MIDEM 2017 Day 2: From Def Jam to superstar jam sessions, artists take centre stage

MIDEM 2017

Time was when you could come to MIDEM and barely hear an artist’s name mentioned. Not any more: day two of the French conference’s 2017 was all about those that make the music, rather than sell it.

So, in a session light years away from MIDEM’s once dry, here’s-another-panel-about-digital-licensing-type reputation, one keynote saw Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda write a brand new song live on stage in order to give an insight into the songwriting process.

Whether it actually did that is debatable, but it was certainly entertaining. When Hoppus asked the audience for lyrical themes, people shouted out ‘sex’, ‘happiness’ and ‘Donald Trump’ – a combination that even famously potty-mouthed lyricist Hoppus drew the line at.

Elsewhere, Danish artist Christopher showed few such inhibitions on a Warner Music Group panel about his huge success in the Chinese market (China is the biz’s current obsession, as the reaction to yesterday’s Tencent streaming numbers showed). He revealed the demands of the market can lead to some unusual requests.

“If they want you to eat pork intestines on television, and put on yellow pants and dance, then I’ll do it,” he said. “Two weeks later you play a sold-out show in Nanjing, a city you didn’t even know existed and the awkward interviews don’t seem so bad.”

The upside to success there is also pretty significant, even if Christopher himself wasn’t necessarily aware of it.

“My manager said, We have a No.1 on QQ Music [one of the streaming services Ng was talking about],” he recalled. “I said, Great! What is QQ Music?”

Even when a businessman, Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels, took the stage for his keynote, he seemed to only want to talk about his artists.

“The starting point is believing in the artist you sign and trusting them,” he said. “You want artists to be successful on Def Jam so they say, I’m at a place where I can do what I want to do.”

You suspect there’s rather more to it than that but, if so, Bartels wasn’t letting on. Although he did give some insight into working with a star like Kanye West.

“You don’t always get a warning about a [Kanye] release,” he said. “I’ve had a call on New Year’s Eve when he wants to put a song up at midnight.”

One panel that was all about the business was the ‘value gap’ debate, hosted by Music Week editor Mark Sutherland. There, a heavyweight line-up of European politicians and trade body executives lined up to criticise YouTube (and ‘other services’, obviously – but mainly YouTube).

“Why is YouTube creating YouTube stars?” asked German MEP Christian Ehler. “[Because] they understand that their business is content, not distribution. We are selling our economic future if we are going to lose this battle.”

“If we want to have a younger generation that has an education, knowledge, art you have to fight for copyright,” agreed Paolo Marzano from the Italian Ministry Of Culture.

French MEP Jean-Marie Cavada did criticise some aspects of the music business response to the battle over proposed EU copyright reform and the review of Safe Harbour rules, saying it should encourage its artists to speak out more.

But FIMI’s Enzo Mazza claimed: “No one here is against YouTube. We are partners with companies like YouTube, but we need to work in the same way. Streaming is a boat in which everyone should row in the same direction.”

Midem continues on Wednesday, when First Access Entertainment CEO and Music Week Awards Strat Award-winner Sarah Stennett will give a keynote address. Stennett won an International MIDEM Award in Cannes on Tuesday.

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