Blogging MIDEM: Bring It All Back Home

The exhibition area, which was a whirlwind of activity a mere 21 hours ago, is now almost empty. It’s the final day of MIDEM and many attendees decided to pack it in early. The detritus of various exhibits still remains as a reminder of all the folks who were here but that will probably all get cleaned up in the next couple of hours to make way for the next convention renting out the Palais des Conferences.

I’m somewhat disappointed at how anticlimactic it feels after all the energy that was radiating from here yesterday. Perhaps the climax was the all-night Pschent Party that began at 11 p.m. and was scheduled to go on until 5 a.m. I considered catching the beginning of it, but after the day’s activities and perhaps the cumulative effect of being here this past week, I was totally exhausted so I wimped out and decided to call it an early night at about 10 p.m. But after dinner I lost my sense of direction and it took over 90 minutes instead of the usual 15 to get back to my hotel. Street signage in Cannes is definitely not designed for first-time visitors. I should have gone to the Pschent Party instead. Luckily there was a sampler of the bands participating among the piles of promo CDs I’m lugging back on the plane tomorrow, so I’ll eventually catch up with what they do when I’m fully awake.

One of the advantages to being invited to MIDEM as a journalist in addition to not having to pay the steep registration fee was getting to attend the final press conference this morning which attempted to sum up what has transpired here over the past five days. As a newbie to MIDEM I was not even completely sure what this whole thing is about and what brings people here every year, so it was good to get some background and some statistics on this year’s convening. According to Bruno Crolot, the newly appointed director of MIDEM, there were a total of 6,850 attendees this year, which included representatives from 155 startups as well as 300 performing artists from 18 different countries. While he admitted that attendance was down from last year (which had over 7200 attendees), he claimed that there were more deals being made here per square meter than ever before. Many folks come to MIDEM just to meet people, eschewing sessions, concerts, parties, etc., and remaining ensconsed in their own areas in the exhibition hall keeping a tight schedule of one-on-one meetings set up weeks before they arrive. Even the representatives from technology services–such as Mark Sherwood from DDEX (a heavy sponsor of this year’s MIDEM) and Alex White, CEO of Next Big Sound which was the winner of MidemNet Lab’s Startup Competition after not even being selected to participate in the competition only a year ago–acknowledged that there’s only so far you can get with email and data transmission. Or, as Bruno Crolot put it, “Business begins with direct contact.”

The staff for MIDEM claim to make an effort to embrace every sector of the music business, but there is still quite a way to go. During the Q&A period, a journalist from Germany remarked on how few women were represented on panels. The majority of MIDEM’s staff are women, as was their former director, but the traditional music industry is still dominated by men. And the folks who seem poised to become the new power brokers, the technology startups, are even more overwhelmingly male since, as Alex White put it, “Women tend to shy away from technology.” Several of the folks I spoke with from the classical record business grumbled about how MIDEM has even further marginalized classical music by no longer hosting a classical awards program which they had done here for many years, something another journalist brought up during the Q&A. Indeed, despite the broad range of musical offerings in the showcases, it was clear that some kinds of music were not represented at all. The MIDEM staff stated that they could no longer afford to do the awards and there was in fact one classical performance, by the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, on Monday night. But this event seemed really disconnected from the vibe here. As we move forward into the 21st century, sitting in separate rooms will only lead to further isolation. I finally met the guy manning the Texas Music Office booth in the exhibition hall. I felt somewhat foolish that I had to come all the way to France to learn that such an office exists. I asked him where our other 49 states were and he just grinned. Whether its equity in terms of gender, age, geography, or musical style, etc., the only way we can change the business is to get more involved with it.

After the press conference, I attended two more MidemNet seminars on online marketing and promotion, and there’s still one last session to go before it all shuts down around 3:30 p.m. I might even catch some sunlight for the first time this week.

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