MIDEM Day 2: Songwriting, movies & Pandora


Timbaland was a notable no-show on a low-key Day 2 of the MIDEM music business conference in Cannes.

The producer and rapper sent a video apologising for his absence, saying he’d been grounded on doctor’s orders. That left Pandora’s Tim Westergren, Warner/Chappell’s Jon Platt and music supervisor Mary Ramos to bring the star quality for the early evening keynotes after yesterday's lively start.

Westergren – in conversation with Glassnote’s Daniel Glass and joined on stage by British singer-songwriter Flo Morrissey – was clearly keener to talk music rather than business after the internet radio service’s troubled year, but he did rule out a Pandora sale.

“We’re on a path to do something big and something long-term,” he said, “So, no plans for that.”

He also revealed plans to launch a multiple-tiered subscription service in the future, with options below the current $10/£10-per month standard. “I think there’s a much bigger audience that will pay less than $120 per year,” he said.

He also said Pandora was desperate to expand beyond its current territories of the United States, Australia and New Zealand, admitting its continued absence from the UK “drives me fucking crazy”. And he insisted industry perception about low pay-outs for rights-holders on the service was changing.

“I started Pandora to help working musicians,” he insisted, saying that hours spent listening to Pandora replaced hours formerly spent listening to traditional AM/FM radio – which does not pay performance rights royalties for sound recordings to performers in the US (although radio does pay performers in the UK).

“Every 1% of market share that moves over to Pandora creates $60 million of revenue a year for the industry,” he claimed. “Washington DC is the last place for sane debate. But I can confidently say that broader industry opinion of Pandora has come 180 degrees.”

Westergren even accused other digital music services of “educating people that they can get music on-demand for free”.

“It’s teaching bad habits,” he said, “It puts a lot of pressure on companies trying to build a real business.”

Warner/Chappell boss Jon Platt has certainly built his business, taking the music publishing company to US market share highs of late. But he played his cards close to his chest in his first keynote address, where he was joined by songwriter Justin Tranter. Platt’s team kept faith in Tranter as a songwriter after the failure of his band Semi Precious Weapons and Tranter went on to co-write Sorry for Justin Bieber and Cake By The Ocean for DNCE.

“There’s so many of us in this business that have been doing it for so long, you know too much sometimes,” said Platt. “There’s so many reasons for why something won’t work that you can’t see the one way that will work.”

Platt said he preferred to sign songwriters when they were hungry unknowns – and applies that approach to executives as well.

“I don’t usually chase the superstar songwriters that are already hot,” he said. “I’m known for developing songwriters and signing them at the beginning of their careers. I take the same approach with executive talent. I like to develop executive talent. I didn't really want any recycled executives.”

Platt said Warner/Chappell’s focus would now be on pushing “the way we work in the US out to the world”.

“We’ve under-performed in the UK for a really long time,” he added, noting the changes that saw Richard Manners replaced as MD by Mike Smith earlier this year. “We’re going to be at the races now. We have a new leadership and I’m really excited about the UK.”

Elsewhere, synch opportunities in film and TV came into focus. The Your Back Catalogue Is A Gold Mine panel, hosted by Music Week editor Mark Sutherland, featured Nathan Brenner, president of MMF Australia, and David Schulhof of film giants IM Global Music.

Schulhof stressed the importance of brand ID. "There's so much content today and producers and supervisors are inundated with music," he said. "Instead of just pitching songs, really know your place in the marketplace, know what you are and why people come to you.

"In the streaming age you have to be more dependent than ever on film and TV, on sync licensing, on finding advertising opportunities. It's a crime what YouTube is paying out to publishers and labels, it's a crime what Spotify is paying out to publishers and labels. If we're going to encourage artists to create and write, we need to protect them, we need to compensate them."

He added: "It's harder than ever to get your music sold out there. Unless you're a big artist, getting a big advance from your label, they're not going to do much for you. Spotify's not doing much for you, you don't need them to get your music out there. So I think you're going to see a lot more D2C consumption over the next five years."

Later, Quentin Tarantino's award-winning music supervisor Mary Ramos was the subject of a keynote interview by Music Week US editor Emmanuel Legrand. Explaining her origins in the industry, Ramos said: "I knew I wanted to be in entertainment, I knew I wanted to either write, or direct, or act. I was friends with actor Tim Roth and he had started working on this new movie called Reservoir Dogs with this up and coming director [Tarantino] who talked a mile a minute. We would hang out and just talk about music, and got to know each other that way. So I ended up working on post-production of Reservoir Dogs and I haven't looked back since."

Ramos added: "It’s sad how little money people budget for music, considering how important music is for films. Music can make or break a movie."

Elsewhere, the European Commission declared its intention to finally take music seriously. The EC, at Midem under the banner Music Moves Europe, is getting ready to put together a comprehensive package to support the music industry. Martine Reicherts, director general of education and culture at the Commission, said that there was a compelling case in favour of the music industry.

She outlined four sectors where the Commission could intervene: education and training; data collection and analysis; better conditions for the circulation of repertoire; and support to SMEs and start-ups. Initiatives in these sectors will be part of the Creative Europe package that the Commission and the Parliament are going to be working on for 2021.

"We should support music as well as cinema," said Reicherts. "We will have a MEDIA for music." The latter refers to the programme set up by the Commission in support of cinema in 1991, and which receives funding from the EC.

During the Music Moves Europe session, PPL director of performer affairs Keith Harris made a plea in favour of education and Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition, said it was the era of artists-as-entrepreneurs, adding that resources must be channelled towards creators in order to "empower artists in the digital era with mentoring, learning, educations and funding."

MIDEM continues today. Stay tuned to musicweek.com and our Twitter feed for updates.

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