MIDEM Day 1: Streaming, secondary ticketing and the indies

MIDEM

The 50th edition of music business conference MIDEM got under way in Cannes, France yesterday with a lively series of first day panels.

After a number of smaller sessions early in the day, the keynote sessions began in the late afternoon with a panel entitled 50th Special: The Next 50 Years Of Music Start Today.

Featuring Glassnote’s Daniel Glass, Tommy Boy’s Tom Silverman, Sire’s Seymour Stein and Greenberg Traurig lawyer Joel Katz, the panel of music biz veterans found themselves split on whether streaming services would provide the solution to the music industry’s problems.

Katz said that, despite the major record companies’ “big bet” on streaming being the future, “unfortunately, so far, no streaming service has ever made a dime” – although he did also say you couldn’t judge such services in the same way as consumer goods businesses such as Amazon.

But Silverman insisted: “The conversion to subscription services will change the revenue pattern of the biz and drive more revenue than ever before” – especially when developing markets such as China and India joined the streaming revolution. He even predicted the music industry could eventually be a $100 billion business – up from its current $17bn retail value.

Stein, meanwhile, suggested that the industry had weathered plenty of similar changes in the past 50 years.

“When radio came in, people thought it was the end of the music business because you could listen for free,” he said, “Does that remind you of anything today?”

As for the current issues, Glass predicted an end to the on-going dispute between YouTube and rights-holders by the end of the summer.

“They can’t be deaf to what’s going on,” he said. “YouTube and Google will unite and be much more synergistic. I also predict they will be offering more marketing and artist development programmes. The revolution doesn’t begin at the top, it always begins at the bottom. There’s a mini-revolution building.”

Glass also protested that record labels were being cut out of the music business once artists started earning big money from touring.

“As soon as they grow to a major size, we barely get a backstage pass, because they have the live revenue,” he said. “The business isn’t all live. But we are a forgotten species right now.”

Glass’ argument cut little ice with another industry veteran, United Talent Agency’s Neil Warnock, whose keynote address was in conversation with Music Week editor Mark Sutherland.

“No disrespect to the labels but they cut themselves out,” Warnock said. “The labels back in the day were totally arrogant. They thought they could keep pushing product at people who were going to buy at any price. They thought they could dictate the lives of recording artists. And for a long time they forgot where the music comes from: the artists.”

But Warnock said the balance of power had now shifted. Where once a label could force a tour to move dates by pushing an album release back, Warnock said booking agents now had the power to move release dates if necessary to tie in with a tour. And he said his agents had taken on much of the traditional label role of artist development. “Agents are effectively the new A&R,” he declared.

But Warnock added that the live sector still had issues – most notably the secondary ticketing market, which he dubbed “difficult and fairly gruesome”.

He said Professor Waterson’s recent review of the sector did not go far enough in its recommendations for reform, but it was a start.

“Some of what’s going on is absolutely disgraceful,” he said. “We’re always looking at ways we can make the ticket unique to the buyer so it cannot be transferred.”

Elsewhere, indies trade body WIN unveiled a survey that showed the independent sector now accounts for almost 40% of the global recorded music market share.

MIDEM continues today, although Timbaland has been forced to pull out of his scheduled keynote. Stay tuned to musicweek.com and our Twitter feed for updates.

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