Fine-tuning an institution

By Milo Yiannopoulos on January 14th, 2013

“MIDEM is an old institution,” says Bruno Crolot, director of Reed Midem’s iconic annual conference in Cannes. “This will be the forty-sixth edition. We’re still primarily a trade show, but there are elements of a traditional conference creeping in more all the time.”

While focused on the core music industry – attendees fly in from all over the world to meet each other, strike deals and occasionally even discover new artists – MIDEM has, since 2000, made space for discussion of the way technology is affecting the dynamics of paid audio content, a phrase that did not exist when MIDEM began.

“Since 2000, with the internet revolution, a track of content in the business conference has been dedicated to the internet,” says Crolot. It’s here, away from the shrill, generally unhelpful commentary of the “content is free” bloggers and commentators, that new business models are discussed, developed and signed.

The companies who show up to MIDEM these days reflect the gently shifting focus: Deezer, Apple and Spotify now attend, mingling with telcos to cook up new methods of production and distribution. “These are companies new to music or new themselves,” Crolot explains, “But they are being welcomed by the MIDEM ecosystem.”

MIDEM is still primarily focused on music distribution, which is why the big players in Cannes later this month will remain the record labels, whose troubles are sometimes overstated by technology journalists, who ideologically tend to lean toward the digital utopians in their enthusiasm for tech start-ups “shaking things up” and their disdain for the likes of the RIAA and IFPI.

Crolot, who joined Reed MIDEM in late 2010, is, relatively speaking, still finding his feet in this massive and complex world, but one thing he’s sure of is that the right approach for MIDEM is refinement over revolution. The 2013 event is the first one whose planning he has overseen. His job over the next few years will be “to start with a blank slate, and assess what’s still relevant to the industry today”.

His influence is being felt already. There are a lot more companies, a lot more tech players and a lot more content producers is Crolot’s version of MIDEM. “Brands are now more important in the ecosystem,” he says, explaining why phone companies and other big names from different industries are being courted.

“But we’re also focusing on great content. Last year we created a complete programme for them. That will continue this year, as we explore the trend of artists interfacing directly with fans via social media and their own vehicles. The rise of the ‘artist entrepreneur’ is something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the years to come.”

MIDEM is one of the most international conferences in the world, but it’s also now one of the conferences that embraces the technology industry most closely, claims Crolot, as evidenced by its recent listing in TechCrunch’s must-attend conference calendar.

It’s also, perhaps predictably for a conference with so many great entertainers at its fingertips, an event determined to put on a good show. “Our focus isn’t just to be international,” he says, “But also to be much more lively and vibrant with new zones for artists to perform in throughout the conference.”

Those expecting on-stage self-love from Rihanna and cookie-cutter indie bands might be surprised by the breadth of MIDEM’s programme, though: as a strong, lively part of the market (between 7 and 10 per cent), there might be a whiff of classical too – which makes your humble correspondent positively gleeful with anticipation.

Milo Yiannopoulos will be reporting from Midem in Cannes, which takes place between 26 and 29 January 2013.