Angie, Colin and I went to MIDEM last week. It's probably the biggest Music Industry focused conference in the world. This year there was a greater focus on tech than in previous years, so we thought we'd go along and see what was up. Below I've highlighted 3 themes that ran through the conference, from the point of view of a digital agency guy.
Themes from MIDEM
Direct to fan (D2F)The highlight for me was a talk by Stuart Braithwaite; founder of Rock Action records and lead guitarist for one of our favourite bands - Mogwai. He spoke on his experience of taking Mogwai down this route and by doing so the lessons learned and applied to the bands on the Rock Action label.
Here were a few key points I took away from Stuart's talk:
- D2F is easier if you already have an established, die-hard fan-base like Mogwai.
- For less established bands, become established! Tour and tour and tour, build a fan-base, then sell them stuff.
- Sites like Facebook and Twitter mean fans spend less time on the band's website. As this is where Mogwai have always had a storefront, the lack of views means a drop in sales.
- Lots of tools are around to help with D2F. Topspin provide everything from picking and packing to email collection services, and Last.FM collect a myriad of data about fans.
The D2F stuff was interesting to me for another reason - there were several tech companies present working in the space of measuring and tracking your band's online presence. Music Metric and Topspin are two examples of companies doing really great work in this area. It's clearly an area that becomes increasingly important if you decide to go it alone as an artist.
I was surprised to learn that the majority opinion within the industry of streaming services like Spotify is that they are a tool for promotion and marketing rather than a source of revenue. I always knew that the per-stream royalties were small, I guess I always assumed that there was a volume to compensate for them.
Having learned that fact, I understood why so many people are focusing on the "discovery" aspect of the hear-like-buy loop. We saw some great pitches from startups such as Navegas, Rexly and Who Sampled to name a few.
TechI had read that this year's MIDEM would have a more intense focus on tech. I was pleased to attend a particularly rammed Tech Meetup (sponsored by Soundcloud, Topspin and others - thanks!) and meet some excellent folks (hi Ian, Ben, Syd, Dave).
I was pleased, too, to see the wider Music Industry embracing the Internet and seeking ways to create innovative experiences for fans and businesses alike. A plethora of digital companies providing a wide range of services (Music Metric (again), Audio Socket, Yodemi) confirms that tech is a big part of the future Music Industry.
One thing that did stick in my head though was that the Record Industry (those in the business of selling recordings) still seem hung up on piracy cannibalising sales (despite vinyl and digital sales growing). I'm pretty sure the industry can collectively provide a better service than Bittorrent - the flaky, unreliable, inconsistent, variable-quality Cp'in of the Piracy galleon.
Is it a question of technology though? Or perhaps the solution requires a re-think of the licensing model? Copyright was another big theme and, initially, I felt it was irrelevant to me as a member of a digital agency. But perhaps, in hindsight, it really is the sticking-point holding the industry back?