Does Midem Still Matter? The Facelift Finally Begins...
You may be here this year. But what about next year, and the year after that? This is now an obvious problem for Midem organizers, who finally got the memo that legacy doesn't pay the bills. Which is why a complete facelift is now underway, with SXSW and even upstarts like the SF MusicTech Summit informing the transformation. The highly-structured presentations and discussion blocks of yesteryear have been replaced with frenetic, all-at-once how-tos, with lots of emphasis on DIY, startups, and 'hothouse' innovation. This is now a legacy conference struggling to find a brand-new sweet-spot, whatever that may be.
So will it all work? The answer is, it has to work. This is a bold-and-necessary change for disruptive times: Midem organizers are apparently claiming a solid increase in attendance this year, though the regulars don't seem convinced. Shockingly empty" was how one top lawyer put it, and we met two executives (separately) that actually counted the number of registered attendees to confirm their suspicions. 5,682 is the number on midem.com, and one indie label owner pointed to 'seven thousand something last year,' all part of a not-so-healthy game of 'guess-the-decline.'
Just outside the showfloor at the Palais des Festivales.
The Nice airport and streets of Cannes did seem a little empty, and a steady drizzle didn't help. Yet the hob-knobbing at the Carlton seems packed as ever (try getting a table), fans were cramming to see stars like LMFAO and Justin Bieber at the NRJ Awards on Saturday night, and the Orchard threw a healthily-attended shindig at their well-appointed hotel suite (X5 Music threw another packed party on Sunday at the Carlton).
The Orchard shindig.
There've been other signs of life. A low-key Google party on the top floor of the Martinez was also well attended, despite whisper invitations. Yet down in the lobby, the traditionally-busy Martinez bar seemed half-full at times, which sort of tells the story at this conference. Because Midem seems packed, that is, if you're in the right spot. Back at the main Palais de Festivales, the floorspace for exhibitions was noticeably smaller than previous years, yet Midem smartly crammed the action into less real estate. Presentations and discussions are now held out in the open, in earshot of the next panel, with crowds milling through a bazaar of stands, how-tos, and impromptu meetings. It's less stuff, in a more chaotic and compressed space. Very clever idea," remarked dotMusic founder Constantine Roussos.
The spotty scene at the Martinez bar Saturday night.
And maybe the numbers game is the wrong game to be playing here. Because for those chasing certain objectives, this is still ground zero, and heavyweights are definitely milling around. That includes Lyor Cohen, rumored to be shopping for a new gig; Seymour Stein, who pranced into the Orchard party late-night; and apparently lots of investors with tranches of cash in hand. Jack Isquith, SVP of Strategic Development at Slacker, was busy discussing global deals, which are happening outside of his North American roost.
And we couldn't help but notice a steady cast of important attendees that included Elizabeth Moody (Google Music), Ian Rogers (Topspin), Vince Bannon (Getty Images), Sam Tarantino (Grooveshark), Scott Ambrose (X5), Andrew Mains (Mobile Roadie), Bill Werde (Billboard), Rob Wells (UMG), Brad Navin (The Orchard), Charles Caldas (Merlin), David Hyman (MOG), Jay Frank (DigSin), Peter Aldaheff (Berklee), Ralph Simon (MEF), Panos Panay (Sonicbids), and Patrick Sullivan (Google-acquired Rightsflow).
Apple seemed totally absent, and there were notably absent faces. Freshly-gobbled BigChampagne CEO Eric Garland was back at Live Nation headquarters in LA building things" according to a tweet, and we bumped into a few Spotify executives but no Daniel Ek. Still, other heavyweights-in-attendance came from Facebook, Coca-Cola, Sony Music Entertainment, and Saatchi & Saatchi, among others.
But the burning question is whether Midem can retain its worldwide relevance going forward, especially given its out-of-the-way and expensive locale. For Americans, it's an increasingly easy decision: this is a long and complicated flight even from New York, and LAarguably a growing hub for the music industryis one insanely-long plane ride away. Meanwhile, SXSW is now indisputably the worldwide king of music conferences; we struggled to get a hotel months in advance, and we're not alone.
And even if you hate the psychotic rush that Austin has become, it increasingly feels like SXSW is the one conference you absolutely must attend. By stark contrast, Midem no longer carries that important obligation.