Blogging MIDEM 2013: Part 4 – Global Mobile

I’m currently sitting at the Nice Côte d’Azur airport waiting for a flight back to Paris where I will change planes to head back to New York City for the evening before flying out early tomorrow morning to Winnipeg. (Yeah, it’s a little nuts, I know.) Anyway, since I just discovered that the Nice airport offers free wifi to passengers in the departure terminal (why don’t all airports?), I thought it would be a good time to attempt to conclude my reports from MIDEM 2013.

As I mentioned yesterday (link to post), the final day of MIDEM is usually something of a ghost town. Many attendees don’t even bother showing up even though there are still panel sessions and the exhibition room is technically open throughout the day. The folks who run MIDEM seem to encourage this drop-off. The fourth and last day of MIDEM is the only day that they don’t publish a newspaper for attendees. (I haven’t had a chance to read any of this year’s newspapers yet, but they’re in my carry-on luggage so maybe I can catch up with them during the flight if Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections doesn’t hold my attention—I took it with me thinking I’d read it during various travels here but thus far haven’t made it past the first page.)


Deflated MIDEM Festival balloon

When I arrived at the Palais early Tuesday morning the MIDEM Festival balloons were already deflated as a small number of people proceeded across the red carpet to experience the final hours of this extravaganza. What a difference from 24 hours ago when everything was so manic. There wasn’t even a line to check my coat today. I quickly wandered the exhibition area to see what was going on. Many folks were already in the process of packing up, although some were still attentively manning their booths hoping for one last deal.



I did manage to finally run into a representative for the Ford Sync display which I had looked at somewhat befuddledly earlier in the week (what’s with all the automobile-related displays this year?) so I struck up a conversation with him.

But then it was time to head to a panel about innovations in mobile music—a rather appropriate follow-up, actually. Mobilium Advisory Group CEO Ralph Simon, who moderated the panel, claimed that this was “the most important session of the entire MIDEM.” I wouldn’t go that far, though to be honest, I only had time to stay for about a third of the allotted session time. While I was there it was heartening to hear Francis Keeling from Universal Music Group attest that, as a result of reaching developing markets across the world through mobile platforms, “the music industry is now properly going into growth.” According to South Korean entrepreneur Abraham Jo, who is currently the CEO of MelOn in Indonesia, 32 million people in South Korea use smartphones, which is 64% of the population. That’s become a huge market for music and it has transformed South Korea from a “notorious pirate country to a role model” for innovation in mobile music platforms. The real innovation has been switching the focus from downloading services to viable streaming services since, as Keeling noted, “the problem with downloads is that mobile devices can’t support them.” (But he’s not riding the subway like me and Jerald Miller from Nu Jazz Entertainment.) Pandora’s Heidi Browning talked about how Pandora has become one of the most successful streaming platforms through “disrupting traditional radio by launching a personalized radio” service based on a music genome which taxonomizes a total of 450 musical attributes and results in listeners not being “stuck in one genre” but, rather, “connected by the essence of music.”

Mobile Platform Panel

Ralph Simon, Abraham Jo, Heidi Browning, and Francis Keeling (pictured left to right) talk about mobile platforms for music.

But at that point I had to dash downstairs where I arrived just in time for the opening of a panel discussion on the latest developments of the Global Repertoire Database (GDR) which has been an ongoing theme at MIDEM in recent years. The GRD aims to be a one-stop repository for rights information for every piece of music on the planet. It’s a tall order and they have not gotten very far past the preliminary stages, although detailed blueprints will be unveiled in a couple of weeks and a soft launch is planned for 2014. “We want to make sure we get it right,” said Jackie Alway, director of international legal and business affairs for Universal Music Publishing. According to her, the GRD will be designed using enhanced ICE technology and advanced Siznet technology. The project is being overseen by a board of directors which contains equal representation from creators, other rights holders (publishers, labels, etc.), and collecting societies. But according to Michael Battison, vice president of international business development at ASCAP, the GRD is not set up to resolve copyright disputes; “dispute resolution will remain the same as it is now.” I’ve only scratched the surface in describing the conversation during this panel, but upon my return to New York City, I hope to publish links to more information about this project which should be of concern to anyone who creates, performs or listens to music—in a word, everyone.

GRD panel

The GRD panel

Classical Publisher Talk

James Jolly and Chris Butler

The very last session I attended was a talk between Gramophone’s James Jolly and Chris Butler, the COO and head of publishing for Music Sales (the owners of G. Schirmer/Associated Music Publishers). After so many talks about music and monetization over the course of the past four days, it was refreshing to hear them talk about different kinds of success—artistic as well as commercial—and long-term returns on investments, a time frame that is pretty much inconceivable in the pop music realm. Although a downside to that, as Jolly pointed out, is that less than 4% of the classical music currently being performed and recorded is by living composers which is miniscule considering the amount of new music being written right now. Butler spoke about a publisher’s personal and lifelong relationship with a roster composer, “You’re a composer from the beginning until the end.” (There are some 80 living composers on the Music Sales roster.) When I asked about self-publishing, however, Butler was somewhat skeptical. Although “there is now no barrier to entry for publishing,” he claimed, “The best classical composers tend to find their way to publishers” since it is so difficult to promote, distribute, and maintain the requisite performance materials that will get the music in as many places as it needs to be in order to really be successful. I’m sure a lot of folks here might have some alternate views about this and people should feel free to offer their comments. Although I will say that Butler was an extremely enthusiastic advocate for contemporary music and it was very refreshing to hear his views about promotion. He asserted that “sometimes we obsess with protection and income but the road to monetization starts with exposure.”

Following the conclusion of their talk, I made one last circuit around the exhibitions and finally had a chance to talk with the attendees from Malaysia and Barbados, another country visiting MIDEM for the first time. Both countries loaded me up with music to listen to, so I’ll inevitably have more to say about them in the future. There were one or two more sessions about various legal matters still on the agenda, but at that point, I was saturated with information and decided to call it a day. As I walked out of the Palais in the afternoon, I caught a snippet of one last musical performance—a singer/songwriter set herself up right outside the exit and was singing a song about an ex-boyfirend coming back one last time to take his CDs. It was somehow a fitting ending to this zany week.

Final MIDEM Gig

The Final MIDEM Gig

Blogging MIDEM 2013: Part 3 – Ephemeral Playback

MIDEM 2013 is now officially over, but the last 36 hours seemed to have occurred in a kind of accelerated time continuum so it will probably take days to process everything that took place. Monday has been traditionally the most overloaded day during MIDEM, and Tuesday the quietest, and this year was no exception. On Monday, I spent most of the day frantically trying to catch parts of multiple simultaneously-occurring sessions, since there were so many potentially interesting discussions going on, but I haven’t had a moment to turn my experiences into hopefully coherent prose until Tuesday afternoon now that everything at MIDEM has pretty much ground to a halt.

Record Store Day Panel

The Record Store Day panel

(Monday, January 28, 2013)
I was hoping to catch a session on French music export that was scheduled to begin at 9:30am and run until 11am, but I didn’t get down to the Palais until 10 since the video of my talk with Kofi Amoakohene (posted yesterday) was still uploading and at that point there were two additional sessions I wanted to attend. The first was a press conference about Record Store Day 2013, a worldwide campaign to get consumers into record shops on April 20, 2013. The organizers for Record Store Day describe it as “the largest open source event in the world.” In previous years over 1600 independent record shops have participated and over 2 million people attended worldwide. According to Record Store Day Co-founder Michael Kurtz, President of the Department of Record Stores (USA), the event “is about rebuilding trust. Over the past 20 years there has been an erosion of trust between fans and the music industry, particularly the major labels.” Record Store Day is adamantly about small entrepreneurs and getting people excited about listening to new music through the process of discovery rather than a big business marketing campaign. David Godevais, director of CALIF (France) who is the organizer for Record Store Day in France (where it is called “Disquaire Day”) claimed that during last year’s event he had “never before seen so many people queuing for record stores.” But Kurtz stressed the importance of keeping it grass roots since that is the key to its success. “We can’t allow it to be taken over and glutted.” Another member of the panel (whose name was unfortunately not included in the program schedule) posited that the large chain stores ultimately led to the decline of consumer interest in record shopping and compared a good independent record store to a good local bakery.

But before the panel was over, I dashed out of the room and up a flight of stairs to catch part of a session on the future of collective rights management that was put together by GEMA, the German performing rights society. Current EU guidelines have transformed the spheres of influence of national performing rights societies as has the global digital music marketplace. But as Dr. Enjott Schneider (Composer and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of GEMA) opined, “We must operate with transparency, but if I look into the future I see Google and Apple, organizations with no transparency.” Austrian singer/songwriter Andy Baum described how the music business has turned into a rights business and sees the new model as a problematic one for creators, “Those who are trying to get the rights are not doing it for the benefit of the artist, that’s for sure.” Alexandra Thein, a Member of the European Parliament, commented that it will be not be easy to get a political majority to support tougher rights protections at this time since they all have to address the fair treatment of consumers. During the question and answer period, Robert Ashcroft, the chief executive for PRS (the British performing rights society) claimed that “sometimes it’s better to move forward than to defend where we are” and that “the main prize is a pan-European market that authors can actually make money in.”
From there I wandered into the presentation of the results of MIDEM Hack Day 2013 which I attended the launch of on Saturday. I only had time to hear about four of the newly created hacks, since there were so many sessions competing for my attention, but the one that grabbed me was called “Ephemeral Playback” which was created by a Barcelona-based hacker named Alasdair Porter. Basically, his device is an attempt to return scarcity to music. It allows you to listen to a single song only one time and then pass the file along to someone else to do the same. His goal is to create a chain of single-time listeners. While it’s ultimately anathema to a record collector like me, there’s something that is somehow intriguing about making the listening experience so precious at a time when it is so devalued. And in the midst of Monday’s marathon information overload on steroids, the concept seemed downright appealing.

Reissue Discussion

Pictured left to right: James Jolly, Jonathan Gruber, and Jerald Miller

But I had to move on to a discussion about how to revitalize classical and jazz back catalogs in the digital era. According to Jerald Miller, founder of Nu Jazz Entertainment (USA), “people in classical and jazz are always behind the eight ball.” Jonathan Gruber, director of Ulysses Arts (UK) claimed there is a “false distinction between streaming and downloading.” Although Miller countered that there’s a significant distinction in certain communities, “In New York we don’t drive so we don’t listen to XM radio; we’re in the subway.” However Gruber thought the more significant distinction that needs to be made is between listening to music for free (which is a chance for discovery we should encourage) and a deeper engagement through ownership, personalization, and collecting. Although most of the classical music that has been selling in the digital realm has been bundled introductory compilations, Gruber was optimistic that these could be a gateway to “premium product” in the future. Both, however, believed that the era of the lavish boxed set, which doesn’t really translate into the digital sphere, is over even though neither conceded that physical sales will completely disappear. Miller described the absurdity of a Miles Davis re-issue sold in a trumpet case. “Who is interested in that and can afford it? I don’t care about collectors; they have most of what they want. I want to reach new audiences.”

Next I trekked to the opposite side of the Palais to attend some of “Visionary Monday,” a whirlwind series of presentations, some of which only lasted 10 minutes, focusing on new technologies and new listening modalities. Robert Scoble, the startup liaison officer for Rackspace Hosting (USA) claimed we have entered a new “age of context” in which experiences will be transformed based on knowing customers in deep detail. Rather than sounding Orwellian alarms, Scoble was excited about how musical performances could be tailor made to specific audience members creating one-of-a-kind personalized experiences.

Then the winners of the MIDEM Lab were announced. The winner for music discovery, recommendation and creation was Instrumagic, developed by Eyal Eldar (Israel), which enables tablet users to play a virtual guitar without needing to learn the instrument. The app has a databank containing 200,000 licensed songs and users can play any of them by simply tapping on their tablets to trigger strums and chord changes. According to Eldar, 85% of people in the United States who don’t play a musical instrument wish that they did and now they can.

Virtual Air Guitar

Eyal Eldar performs “Roxanne” on his virtual air guitar.

Other winners were: Jamplify (USA), for marketing and social engagement; Stageit (USA) for direct to consumer sales and content management; and Audience FM (France), which was the overall prize. I was particularly taken with Stageit which enables artists to perform concerts from a webcam anywhere and collect listening fees as well as tips from people who listen in. This could be yet another alternative concert space for the most challenging new music since it is possible to build a significant audience for just about anything online. Whether online audiences are willing to pay, of course, is another matter, but according to Stageit’s Evan Lowenstein, some of his artists—who include Lisa Loeb and Rick Springfield—have been able to make $30K in 30 minutes.
I glided briefly into a two-hour presentation about electronic music at the MIDEM Academy. The main pearl of wisdom I gleaned from the short time I was there was from a YouTube representative on the panel (whose name is unfortunately not listed on the program schedule) who explained the positive relationship between YouTube and electronic music:

YouTube and electronic music sit very well together since YouTube is an electronic medium for distributing content. It is one of the most popular genres on the platform. They can fill venues with a thousand people on a couple of days’ notice through YouTube.

He then described a gig cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy that was done instead via webcam over the internet from hotel room. Of course since remuneration from YouTube is virtually non-existent (unless you’re Psy as someone pointed out during a session earlier in the week), this might be perfect fodder in the future for platforms like StageIt.

Making Digital Work For Classical Panel

Pictured left to right: James Jolly, Mickaël Arcos, and Jim Selby

Back to recorded music, I then rushed back to the Classical Discussion Lounge to hear a discussion about making digital work for classical music between Gramophone Editor-in-Chief James Jolly, Naxos of America CEO Jim Selby, and Mickaël Arcos, a software engineer for Abeille Musique in France. According to Arcos, there are “no shipping costs with digital so it’s very attractive.” But Selby asserted that “consumers ultimately make the decision about what they want.” He believes that the physical business has not gone away and will remain stable in the coming years. When Jolly asked if there was a way for free to be a viable option for distributing music, Selby was adamant:

There’s no free lunch. We have to be very careful about free and not let others build their businesses on the backs of other people’s content and not pay for it. We need commerce tied to free. I don’t get anything for free. If I don’t pay my cable bill, they’ll cut me off.


Slovak Music Information Centre director Ol’ga Smetanová lures me to stay at the Czech-Slovak party with slivovitz.

After that heated discussion, I attempted to head back to Visionary Monday but got waylaid by the Czech-Slovak party and the Lithuanian party. Wine, beer, and stronger drinks were plied to passers-by with abandon, in hopes that they would walk away with some interest in the music of those countries as well. These days, people seem reluctant to fill up their luggage with promotional CDs (I’m the exception to that rule, I know), but I continued to spot evidence of the work of the Vinylrecorder as I eventually found my way out of the exhibition hall.
I caught the very tail end of a debate about how the music industry handles innovation in which Robert Ashcroft of PRS was again part of the discussion. He talked about how PRS was the first performing rights society to license YouTube even though they were not happy with the terms. “I’m not gonna see myself as a dinosaur,” he exclaimed. “Apple is now making more in profit than the music industry ever did.”
I was frantically trying to write up the events of Sunday to share with readers here during most of this, so I wasn’t able to glean much else. I did, however, manage to catch Paul D. Miller (a.k.a. DJ Spooky)’s closing performance for Visionary Monday. I love those globe-spinning turntables!

DJ Spooky Closes Visionary Monday

DJ Spooky spins the globes to close Visionary Monday

Now it was concert showcase time. My energy was pretty zapped by that point, but I caught part of the opening act at Magic Mirrors, which was Endah N Resha, an Indonesian husband-and-wife folk duo who won the 2013 “Play MIDEM Live” competition. I hoped their music would incorporate some elements of gamelan, but it was pretty much pop-folk in an international context, although they briefly made a few sounds that were reminiscent of kejak, the traditional Balinese Ramayama monkey chant, and, at one point, seemed to be alluding to bola lap, an Indian music performance technique where tabla players call out rhythmic patterns.

Endah N Rhesa

Endah N Rhesa from Indonesia, winners of the 2013 Play MIDEM Live Competition.

Since there was a Congolese musician named Celeo scheduled to appear at The Establishment, another club several blocks away, I thought I should hear part of his set. Unfortunately, Celeo, like the other MIDEM attendees from Congo, was not allowed into the country. The club brought in a local singer/rapper who was originally from Congo named Uba. But since no other musicians could be brought in on such short notice he performed to a pre-recorded track, which was quite disappointing even though he had a nice voice. Perhaps even more disappointing was the fact that I was one of only three people in the audience.

I ended the night back at Morrison’s Irish Pub to catch part of the Canadian Showcase, which had been a performance highlight of MIDEM for me last year. This was the other extreme. It was so crowded I could barely maneuver my way in. I stayed to listen to a couple of songs performed by pop rock singer/songwriter Jesse Labelle and his band, but people kept pouring in and it was starting to feel extremely uncomfortable, so I called it a night.


Trying to breathe as Jesse Labelle and his band get announced at the Canadian showcase

There is still quite a bit to report about today’s activities, but I’ve been typing madly away for two hours and now need to go have dinner so it will have to wait. I fly back to North America tomorrow (first stopping home in NYC, then flying out to Winnipeg the following morning), but I will try to tell the rest of the story as soon as I can.

Blogging MIDEM 2013: Part 2 – From Ghanaian to Korean Hip-Hop & More

The second day of MIDEM got off to an early start for me. I woke up quite early in order to upload the photos and video that appear in my report on Saturday’s events, but there wasn’t sufficient time to finish writing up the report before I needed to dash out of my hotel room and run to the Palais in order to catch the Legal Update for Entertainment and Technology, a panel of entertainment lawyers from all over the globe. The session was somewhat overwhelming and I unfortunately missed the beginning of it (video takes a very long time to upload on internet connections here), but the portion I did manage to attend was extremely informative.

It was particularly fascinating to learn from German lawyer Eberhard Kromer that, despite its geographical size relative to other countries in the world, Germany remains the world’s third largest music market. It was also very interesting to learn from Nikhil Krishnamurthy about the evolving situation of composers rights in India where the music industry was initially created as a subsidiary of the film industry and, as a result, film producers initially were the exclusive holders of copyrights for music and composers recouped no royalties for their work. In 1993, a so-called “encouragement fee” was introduced as an attempt to address the need for composer remuneration but it was taken away in 2003 which prompted an extensive lobbying efforts to the Indian government on behalf of artists’ rights. Just last year (2012), new laws were introduced that finally recognize the right of composers to accrue royalties from their music. But how this will play out both for Indian composers and the composers abroad whose music is performed in India remains to be seen. Joep Maddens from the Netherlands addressed some interesting Dutch legal cases in which web portals might be potentially held liable to pay royalties on content that appears on their sites even if it is not directly hosted by them. If content from another site is embedded directly into a site, the argument goes, it is ultimately a part of the website even if the content embedded is hosted elsewhere. A more extreme example of this line of thinking is a case involving a legal suit requesting remuneration as a result of a hyperlink since the link for the content was deeply buried within another site and had not been easy to access. MusicStrat’s Deborah Newman gave a brief update from the United States, referencing the direct licenses that DMX (a competitor of Muzak) has obtained from individual publishers, bypassing ASCAP and BMI which are now both now in litigation against DMX since DMX wants to have its blanket licensing fees reduced to carve out the portion that they now have negotiated with individual publishers. This is quite similar to a deal that Clear Channel recently made with Big Machine (which represents Taylor Swift among others). Clear Channel bypassed Sound Exchange and negotiated a reduced digital licensing fee from Big Machine in an exchange for granting the first-ever U.S. terrestrial radio broadcast fee for performers, presumably working under the assumption that the digital realm fee reduction will ultimately trump fees being paid to the allegedly dying medium of terrestrial radio. Are you still with me?

German Networking

In all three years that I have attended MIDEM, Germany has had a bigger presence than any other country. Here is a photo of some networking in their section of the exhibition rooms. Might this be why Germany is the third largest music market in the world?

Following that session I attended a press conference about the United States Department of Commerce’s export project with the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM). This is the first ever music-related project funded under the Obama Administration’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP). According to Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale, assistant secretary for manufacturing and services at the United States Department of Commerce’s International Trade Adminstration, the department is “looking for business plans that show you can help to assist export in new markets.” They are interested in “making sure that IPR [intellectual property rights] is protected” and want to “create new evangelists so that exports continue to grow.” MDCP’s Project Leader and Senior Media and Entertainment Analyst Andrea DaSilva admitted that “in dealing with the music industry” they “had to learn a whole new vocabulary.”


A2IM President Rich Bengloff, Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale and Andrea DaSilva from the US Dept of Commerce talk music export.

A2IM President Rich Bengloff noted that one of the key areas in which the music industry differs from other forms of business is that “it’s harder to show results up front.” Lamb-Hale was happy to learn that “independent music is particularly competitive” and Bengloff spoke about how campaigns in East Asia were designed specifically to promote jazz and classical music since they are both predominantly instrumental genres and therefore can bypass language barriers. It was great to learn that American jazz musicians will be getting this support but I hope that the classical music being exported includes music created by American composers and is not just American orchestras and other ensembles performing Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Bengloff was unable to provide specific information about repertoire when I asked him after the session. This could be an extraordinary opportunity for American composers so I hope to continue this conversation with all parties involved.


The Texas Music Office has more of a presence at MIDEM than many other countries; But where are our other 49 states?

Filled with excitement about the possibilities of viable music export for the new music community, I wandered the exhibition rooms where elaborate displays of various countries’ musical offerings were on display, often through the support of their governments. There is no such exhibition for the United States, although as I have pointed out in my coverage of MIDEM in previous years, the very independent-minded state of Texas always has a presence here. In fact, Andrea DaSilva stated during the U.S. Department of Commerce press conference that the Texas Music Office is an initiative directly funded by the state of Texas since Texas governor Rick Perry is “very interested in the music industry.” Perhaps if we can’t have an official United States presence at MIDEM and other significant music export convenings abroad we can eventually have representation from all 50 states individually–imagine that.

Ghana at MIDEM

Henry Holbrook-Smith and Kofi Amoakohene from the Ghana-based music company Scratch

Meanwhile, the entire continent of Africa, which has over 50 independent countries, has traditionally been poorly represented at MIDEM. As I mentioned yesterday, I was very excited to see that representatives from Ghana, Senegal, and Congo were listed as exhibitioners. Unfortunately, the Senegal and Congo booths remain empty thus far. I learned that the delegations from those countries were unable to secure visas to enter France. I did however have an opportunity to speak with Kofi Amoakohene, the CEO of Scratch which is a Ghana-based private recording and recording distribution company that also publishes a music magazine which is available both in hard copy and online. They are the defacto music information and advocacy center for Ghana. I was proud to tell Amoakohene that back in 2001 we featured Ghana-born, Portland OR-based composer and master drummer Obo Addy on these pages and then we proceeded to talk about how to foster stronger musical relations between Ghana and the United States. Ghana, of course, has been an important source of inspiration for composers ranging from Steve Reich (Drumming) to Wynton Marsalis. (Marsalis’s Congo Square features Obo Addy’s brother Mustapha Teddy Addy who is still based in Ghaha). He also told me about Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, whom he claimed was doing hip-hop before anyone else in the world. But you should hear about Ghanian music and its impact on the United States as well as what it means to be at MIDEM directly from Amoakohene…

Argentina Pours

Argentina pours the malbec.

After that very interesting talk, I was hoping to have a similar conversation with the delegation from Argentina, but the representatives unfortunately weren’t around when I passed by even though there were a group of waiters pouring malbec, one of which was from Colombia (which is not otherwise represented here). So I drank a glass and we got into a brief conversation about cumbia, vallenato, and salsa colombiana.

I eventually found my way to a panel about sound quality in the era of mp3s back at the Classical Discussion Lounge. Philip Hobbs, the chief classical producer for Linn Recordings in the U.K. adamantly declared that “audio quality affects attention spans” as do the ubiquitous shuffling functions on all playback equipment. He bemoaned that nowadays people have music playing from an iPod cradle with a TV playing at the same time: “No one’s enjoying anything; they’re just cluttering their brains with noise. Years ago we used to say that if you could read a book while listening to your hi-fi system, your hi-fi did not sound good enough.” Steve Long, managing director for U.K.-based Signum Records, however, was not dismayed by the current listening malaise: “It doesn’t matter what people are listening to now, but what people will listen to in the future.” The moderator, BBC Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor, added some levity to the discussion when he opined, “The only thing that bothers me about listening to LPs is getting up after 20 minutes to turn the damn thing over.” The discussion took a more serious turn when Hobbs acknowledged that the biggest problem is that creative artists and their representatives ultimately have less control over digital aggregators.



Before the Q&A period was over I scurried over to a panel on hip-hop with Kaylee Maize, whose showcase I heard last night, and a group of American-born Korean rappers who are huge stars in Korea. Drunken Tiger, originally from Los Angeles, is now a superstar in South Korea, as is his wife T Yoon Mirae. Drunken Tiger explained the attraction of hip-hiop as a young Asian American growing up in California, “Asian wasn’t even a minority but Wu Tang Clan made Asians cool. I knew we made it when these guys came up to me and said, ‘You’re not Chinese, you’re not Japanese, you must be muthafuckin’ Korean!”

Hip Hop Panel

The hip-hop panel (pictured left to right): moderator Emily Gonneau (Unicum Management, France), Keelee Maize, Drunken Tiger, T Yoon Mirae and Bizzy.

Drunken Tiger’s showcase later that evening at the Magic Mirrors was a performance highlight for me. He, his wife, and a third Korean rapper whose name I didn’t catch rapped almost exclusively in Korean but they completely engaged the audience even though alnmost no one there understood a word they were saying. Drunken Tiger challenged the audience to “open your mind up, let us in” and they did. Contemporary American composers could learn a valuable lesson from this, I think.

Korean Hip Hop

Korean Hip Hop showcase at Magic Mirrors

The last panel I attended on Sunday was about exporting music to China which focused on a collaboration between French synth legend Jean-Michel Jarre, the first artist to perform in mainland China, and Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai.

Jean Michel Jarre etc.

Jean Michel Jarre (center) talks about performing music for audiences in China.

Then it was showcase time. I already mentioned Drunken Tiger whose showcase was revelatory. I also attended some of the “Malaysian Supernova” but nothing particularly resonated with me. I hope to return to some of this music in the future, however, since a less than extraordinary first encounter with something should not be a barrier for future exploration. Unfortunately I never found my way to the jazz showcase which was a bit of a trek from the Palais; there is just too much going on here. I also missed C2C, the turntable quartet which was the closing act at Magic Mirrors that I later heard was amazing; phooey, I was just too tired at that point. To be continued…

Blogging MIDEM 2013: Part 1 – Cannes We Survive

This is the third consecutive year that I have attended MIDEM. After trying to figure out what exactly MIDEM is when I first attended two years ago and then returning to MIDEM the following year as an at least somewhat seasoned participant, I was expecting it to be much easier for me to navigate this time around, as well as to be able to more effectively process it and attempt to explain what it all means. But since MIDEM continues to transform itself, past experiences with this annual late January Cannes extravaganza only offer a partial cipher to its current incarnation.

A favorite refrain of longtime MIDEM veterans is that it used to be much larger, and the current event is but a pale shadow of the glory years; a reminder that the music industry is in its death throes. And certainly it has seemed smaller each year that I have attended; this year seems to have the smallest number of exhibitors thus far. But what began as a trade fair and a giant schmoozefest for exclusive members of the record industry from around the world, as well as folks who wished to join their ranks, has gradually transformed into something much more open and perhaps more valuable for the greater music community. And, as Rich Bengloff, President of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) points out, MIDEM is still “the most important music business convening in the world.” MIDEM has become a combination of a conference, a music technology expo, a summit for entertainment law, an exhibition (primarily populated by national music promotion organizations from around the world), and a music festival. And this year there has been a greater focus on classical music than in the two previous years I had attended. There are specific sessions addressing classical music (which does not always fit neatly with blanket music discussions from a pop music perspective) as well as specifically designated areas in the exhibition hall for meet and greets for the classical crowd. (It’s still a giant schmoozefest, after all.) This area is actually designated as being for classical music and jazz, but on day one I did not encounter any jazz-minded folks here; perhaps I will in the coming days.

Jolly and Kenyon

Gramophone editor James Jolly in conversation with Barbican director Nicolas Kenyon

I arrived in Cannes earlier than I ever had on Saturday morning (at 10:20am) and after rushing from the train station to leave my luggage at the budget hotel where I’m staying about three quarters of a mile away from the Palais des Conferences where MIDEM takes place (since I could not check in until 3pm), I ran to the Palais, quickly registered, and made it to the “Classical Discussion Lounge” in time for an 11am session—a conversation between Gramophone magazine’s Editor-in-Chief James Jolly and Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of London’s Barbican Centre entitled “New Initiatives for Live Music in 2013.” Both agreed that despite it being a tough time to market recorded music, live music is thriving. As Kenyon explained, “Live music is a shared experience.” He acknowledged that the Barbican has a huge advantage over other performing arts centres since it presents many different types of events, not just music performances, and as a result is able to bring different arts audiences together. But ultimately he asserted that there is only so far you can go with changing the traditional concert experience in order to attract new audiences: “You need to be able to concentrate since that’s what the music demands.” I’ve often believed that concentrated listening enhances the listening experience of music in any genre.

Trio Fidelio

Trio Fidelio breaks with the post-Piazzolla sound world of the majority of their set to mine the soundworld of overlapping tone clusters.

Later that evening during a performance by the Trio Fidelio, a group of three accordionists who were the opening act for the Austrian showcase at Morrison’s Irish Pub, a group of English speakers next to me spoke loudly and incessantly, drowning out the music and ruining my ability to fully appreciate the post-Piazzolla romps that I was attempting to hear. After about fifteen minutes into their chatter, I moved to the other side of the room where it was slightly quieter. Perhaps the trio was aware of all the din because at one point they performed something that was a stark contrast to the rest of their set—following a primal scream from the leader of the group, they launched into a relentless series of tone clusters. Some folks walked out. I loved it, even though I did not find it at all shocking. But perhaps I was the one person there who had heard Patrick Hardish’s Accordioclusterville which William Schimmel recorded on a now long out-of-print LP on Ilhan Mimaroglu’s label Finnadar. (Someone needs to re-issue that recording.) But back to the events of the day…

MIDEM Hack Day

During the launch of MIDEM Hack Day, Emily White pitches an idea for a vinyl emulating hack for SoundCloud as Soundcloud’s Dave Haynes looks on.

At noon, I attended the launch of the 3rd edition of MIDEM Hack Day co-hosted by Martyn Davies of Hacks and Bants and Dave Haynes, vice president for business development at SoundCloud. Hackers from around the world are invited to create and build music applications using existing application programming interfaces (APIs). This year, a total of 27 hackers are involved in the project. They will be given only 45 hours in which to create their hacks and the results will be presented in a follow-up session on Monday morning. Stay tuned. During the launch, attendees were invited to pitch their ideas to the hackers. The most interesting of the ideas I heard was from U.S.-based artist representative Emily White who was interested in someone developing a hack for SoundCloud that would parse an album into A and B sides to emulate the division on a vinyl LP.

It was nice to hear such enthusiasm for vinyl at this year’s MIDEM, which in previous years seemed miles away from analog aesthetics. An even greater advocacy for vinyl, however, was a booth exhibiting the vinyl recorder, a machine which in real time records CD and mp3 tracks directly to vinyl. In the closing decade of the 20th century, folks were frantically replacing their LP collections with CDs; it’s nice to see that in the 21st century things are going the other way! For demonstration purposes, the exhibitors were recording single tracks onto vinyl from any attendee’s recordings and letting attendees keep the result. Of course, as a lifelong vinyl obsessive, this is something I had to have. I would not have wanted to make an unauthorized recording of someone else’s music, but luckily I had a CD in my pocket featuring some of my own music which I was giving to a friend later in the day. So I was able to test it out and now, at long last, I’m on vinyl—one copy at least.

Barbados at MIDEM 2013

Barbados at MIDEM 2013

I wandered around the exhibition area for about an hour; it’s always an opportunity to discover new music since many of the nations’ music promotion tables give away sampler discs of recent music from their respective countries. There were giant displays for J-Pop and K-Pop and music from countries all over Europe. Iran is not here this year (they were present both in 2011 and 2012), but Malaysia is here for the first time as is Barbados, and several countries from Africa (Ghana, Senegal, and Congo), although I have not yet had a chance to talk with them yet. Again, stay tuned.

Korean Pavillion

Korean Pavillion

Then I briefly attended a session at the MIDEM Academy called “International Publishing for Non-Publishers.” While the presenter, journalist Emmanuel Legrand, had a few interesting historical talking points (including the observation that publishing is the third oldest music-related business after performing and instrument building), he didn’t offer much information I didn’t already know. So I quietly left and ran across several atria to catch the Crowdfunding Workshop at the Direct2Fan Camp. Again, no real surprises here for me but it was the most heavily attended session I was at all day. Everyone wants to learn about getting money.

Crowdfunding Audience

That large audience for the Crowdfunding Workshop.

A session entitled “When Traditional Retailing Still Works” back at the Classical Discussion Lounge, however, offered much food for thought. BBC Radio 3 host Andrew McGregor led a lively discussion with Presto Classical Managing Director Chris O’Reilly and Nimbus Disc and Print Services Business Director Antony Smith. While everyone on the panel was still very attached to physical recordings, there was some disagreement as to their future viability. O’Reilly thinks he’s got another five years to sell CDs whereas Smith believes that CDs could still be around in 25 to 30 years. Smith does not really see digital downloads and streams as competition for CD sales as long as titles remain available in retail on physical formats since, according to him, “The recording industry has always operated on multiple platforms.” But Chris O’Reilly pointed out that sectors in the industry are forcing the transition to digital, such as the makers of tablets which do not include a CD drive and automobiles that are no longer equipped with a CD player, to which Smith countered, “My car doesn’t have an LP drive and LP sales are up.” Someone in the audience added that there seems to be a “deliberately inflicted downward spiral of physical sales; even though 60% of all U.K. sales are still physical, people are claiming there will be no physical sales in 2 years.” When Andrew McGregor mentioned that young people don’t collect, Smith had a retort for him as well. “Digital hasn’t been around long enough for us to know if they won’t become physical consumers. University students don’t want to own anything since they have to move around all the time, but after they graduate they go to IKEA and buy Billy bookshelves.” But aside from the clever banter, Smith probably had the most sage advice of the day: “If you buy recordings one at a time, the only efficient manufacturing is one at a time. Make the number you need as opposed to the number you think you might sell.” This, of course, is now possible, as on-demand reproduction is no longer financially prohibitive. Paradoxically, the same digital technology that threatens to eradicate physical recordings completely could fuel a new golden age for them as well.

My head was spinning at this point, but then it was time for more receptions. Traditionally the Japanese contigent always passes around free sake on the first night of MIDEM and this year was no different, so my head spun around even more…

Pouring the Sake

Pouring the sake

Following a brief run to my hotel to finally check in officially and unpack my luggage, I ventured back outside to sample the various music showcases going on in clubs near the Palais. I already mentioned the Trio Fidelio. Following their set I headed over to the B. Pub to catch some of the Jamendo Showcase. You may recall my unease with Jamendo last year, since these are the folks who boast the largest amount of free legally downloadable music online but the price that artists who want to be on board have to pay is that they cannot be members of performing rights societies, which means that they forego their right to having someone advocate that their musical efforts will be financially remunerated. The Dutch band We Are FM, which combined very LOUD hard rock with occasional electronic bleeps and samples emanating from laptops, was a really solid act. I particularly liked one song’s refrain of “What would you do?” sung on a monotone over and over again. I also quite liked their very non-reggae cover of Bob Marley’s “is This Love?” which sounded part Music in 12 Parts-era Philip Glass and part Album-era Public Image Limited, although I wondered if the heirs of Bob Marley, who was a member of a performing rights society, were being remunerated for this performance.

Keelee Maize

Keelee Maize

Following We Are FM was the “YouTube sensation” Keelee Maize, a Pittsburgh-based rapper. At one point she shouted out, “So all of my music is free on Jamendo.” She has already four albums out as well as a book, all of which are also available on Amazon (where they presumably are not for free), so apparently she has found a way to make the promotion of Jamendo work for her. But after listening to about five of her songs as the crowd got bigger and bigger as well as louder and louder, I decided to head back to Austrian showcase to catch their closing act, Stereoface, an extremely assured hard-rocking quartet which was billed as a psych-pop-punk. They reminded me a bit of early Rolling Stones; the lead singer even looked slightly like a young Mick Jagger to me. But by then my eyesight was somewhat blurry; it had been a long day. As soon as their set ended, I finally went back to my hotel to get some sleep in preparation for another long day.

What's With The Solid Car

Sometimes some of the exhibitions at MIDEM don’t make a whole lot of sense, e.g. What’s with the solid car?

Blogging MIDEM 2012: Toward a Single Global Market

This year for the very first time, MIDEM hosted its own music festival featuring a wide range of bands for three nights in a row, in essence morphing into something of a European SXSW. But they are still competing with a longstanding MIDEM tradition: concurrent showcases in local Cannes clubs presented by the various countries in attendance here and which continue to attract large audiences. While Singapore deserves acknowledgement for their auspicious debut showcase, which has already been described herein, a special mention must also be made about the 2012 showcases presented by Canada, which seemed to dwarf those of any other country this year. Canadian bands played to fire hazard-sized crowds for three nights in a row at Morrison’s Irish Pub. I considered attending MIDEM’s own event each of the nights, but after needing to satiate my curiosity about the showcase presented by the performing rights society-averse web portal Jamendo on Saturday and checking out Singapore on Sunday, I felt obliged to check out bands from my northern neighbor.


Toronto-based singer-songwriter Emma-Lee brought a little country to the South of France.

I caught most of the set of an alt country-tinged Toronto-based band led by singer-songwriter Emma-Lee which completely delighted the international audience. Next came Alyssa Reid, whose music seemed a bit too mainstream for me to stay completely focused amidst the din. But I should try again at some point; I’ve long believed that personal taste can be a barrier to experiencing music, and I know all too well that a loud, overpopulated bar is not the ideal place to hear something I haven’t heard before. However, the evening’s concluding act, the Hamilton-based power duo P.S. I Love You, seemed capable of grabbing anyone’s attention in any venue. Their set was a relentless series of extreme electric guitar distortion, uninhibited caterwauling (the guitarist doubled as the band’s vocalist), and pulverizing drumming—I loved it.

PS I Love You

The Kingston-based PS I Love You skronked out Morrison’s Pub while the ghost of James Joyce (painted on the wall behind them) connected them to the experimental tradition.

However, I’m not sure—just as I wasn’t in the case of the Singaporian showcase on Sunday night—if there was anything that belied a specific national identity in the music played by any of these Canadians on Monday night. I’ve certainly heard groups based due south of the Great Lakes that sounded similar to the three Canadian acts I checked out. Of course, the internet has even further accelerated the erosion of regional musical differences that had already begun to deteriorate with the advent of recorded sound, radio, and television during the 20th century. In the 21st century, we are moving more and more toward global music identities, and indeed such music has been the ideal soundtrack to compliment the numerous discussions here on Monday and Tuesday about an emerging single global market for music.

Early on Monday morning, the CEOs of the German and Swedish performing rights societies, Harald Heker of GEMA and Kenth Muldin of STIM, participated in a panel about the future of collective rights management in the European Union moderated by Musikwoche‘s Editor-in-Chief Mandfred Gillig-Degrave, and which also included Swedish composer Alfons Karabuda and two politicians, German Bundestag member Ansgar Heveling and Kerstin Jorna, the deputy head of cabinet for European Commissioner Michel Barnier in Belgium. Heker spoke to the difficulties in harmonizing licensing agreements among the 27 E.U. member countries, but acknowledged that it was a necessity in the current marketplace. Muldin added that music and audiovisual work ultimately have no borders. Heveling went further saying, “The time is gone for collection laws to be based on national legislation.” But everyone agreed that there needed to be rules in order to ensure fair competition. While the internet has certainly created a marketplace that is no longer circumscribed by geopolitical realities, it was interesting to learn that, according to Muldin, 60% of the total world income derived from the usage of creative work comes from Europe. Whatever collaborative initiatives that the performing rights societies will strive toward in the future, Karabuda urged everyone to secure a place for composers who operate at the edges of the marketplace, otherwise there is no guarantee of musical diversity.

Indie Music Manifesto

Participants in the discussions about establishing an Indie Music Manifesto: (L to R, back row) Jonas Sjostrom, Portia Sabin, Rich Benglott, Nick O’Byrne; (middle row) Mark Chung, Charlie Phillips; (front row) Alison Wenham, Helen Smith

Sustaining musical diversity was also a key agenda item for a group of representatives of independent music companies from around the world who met to establish a Global Indie Manifesto. “Plurality is the best driver of creativity,” is how UK-based Alison Wenham, chairman of the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), put it. Wenham, who led the discussion, also pointed out that 80% of new music releases are on independent labels and that independents employ 80% of the people who work in the music sector. She spoke passionately about the need for the independent sector to reframe the copyright argument, which has become a debate between large entertainment companies and the now even larger technology industry. As she put it, “It is people who make music, so it is people’s rights that have been hijacked in the debate about copyright.” Kill Rock Stars’ Portia Sabin, whose business card gives her official job title as “Label Dude,” didn’t mince words when describing Google and other powerful technology players’ claims that the music industry is not in step with the direction music has gone in, “We’ve heard the music industry doesn’t get it mostly from companies whose business models don’t include paying for music.”

Germany at MIDEM

A small portion of the German area of the MIDEM Exhibition Hall.

After that discussion, I was hoping to hear a panel about artists rights but the session was exclusively in French and this time there were no headphones offering instantaneous translation. I barely understand all the ramifications of these discussions when they are in English, so I wandered back to the exhibition hall. The exhibition booths in the halls still clearly show the disparity between various countries’ music industries, despite all the talk about our moving closer and closer toward a single global music economy. Germany, just as they had last year, had the largest presence of any country at MIDEM, even bigger than France, the country which hosts this event. But others, including Iran and Chile and even smaller countries like Macedonia and Cyprus, want to be part of the action, so they find a way to be here. But this year there was not a single exhibition booth from the entire continent of Africa. Will geographical diversity be sustainable as we move further into a global marketplace? And if it isn’t, who will be calling the shots?

Macedonia at MIDEM

The Macedonian music booth at MIDEM

The largest auditorium at the Palais de Conferences was given over to a series of technology-themed talks called Visionary Monday that occurred through the entire day. Each talk rushed by at warp speed, some lasting only 10 minutes. I caught about an hour’s worth of them before getting a little bit car sick from the information overflow. In a mere ten minutes, UK-based music analyst Mark Mulligan (who blogs at musicindustryblog.wordpress.com) described a future based on fan-fuelled creativity and urged us that “music needs to be free of the stasis of formats.” Will Sansom, a writer and consultant for the UK-based Contagious Communications, described Singapore’s StarHub musical fitting rooms where people try on clothing to a specific soundtrack that is targeted to them based on what they are trying on. The folks in the tryout room are then solicited to by the music via proximity SMS text messages and there has been a staggeringly high 84% click-through rate. Christoph Bornschein demonstrated his midemlab award-winning Vodafone app Mein Tweet als Lied (#tweetlied) which showed how fast Vodafone’s phone lines are through tweets that were turned into a song by a band in 15 minutes. After a short break, Dan Rose, Facebook’s VP for Partnerships, talked about how social media has the ability to finally make “music online the way it was meant to be.” He described the sharing of songs online as analogous to giving mixtapes to friends of songs recorded off the radio (something he did 20 years ago), only now it is “at scale.” In the last four months, according to him, 5 billion songs were shared across 50 countries via Facebook.

This morning’s talks began with a heated discussion about licensing “the cloud” in which participating panelists could not agree on exactly what the cloud is. Mitch Rubin, the head of music publishing business affairs for Nokia, stated that the cloud “is a marketing term; it is not legally defined.” But Richard Conlon, the senior vice president for corporate strategy, communications and new media at BMI, warned that it was erroneous to describe the cloud as merely a locker where you can store things:

If its just storage then it’s not commercial, but that’s a bunch of baloney and we have to be very vigilant about that. […] There is not a whole lot of love for the creative community in Silicon Valley.

One of the problems, as AMV Talpa GmbH’s Managing Director Jens-Markus Wegener pointed out, is that there is no way to stop illegal content from being on cloud-based services. But he was also clear that he does not want to impede progress: “Nobody is hindering good business models. If the model only works if you don’t pay for all the services [e.g. the music], then it’s not a good business model.” SACEM’s Thierry Desurmont hit the nail on the head of what the chief problem is with the new paradigms for the music business, “It’s not easy to obtain fair remuneration from the service providers.”

Cloud Panel

Participants in a highly-charged MIDEM panel The Cloud – Is it Just a Licensing Issue? (L to R): UK-based journalist Emmanuel Legrand (moderator); Rdio’s Head of Strategic Partnerships Scott Bagby (UK); Richard Conlon, BMI’s SVP, Corporate Strategy, Communications and New Media (USA); Thierry Desurmont, SACEM’s VP for Legal and International Affairs (France); Charlie Lexton, Head of Business Affairs and Legal Councel for Merlin (UK); PRS for Music’s Director of Online Licensing Ben McEwan (UK); Nokia’s Head of Music Publishing Business Affairs Mitch Rubin; and Jens-Makus Wegener, Managing Director of AMV Talpa GmbH (Germany).

The final discussion I attended on Tuesday was a lively debate about the Global Repertoire Database that pitted various publishers and managers from performing rights societies against representatives from Omniphone and Google. This was much more engaging than the talk I attended on this same subject last year in which the voices of individual artists or their representatives seemed conspicuously absent. The publishers now seem completely behind the idea of establishing this single database which would have detailed information on all licensable music in order to be a one-stop resource for everyone. However, Ralph Peer II, chairman and CEO of peermusic, who suggested that “we need to treat GRD as a Wiki-type project” also stressed that “it must have the cooperation from all sectors in order to be effective.” Sami Valkonen, who is the head of international music licensing for Google, bemoaned how long it has taken to establish a Global Music Database:

These talks started in 2008. It’s now 2012. Talking about this at MIDEM is like a carousel. If we have the data there’s a way to make this work. […]Google holds the view that the GRD is a public good. We should not be focused on who owns it; it should not be proprietary. […] There are people here who might not like this, but it is a fact that we are moving toward a global licensing system.

Jane Dyball from Warner/Chappell gave some details about an even more all-encompassing database than the GRD called the International Music Registry (IMR) that deals with all recorded performances (audio and video) as well as compositions, which is all that GRD is concerned with. Karen Buse, from PRS for Music in the UK, suggested that the next step should be a database for all audiovisual work. During the question and answer period, someone claimed that smaller independent publishers might see a global database as a threat, since it could make them less competitive in a global market. But according to Jez Bell, director of licensing for Omniphone, “This levels the playing field for smaller publishers.”

Indeed it still could be a brave new world, but now I have to brave the real world. It’s pouring rain in Cannes today, and rumor has it that it will turn to snow and flights will be cancelled. I am still planning to return to New York City tomorrow, but I might be stuck here. The all-powerful internet has yet to feature a viable means of teleportation.

Blogging MIDEM 2012: Getting Paid vs. Getting Played

If the opening salvos of MIDEM 2012 on Saturday seemed to be dominated by technology and internet-based content aggregators, throughout Sunday and Monday (thus far at least) I witnessed a great deal of talk back from various content creators and their representatives who are not particularly happy with the emerging music industry paradigms and are seeking to find a third path.

The Commerce or Chaos Panel

The Commerce or Chaos Panel (left to right): Pierre-Marie Bouvery, Paul McGuinness, Roxanne Frias (moderator), Robert Levine, Yves Riesel

Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m., I attended a press conference with the provocative moniker “Commerce or Chaos.” Among the speakers was Principle Management’s Managing Director Paul McGuinness (who reps, among many others, the band U2) who expressed astonishment at the “extraordinary greed” of technology companies including ISPs and manufacturers, “Why are they not more far-sighted and generous? Why are they not trying to solve this?” At the same time he acknowledged from an audio perspective that the overall “low quality of internet music is an accidental conspiracy.”

Yves Riesel, president of an internet-based music company called Qobuz which purports to have a more equitable remuneration model as well as to be the first and only CD quality audio download service, countered that the problem is that most web and tech initiatives did not originate with folks from the music sector: “There is no love of music in these tech companies. There is no one in charge of classical music in France for iTunes; just one person for all of Europe.” He also stated that standards for the quality of metadata should be included in copyright protection. French entertainment lawyer Pierre-Marie Bouvery pointed out that despite the current anti-copyright rhetoric of people who claim to be representing free speech, copyright has never been something against free speech. Rather these anti-copyright positions are ultimately about ensuring that regulations are not imposed on big businesses which have been reaping huge financial benefits from an environment without any kind of regulation. Perhaps the most outspoken panelist, however, was Robert Levine, the German-based American author of a bestselling 2011 book called Free Ride that is highly critical of internet business practices. He explained that over the last decade his opinions about the online sphere have changed considerably. Whereas once he believed it could give individuals more control and was therefore an unequivocally positive environment, now he’s far more skeptical.

These technologies are not giving bands more control; they’re giving technology companies more control. The issue [of having a completely unregulated internet] has been framed as the “people” vs. “the man,” but look and see what side the big companies are on regarding this issue.

He acknowledged that as a freelance journalist, his own efforts to receive remuneration as a content creator are diminished by news aggregating blogs which he described as inherently parasitic, which is why he feels empathy for music creators. He was unabashedly blunt in his criticism of Creative Commons (which only has one artist on its fifteen-member board) and Google, particularly Google’s tactics in lobbying the United States congress against SOPA (the recently defeated Stop Online Piracy Act), a campaign on which Google spent some $11 million according to Open Secrets (which he pointed out was far in excess of the $2.6 million spent by MPAA in pro-SOPA lobbying). Plus, in addition to their placement of an anti-SOPA banner on the Google homepage, Wikipedia’s blackout day suspiciously occurred right after they had been given a $2 million donation from Google. According to Levine, “If NBC put a banner on their screen supporting SOPA everyone would have been outraged, but no one was outraged by Google using their homepage to promote an anti-SOPA position.”

In the afternoon I attended a session about performers’ incomes in a digital economy (in French, but luckily there were headphones for instant translation). The session featured a group of four speakers, all of whom work for SPEDIDAM, a performing rights society that collects revenue for recording artists—roughly the French version of Sound Exchange in the USA. According to SPEDIDAM’s estimates, there should be a remuneration of somewhere between 4 to 9.5 euros per household per month to account for internet usage of music, but that obtaining such remuneration will ultimately have to occur as a result of governmental legislation. At the same time, it was pointed out that the current, mostly non-remunerative system for recording artists is largely the fault of the major record labels, who were interested in maximize corporate profits rather than sharing revenue and, in the old paradigm, rarely gave recording artists fair remuneration. According to SPEDIDAM’s President Jean-Paul Bazin:

The system of making recordings is tantamount to blackmail to performers. Producers and labels own everything. It is important to remember that the record industry wants to keep this money for themselves. […] The wrong choices were made by industrialists who refused to make their catalogs available in new platforms.

The Nordic Bar

Never a dull moment at the Nordic Bar.

After all the talk about economic inequities between individuals and large corporations, my brain was reeling. Luckily at around 4:00 p.m., there were parties at exhibition stands with various countries offering regional drinks and foods. The Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland) pooled their resources for some really nice offerings—Swedish meatballs and bottles of beer, but the Czech republic was offering the herbal liqueur Becherovka with delicious sausages. The Belgians lured folks to their area with various lambics, but Switzerland perhaps gets top prize for serving white wine made from a nearly extinct Swiss grape called Heida along with the requisite fondue.

The evening, however, belonged to Singapore, at least for me. This was the first year that Singapore has ever participated in MIDEM and from while I was still in New York City, they were already lobbying hard for me to attend the first-ever showcase of Singaporean bands during MIDEM at a local club named DaDaDa. So I did and I brought along with me representatives from music information centres from Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Greece. We were regaled with a succession of six different bands. Randolf Arriola performed one-man-band versions of some trippy, drony originals as well as a cover of Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight.” If that lulled anyone into a dream state, they were quickly awoken by a phenomenal percussion group called Wicked Aura Batucada that had at least 12 players (it was hard to tell) and a lead singer who had a penchant for climbing up on the bar while singing.

Singapore Showcase

Wicked Aura Batucada proves that Singapore ROCKS!!!

There was even some Singaporean rap, from a group called SIXX. It was quite hard to catch the words, but at one point I thought I heard, “It’s contagious; it’s outrageous.” Indeed. Most of it seemed to have nothing to do with the traditions of Singapore, which is comprised of a large percentage of ethnic Chinese and Malays, but most of the bands were very integrated between these two groups and at one point Kewei, a female singer who performed with several of the bands, pulled out what sounded like an erhu and played a dizzyingly virtuoso solo for about a minute. The show came to an end with a brief set by Zero Sequence, which claims to be the only progressive rock band in Singapore. They’re quite an elaborate outfit which unabashedly carries on the legacy of mid-1970s British prog. Although according to their manager who spoke with me earlier in the day, the band members are also fans of American bands like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. To bring the set to a rousing conclusion, one of the band members conducted the rest of the group in a bombastic cadence. Following their closing note, I wandered back to my hotel in the pouring rain in order to catch a few hours of sleep before it all started again this morning.

Blogging MIDEM 2012: Cannes We Keep It Going?


I’ve been a bit distracted by what has been happening in the outside world.

There’s lots to report on from my trips to Paris and Nice. I’ve been so busy, I apparently didn’t even notice an earthquake in Italy whose tremors were felt throughout southern France. But that will have to wait for a later date, as I am now in Cannes in the midst of the hurly-burly that is MIDEM. When I attended this mega music trade show for the first time last year and kept telling veteran attendees how amazed I was by the breadth and depth of it all, most of them sighed and bemoaned that what I was experiencing paled in comparison with what MIDEM used to be. It’s now a year later, and I’ve become one of those veteran attendees. I was told that a lot of people might not arrive yesterday when it all began, but it’s now the beginning of the second day and it still seems much quieter than last year.

But while there are fewer exhibitioners and fewer attendees overall, there are still so many sessions and other activities that it’s nearly impossible to soak it all in. Soak is perhaps an apt metaphor—it was raining when I arrived yesterday and never completely let up, although once at the Palais des Conference I was pretty much indoors until I ventured out on the streets of Cannes to have dinner and attend one of the myriad MIDEM showcase performances happening in local venues.

New Crowd at MIDEM

Among the attendees of MIDEM 2012 some musicians are clearly visible.

One thing that is significantly different about MIDEM this year is that there is now a lower artist rate for attending, so there are more individual musicians and bands here than before. It’s a welcome demographic shift which, as a result, has attracted a new kind of exhibitor, like the company Tonara which has developed software that enables your tablet to become an interactive digital sheet music reader that can follow you as you perform a score that is loaded on it, eliminating things like page turns (not even a pedal is needed). It can presumably understand when you are making a mistake, but they have yet to figure out how to receive input from percussion instruments or even from an accordion, and all the music that is available for it is standard notated public domain music. They’ve yet to negotiate deals with living composers and publishers of works still protected by copyright. It would be interesting to see if they could ever get this program to work with a John Cage score.

Another shift is that there is far more of an emphasis on live performances. MIDEM has created its own three-day music festival which takes place on three consecutive nights but, as before, there are many off-shoot showcase concerts in local venues presented by various exhibitors based in countries around the world. Of course, there are still tons of sessions. The first one I attended yesterday was a talk about using social media to promote music given by a fellow New Yorker, Ariel Hyatt of Cyber PR. I learned some useful statistics like 71% of all companies now have a Facebook presence and 59% are on Twitter, yet Twitter and Facebook combined only account for 3% of the revenue artists accrue from the promotion of their music online. Emailing newsletters directly to fans still yields the greatest draw: 30%. I also learned that the person who writes Britney Spears’s tweets is a friend of Ariel’s named Cassie. So much for the transparency of the new media paradigms.

YouTube Panel at MIDEM

There were a lot of references to 50s television in the YouTube panel at MIDEM. Well, like one of the classic TV shows from that era, The Outer Limits, YouTube now controls the horizontal and the vertical.

Then I attended a session sponsored by YouTube, which this year has an even bigger presence at MIDEM than last year. Patrick Walker, who is YouTube’s senior director of music for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, gave a very slick presentation overall although there was something somehow ironic in his not being able to get a YouTube video to load after several attempts. To this day, every time I see a presentation involving technology there’s always some kind of glitch. Yet in a world where Google (which owns YouTube) has greater annual profits than the four top record companies combined, a very successful technology company that seems to have a virtual monopoly on several key aspects of web browsing has become the music industry’s new gatekeeper. Some more stats: YouTube has 4 billion views per day, and 800 million unique users per month; of those, 500 million views are on mobile devices. (That number tripled in 2011.) San Francisco-based Chris LaRoca, YouTube’s project manager for music, talked about how individual artists and record labels could track their content on YouTube via their custom designed app Audio ID and Content ID, which should enable them to actually receive payment from the usage of their intellectual property. I’m curious to learn more about how this works in real life.

Sake Party

The various drinking parties at exhibitions at MIDEM bring people with all different agendas together.

After that it was free sake time at the Japan exhibition booth. Even with fewer attendees, the parties still go on. The last of the sessions I attended yesterday was a panel of intellectual property lawyers talking about termination rights. There is currently legislation under consideration in the United States that will revert the rights on sound recordings from the record labels to the recording artists who made the recording, effective January 1, 2013, for recordings released in 1978. However, it has yet to be determined who all the rights holders are: the producer of a recording in many cases has as much of a claim to ownership as the principal performer, and then there are sidemen who are not always identified who can be entitled to up to 20% of the revenue. Since the rule will only apply to the United States, it is possible that many recordings will be controlled by different stakeholders in the USA and abroad. Such a potential licensing quagmire should prove an even greater challenge in a world which the internet has been making into more and more of a single territory, but that wasn’t discussed.

I ended the evening by attending part of a showcase presented by Jamendo, a web business offering totally free legal downloads from artists from all over the world by circumventing one of the key licensing protocols: none of the groups whose music is featured there are allowed to belong to a performing right’s society. The band I heard was a Swedish indie rock group named Emerald Park, who were somewhat reminiscent of Athens, Georgia, bands. While a violinist conjured the folk incursions of R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, a backing female singer added a B52 Kate Pierson touch to the vocals, although Emerald Park’s singer was not quite Michael Stipe or Fred Schneider. Everyone there seemed to be having a great time, but after hearing four of their songs in a very loud and extremely crowded club where beers were 8 euros each, it was time to finally check into my hotel and call it a night.

Emerald Park

The Swedish band Emerald Park was the headliner at Jamendo’s Showcase of bands unrepresented by performing rights societies.

More about today’s activities later. Now it’s time to head back to a session.