associations are becoming more important than ever, and that’s probably why we see new associations being established in countries that did not have one so far. As an example, no less than four new associations (in Hungary with HAIL, in ex-Yugoslavia with RUNDA, in Poland with ANPM and in Romania with INDIERO) have seen the light of the day in Europe in the last 15 months only, and more are expected to come in countries such as Turkey, Bulgaria or Armenia. Previous successes have underlined the need for indies to act together, to conduct joint actions and to co-operate with their counterparts all over Europe and the world. It is the best option for them to get heard and to make sure their own specificities are taken into account by governments, collecting societies, tech companies and all the other actors in the sector. Together, we are stronger!
> Can you share a specific success story of an indie company/artist that you have been particularity excited / inspired by?
Just like a majority of citizens, we are becoming more and more worried about climate change, how we can modify our behavior for more sustainability and how we can question the impact our very own business has on our planet. This is one of the reasons this year’s IMPALA outstanding contribution award went to Music Declares Emergency, a fantastic initiative launched by a set of indie record labels.
Along similar lines, Greta Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations certainly did not go unnoticed. It generated countless memes and even music covers and mashups. One of these was a death metal mashup by U.S. artist G.T. aka John Mollusk, signed to Swedish indie label Despotz Records. The track went viral and ended up being released as a (very successful) single, the profits of which went to NGO Greenpeace. Music creates a debate, and overall a huge success for a very good cause.
This interview is part of a series of 4 interviews. Discover more about Global Indie Voices
Make sure to catch the full Global Indie Voices track at Midem, next June!
As part of the Global Indie Voices, Spotify has partnered with Midem for an exclusive workshop dedicated to independents – artists, managers, songwriters or labels and distribution companies – that will present strategies and tools to make the most out of Spotify and reach global audience. Want to attend it? Apply here!