Midem 2015 Day 2 Wrap: “Engagement is more important than numbers”

june 2015
Midem day 2 began with a lavish breakfast featuring music industry royalty in the shape of Chairman and CEO of Epic Records, LA Reid and the former Chief Marketing Officer of Global Consumer Engagement at PepsiCo,Frank Cooper III, who appeared days after revealing he’s joining BuzzFeed as Chief Marketing and Content Officer.

The two execs discussed the relationship between artists and brands after announcing the 14 finalists (whittled down from 472 submissions) of theMidem 2015 Artist Accelerator Programme, in partnership with Pepsi and Deezer.

Reid recalled the early days in the careers of Outkast and Toni Braxton, whose popularity spread by word of mouth. Brands and platforms can’t “celebrate the thing that makes artists special”, he said, and while there are more opportunities to break artists than ever before, there’s nothing more important than “the hustle,” he added. “Engagement is more important than numbers. Once you have the following, it’s about what you do with it”.

When asked why brand partnerships go wrong by host Kate Thornton, Reid and Cooper recalled U2’s deal with Apple that saw their new album being given away to millions of people for free last year (that frontman Bono has since admitted was “megalomania”).

“I think sometimes we, the record industry, particularly artists of that stature, think that big is better,” said Reid. “The fans that have supported U2 for all those years feel a special relationship with U2 and that singular move took that away. Sometimes we think that brands or platforms give us a better way to reach everybody, when in fact we don’t want to reach everybody.

“How I feel as a fan, as a consumer, is treat me special, make me feel like my relationship with you is a special relationship. It’s not free and it’s not for everybody. Be careful with the more is more; less is more.”

Later in the day, explaining what convergence (the theme of Midem), means to them were Lovepump United Records’ Jake FriedmanDowntown Music’s Josh Deutsch and Because Music’s Emmanuel De Buretel. 

The panel agreed that convergence is all about diversifying as labels, publishers and promoters, and creating a conversion between different businesses. For De Buretel, the music industry in future will see independent and major companies working together to break new acts and learning how to reach new markets worldwide.

“Independent companies don’t have back catalogue to live on, we have to break artists every two-three months,” he explained. “It’s like sports, we have been trained to break, and develop, and in the future we’ll have the tools to broadcast all around the world.

“It will be good for the three major labels to understand that they can’t swallow each other, so they have to work with the independents now, and in a fair way.”

Martin Varsavsky, founder of wi-fi service provider Fon, then proposed his vision for the future of the living room with the Gramofon – a “simple gadget that turns any sound system into a music player”.

The small black box turns any kind of sound systems (even really old school ones) into a cloud music player, so listeners can stream music from services like Spotify, Napster and WiMP through high-quality players.

Launched two weeks ago after a successful Kickstarter campaign, it acts as a wi-fi booster too, and continues to play music after the user has turned off their phone or taken it elsewhere.

Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine has spent the past few months reiterating his firm’s commitment to Universal Music Group after shareholders asked for the record label to be sold, and his speech at Midem was no different.

In fact, UMG is a big part of de Puyfontaine’s vision for the future that’s about growing streaming subscription, capitalising on the potential of new territories (like Africa) and finding the Sam Smiths and Aloe Blaccs of tomorrow.

“Music is like this sleeping beauty that needs a charming prince to create a wonderful new family,” said Puyfontaine when asked about what the future of the music industry would be beyond streaming. “Music is something everyone in the world shares, it creates emotion. In this new era, there will be platforms, opportunities and expertise [that create the] right formula to start this amazing story.”

Watch Midem day 2’s sessions – plus all of this year’s top conferences – in full here: https://youtu.be/7Hsa0WLs-V4?list=PL8828QLbgLTrzaGb9NwU_wz6z_kDvEMsS