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 MIDEM 2011 Recap: Classical Music Out, Taiwan Music In

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Join date : 2010-03-10

PostSubject: MIDEM 2011 Recap: Classical Music Out, Taiwan Music In   Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:04 pm

Estimating numbers as to how much attendance at MIDEM has decreased over the prior year has become something of a ritual. In this respect, MIDEM has become something of a barometer for the recorded music industry and the news is not good. Official attendance numbers released by conference organizer ReedMIDEM were 6,800, down 5%. For anyone who hadn't been to MIDEM for a few years, they would barely be able to recognize it for all the sections of the Palais now off-limits (including our old Press Club, much to my chagrin).

Having said that, there are bright spots. MIDEM welcomed a record number of music managers (150) as well as significant increases in attending publishers (+25%) and digital/tech companies (+29%) - trends that certainly reflect some of the growth sectors in the industry. Also, 33% of 2011 attendees were newbies, ie., first timers, indicating that there are still new players, new ideas, and people who are still willing to take their chances with music . Considering our particular economic circumstances, one might wonder why.

Perhaps the biggest casualty was classical music. A few years ago, half the Riviera section of the Palais would be occupied by European music companies in the genre and I'd look forward to my chance encounter with someone from that world for a casual update on new developments. Those days are firmly over... which made an article in MIDEM NEWS #2 entitled, "Can Classical Music Lead Industry Back To Black?" all the more ironic. If "the classical music industry in the recovery room" means their disappearance from MIDEM, they'd better hope that the recording music business remains "in the operating theater" for at least a few more years.

All jokes aside, that's the quantitative perspective, but what about the qualitative one? My unscientific, not-so random survey was pretty unanimous: despite the lower attendance, this was the best MIDEM in a long time. Meetings were productive and focused. People knew exactly why they were there and what they wanted. I might add that this was a more cozy MIDEM, much less stressful and hectic. If you want to do business, then you want to attend MIDEM!

Another thing that was noticeable is that the Chinese delegation was there in body as well as spirit. Every year, China sets up a booth that is attended by literally no one. You'd think there was an annual sale at Channel! Well, thanks to a-peer's Jean Hsiao Wernheim, this year was markedly different... and for that, MusicDish*China thanks you!

But the star of the show for Asia was definitely Taiwan. You could call it their coming out party with a nice showcase lineup, a largely mobbed booth and exquisite Fo Guang Shan Musical compilation boxset of buddhist choir music (xie xie Cheh Yan). I do generally agree with Peter Jenner's assessment of the showcasing Taiwanese bands. And despite taking a particularly liking for Deserts & Algae, they do suffer from "so many wonderful female singer/songwriters and her Chinese-ness is not of much relevance to her music." But looking for the big overseas hit is not the angle I'd take.

Instead, I'd focus on universities with high concentration of Chinese students. With the support of Taiwan's government, bring bands like Deserts & Algae to NACA (National Association for Campus Activities) regional conferences and coordinate with Chinese and Asian student associations in cities with high concentration of colleges like Toronto, Boston, L.A.,... and supplement with selected club gigs.

Empower the student community with a strong social media campaign, supported by loads of content to share in order to connect with the non-Chinese student body. And of course, don't forget ethnic print, radio and TV that are some of the fastest growing media segments. At the same time, have the bands progressively collaborate with American bands, both on the live circuit and recording studio. What anime and comic conventions did for Japanese music, the college circuit could well serve bands like Desert & Algae to build a nation-wide, niche fanbase while introducing them to college kids, eventually percolating to the mainstream. It won't happen overnight, but nor did JPop.

Taiwan's invigorated presence at MIDEM reflects the government's focus on developing its successful music industry beyond mainland China and Asia, while learning from various experiences worldwide to tackling piracy and developing new models to monetize music. This is a relatively new and encouraging development occurring across East Asia as countries look to non-economic and technological assets to help compete in the global marketplace, particularly with the rise of China. Whether it's local and provincial governments in China or national ones in Singapore and Taiwan, intangible assets such as the environment and culture are attracting their attention, support and resources.

It Ain't Just Business & Meetings

Many make the mistake of assuming that MIDEM is all business, all meetings. Well, to some extent that is true. It's just that some business is conducted more formally while other business is done amongst friends. Like celebrating Dancing City Entertainment's Jean Singgellos' birthday in what can only be described as the most festive of moods (it helps when the wine keeps flowing). For Bob Damiano sitting next to me, that was his 44th MIDEM (2011 was MIDEM's 45th anniversary). He was there from day one and could (should) be considered a MIDEM griot (ie., storyteller). And I had the pleasure to meet singer-songwriter Serge Gauya, with his manager Lisbeth Ramirez, who has been tearing up markets as diverse as Switzerland, Miami, Ecuador and Moraco with his multi-lingual pop sounds And least I forget Michel Häusermann who actually reunited Jean and myself for such a special occasion - you can read the passion for what he does in that ever-present smile.

Maya Solovery & Champagne

Every year, I try to learn from the last MIDEM while doing something to push the envelope. In 2011, the envelope was a private cocktail I hosted with Jean Sebastien Vaudey from Cristal Groupe. We hosted the event in our apartment, just a few blocks from the Palais on rue Mace, with Maya Solovey performing from her self-titled album with Grammy award-winning producer Bob Brockman on bass... and enough champagne for everyone there. The intimate setting in the middle of the usually hectic conference seemed to lend itself particularly well to Maya's soothing voice that seemed to leave the audience enthralled...literally, not a peep!

The verdict? You're all invited to the 2nd annual MusicDish/Cristal Groupe cocktail party in 2012!

Finally, some interesting news out of MIDEM:

* For those formenting rumors that MIDEM is shutting down, they are actually presenting with Berklee the Rethink Music Conference, in association with Harvard University's Berkman Center and Business School. The inaugural conference to be held in Boston and Cambridge, MA, April 25-27, 2011.

* After a worrying decline in 2008, CISAC reported that royalty collections by authors' societies were up a modest 1.7% in 2009, totalling €7.152 billion.

* The news was bolstered by the first estimate of SACEM collections for 2010 is €803.5m, up 5.4%, the first increase after years of stagnation.

* Beatport signed the first-ever Pan-European digital publishing licence with the ARMONIA group of societies - including SACEM (for France), SIAE (for Italy) and SGAE (for Spain and Portugal's SPA)

* Finally and unsurprisingly, talk on the MIDEM exhibition floor was about the growth of cloud-based digital services which allow users to access music on different devices via a remote server rather than downloading it onto a computer.

By Eric de Fontenay

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