Blogging MIDEM 2013: Part 2 – From Ghanaian to Korean Hip-Hop & More
The second day of MIDEM got off to an early start for me. I woke up quite early in order to upload the photos and video that appear in my report on Saturday’s events, but there wasn’t sufficient time to finish writing up the report before I needed to dash out of my hotel room and run to the Palais in order to catch the Legal Update for Entertainment and Technology, a panel of entertainment lawyers from all over the globe. The session was somewhat overwhelming and I unfortunately missed the beginning of it (video takes a very long time to upload on internet connections here), but the portion I did manage to attend was extremely informative.
It was particularly fascinating to learn from German lawyer Eberhard Kromer that, despite its geographical size relative to other countries in the world, Germany remains the world’s third largest music market. It was also very interesting to learn from Nikhil Krishnamurthy about the evolving situation of composers rights in India where the music industry was initially created as a subsidiary of the film industry and, as a result, film producers initially were the exclusive holders of copyrights for music and composers recouped no royalties for their work. In 1993, a so-called “encouragement fee” was introduced as an attempt to address the need for composer remuneration but it was taken away in 2003 which prompted an extensive lobbying efforts to the Indian government on behalf of artists’ rights. Just last year (2012), new laws were introduced that finally recognize the right of composers to accrue royalties from their music. But how this will play out both for Indian composers and the composers abroad whose music is performed in India remains to be seen. Joep Maddens from the Netherlands addressed some interesting Dutch legal cases in which web portals might be potentially held liable to pay royalties on content that appears on their sites even if it is not directly hosted by them. If content from another site is embedded directly into a site, the argument goes, it is ultimately a part of the website even if the content embedded is hosted elsewhere. A more extreme example of this line of thinking is a case involving a legal suit requesting remuneration as a result of a hyperlink since the link for the content was deeply buried within another site and had not been easy to access. MusicStrat’s Deborah Newman gave a brief update from the United States, referencing the direct licenses that DMX (a competitor of Muzak) has obtained from individual publishers, bypassing ASCAP and BMI which are now both now in litigation against DMX since DMX wants to have its blanket licensing fees reduced to carve out the portion that they now have negotiated with individual publishers. This is quite similar to a deal that Clear Channel recently made with Big Machine (which represents Taylor Swift among others). Clear Channel bypassed Sound Exchange and negotiated a reduced digital licensing fee from Big Machine in an exchange for granting the first-ever U.S. terrestrial radio broadcast fee for performers, presumably working under the assumption that the digital realm fee reduction will ultimately trump fees being paid to the allegedly dying medium of terrestrial radio. Are you still with me?
Following that session I attended a press conference about the United States Department of Commerce’s export project with the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM). This is the first ever music-related project funded under the Obama Administration’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP). According to Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale, assistant secretary for manufacturing and services at the United States Department of Commerce’s International Trade Adminstration, the department is “looking for business plans that show you can help to assist export in new markets.” They are interested in “making sure that IPR [intellectual property rights] is protected” and want to “create new evangelists so that exports continue to grow.” MDCP’s Project Leader and Senior Media and Entertainment Analyst Andrea DaSilva admitted that “in dealing with the music industry” they “had to learn a whole new vocabulary.”
A2IM President Rich Bengloff noted that one of the key areas in which the music industry differs from other forms of business is that “it’s harder to show results up front.” Lamb-Hale was happy to learn that “independent music is particularly competitive” and Bengloff spoke about how campaigns in East Asia were designed specifically to promote jazz and classical music since they are both predominantly instrumental genres and therefore can bypass language barriers. It was great to learn that American jazz musicians will be getting this support but I hope that the classical music being exported includes music created by American composers and is not just American orchestras and other ensembles performing Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Bengloff was unable to provide specific information about repertoire when I asked him after the session. This could be an extraordinary opportunity for American composers so I hope to continue this conversation with all parties involved.
Filled with excitement about the possibilities of viable music export for the new music community, I wandered the exhibition rooms where elaborate displays of various countries’ musical offerings were on display, often through the support of their governments. There is no such exhibition for the United States, although as I have pointed out in my coverage of MIDEM in previous years, the very independent-minded state of Texas always has a presence here. In fact, Andrea DaSilva stated during the U.S. Department of Commerce press conference that the Texas Music Office is an initiative directly funded by the state of Texas since Texas governor Rick Perry is “very interested in the music industry.” Perhaps if we can’t have an official United States presence at MIDEM and other significant music export convenings abroad we can eventually have representation from all 50 states individually–imagine that.
Meanwhile, the entire continent of Africa, which has over 50 independent countries, has traditionally been poorly represented at MIDEM. As I mentioned yesterday, I was very excited to see that representatives from Ghana, Senegal, and Congo were listed as exhibitioners. Unfortunately, the Senegal and Congo booths remain empty thus far. I learned that the delegations from those countries were unable to secure visas to enter France. I did however have an opportunity to speak with Kofi Amoakohene, the CEO of Scratch which is a Ghana-based private recording and recording distribution company that also publishes a music magazine which is available both in hard copy and online. They are the defacto music information and advocacy center for Ghana. I was proud to tell Amoakohene that back in 2001 we featured Ghana-born, Portland OR-based composer and master drummer Obo Addy on these pages and then we proceeded to talk about how to foster stronger musical relations between Ghana and the United States. Ghana, of course, has been an important source of inspiration for composers ranging from Steve Reich (Drumming) to Wynton Marsalis. (Marsalis’s Congo Square features Obo Addy’s brother Mustapha Teddy Addy who is still based in Ghaha). He also told me about Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, whom he claimed was doing hip-hop before anyone else in the world. But you should hear about Ghanian music and its impact on the United States as well as what it means to be at MIDEM directly from Amoakohene…
After that very interesting talk, I was hoping to have a similar conversation with the delegation from Argentina, but the representatives unfortunately weren’t around when I passed by even though there were a group of waiters pouring malbec, one of which was from Colombia (which is not otherwise represented here). So I drank a glass and we got into a brief conversation about cumbia, vallenato, and salsa colombiana.
I eventually found my way to a panel about sound quality in the era of mp3s back at the Classical Discussion Lounge. Philip Hobbs, the chief classical producer for Linn Recordings in the U.K. adamantly declared that “audio quality affects attention spans” as do the ubiquitous shuffling functions on all playback equipment. He bemoaned that nowadays people have music playing from an iPod cradle with a TV playing at the same time: “No one’s enjoying anything; they’re just cluttering their brains with noise. Years ago we used to say that if you could read a book while listening to your hi-fi system, your hi-fi did not sound good enough.” Steve Long, managing director for U.K.-based Signum Records, however, was not dismayed by the current listening malaise: “It doesn’t matter what people are listening to now, but what people will listen to in the future.” The moderator, BBC Radio 3′s Andrew McGregor, added some levity to the discussion when he opined, “The only thing that bothers me about listening to LPs is getting up after 20 minutes to turn the damn thing over.” The discussion took a more serious turn when Hobbs acknowledged that the biggest problem is that creative artists and their representatives ultimately have less control over digital aggregators.
Before the Q&A period was over I scurried over to a panel on hip-hop with Kaylee Maize, whose showcase I heard last night, and a group of American-born Korean rappers who are huge stars in Korea. Drunken Tiger, originally from Los Angeles, is now a superstar in South Korea, as is his wife T Yoon Mirae. Drunken Tiger explained the attraction of hip-hiop as a young Asian American growing up in California, “Asian wasn’t even a minority but Wu Tang Clan made Asians cool. I knew we made it when these guys came up to me and said, ‘You’re not Chinese, you’re not Japanese, you must be muthafuckin’ Korean!”
Drunken Tiger’s showcase later that evening at the Magic Mirrors was a performance highlight for me. He, his wife, and a third Korean rapper whose name I didn’t catch rapped almost exclusively in Korean but they completely engaged the audience even though alnmost no one there understood a word they were saying. Drunken Tiger challenged the audience to “open your mind up, let us in” and they did. Contemporary American composers could learn a valuable lesson from this, I think.
The last panel I attended on Sunday was about exporting music to China which focused on a collaboration between French synth legend Jean-Michel Jarre, the first artist to perform in mainland China, and Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai.
Then it was showcase time. I already mentioned Drunken Tiger whose showcase was revelatory. I also attended some of the “Malaysian Supernova” but nothing particularly resonated with me. I hope to return to some of this music in the future, however, since a less than extraordinary first encounter with something should not be a barrier for future exploration. Unfortunately I never found my way to the jazz showcase which was a bit of a trek from the Palais; there is just too much going on here. I also missed C2C, the turntable quartet which was the closing act at Magic Mirrors that I later heard was amazing; phooey, I was just too tired at that point. To be continued…