MIDEM in the Music Industry

MIDEM, the music industry conference held in France that is owned by communications company Reed MIDEM, targets the creativity and synergy of musicians, music entrepreneurs, tech geeks, marketing gurus, label executives, and brand managers. It is one of the oldest, most storied, and most glamorous trade events in the international scene. It has, though, seen better times.

In June 2015, MIDEM counted 5,500 paid attendees, a drop of 10% relative to 2014 and 14% relative to 2013. This year, MIDEM had changed its conference date from January to June, the first ever such change for MIDEM in 49 years. Sunny Cannes did little, then, to reverse an overall declining trend. It must be remembered that in the heyday of the late ‘90s, MIDEM actually topped 10,000+ attendees.

In this Côte d’Azur show, the costs of registration, hospitality, and foreign travel have always been expensive, even for its traditional European constituents. Such costs may not have mattered as much when registrants were affiliated with the major label and publishing industries ­­–which always afforded useful networking events for everyone else in the business and drove more interest to MIDEM. But the market is now much more fragmented and power is diffused in more players, so MIDEM needs to target a younger audience interested, for example, in technology innovation, entrepreneurship, and DIY business. This group, as well as the personnel that comes over for record label business, is much less affluent. The complaint by MIDEM director Bruno Crolot, when interviewed by Hypebot, is telling: many music industry professionals apparently attended MIDEM with pirated tickets.

Another issue is an excess supply of top-level conferences, especially in the US. There is much more now than there was before the new millennia, with SXSW and a variety of Billboard conferences covering similar topics often with the same distinguished panelists.

SXSW, which holds music and film conferences, competitions, and showcases in Austin, Texas, had more than 30,000 participants in 2015. Attendance at SXSW has been progressively increasing since 2012, with more than 18,000 people coming just for music. Billboard holds the Touring Conference and Awards every year in New York City and their 12th edition will take place in November 2015 after witnessing a rise of 6% in attendance in 2014. Unlike MIDEM, this event may not be known for its hackathons or branding panels and workshops, but topics like these are arguably covered in more specialist gatherings. For that matter, attendance at NAMM, the venerable flagship show for the international music products industry, surged, apparently, by 41% in 2014 to over 90,000 participants. MIDEM may not be in the same business as NAMM, a trade organization for manufactures of music gear, but its ability to generate a marketplace for the makers and holders of sound recording copyrights is no longer as clear cut as it once was.

Even though it is becoming harder for MIDEM to differentiate itself in the crowded field of music business events, its undoubtedly international flavor still affords it a competitive edge. There are simply no shows where a nation state will put up a music exhibit, and credit goes to the Reed MIDEM group for reaching out to the culture ministries of countries like South Africa, Israel, and the Ivory Cost, represented directly or in directly, among others, at the show. MIDEM is also a vehicle for students of international law to keep up with the many guises of national copyrights. Indeed, MIDEM will continue to afford opportunity for E.U. officials to come together and seek ways to consolidate and harmonize local legislation with the general good. There is much to learn here at MIDEM.

MIDEM notables this year included Doug Morris (CEO at Sony Music Entertainment), Arnaud de Puyfontaine (Senior VP at Vivendi, owning company of UMG), Paul Williams (President at ASCAP), and Alexander Ljung (Founder of Soundcloud). A plethora of useful sessions complemented the keynote addresses, while the imminent release of Apple Music (covered elsewhere in the MBJ), afforded much topic for discussion–with Doug Morris’s favorable review at MIDEM at a Billboard interview setting the stage for major label support for Apple.

For this writer, the impact of holograms and cashless payments on the live music and touring business was of particular interest, as was covered in the session by the CEO of Bandsintown, Sergent Fabrice, and the Director of Lollapalooza Berlin, Szép Fruzsina. Also inspiring and very popular among attendees was the presentation of the pointed collaboration between Lexus and the artist will.i.am by Lexus’s head of European marketing and a top executive at the Creative Artists Agency.

Both of these gatherings documented the disruption of the old business model and the potential for artists and their managers/agents to find new ways of doing business– often with the labels taking a backseat role. That is the ultimate tribute to MIDEM, for it has stuck to its mission of providing insightful coverage on the current workings of the business while keeping the many parties that are involved in the making, distribution, and collection of music monies engaged. It is good that MIDEM insists on putting its stamp on the industry.

By Felipe Gonzalez




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