Midem’s “Under-Attendance” Problem Continues…

SXSW is being named as a growing culprit in this story, especially for American attendees (or absentees). But that’s just one of many problems, and there’s a pressing sense that Midem simply isn’t innovating enough, diversifying enough, or working up the guts to relocate.  Sort of like the industry Midem has served for decades.

Updated, Tues. 1/29: Midem officially says attendance was down 7% to 6,400 attendees.  By comparison, 2005 numbers were 9,230.
These are snapshots taken in front of the Palais de Festivals (where the conference is held) on Sunday afternoon at around 2:30 (the event started on Saturday).

It’s an acute case of ‘under-attendance,’ as one longtime attendee remarked.  Actually, parties did a lot better, and frankly, offered a lot more entertainment and information.  But even with the parties, the trick was to host in smaller venues (with the exception of bigger hosts like Google).

Here’s a Sunday night event at Morrison’s, a recurring venue for lower-key, pub-style chats over a Guinness.

And the Google Play, YouTube party did quite well.

We missed the Orchard party, though a smaller soiree at the Carlton hosted by TAG Strategic founder Ted Cohen (among others) drew a decent crowd that included Larry Marcus (WaldenVC), Darryl Ballantyne (LyricFind), Vince Bannon (Getty Images), and Ian James (Mushroom Music Publishing), among others (incidentally, A2IM president Rich Bengloff almost plunged to his death from the balcony of that suite, another story entirely).

In general, posh standbys like the Carlton have also been hosting healthy crowds (night after night), though priciness is becoming a problem.  We heard of one moneyed duo draining a magnum-sized, $2,000 bottle of Cristal (the acquired company starts with a ‘G’), but for the most part, Cannes is simply out of reach: a simple bottle of beer (a Kronenbourg 1664, sort of like a Heineken) costs 11 euros, or nearly 15 American dollars.  If you want wifi with your beer in the Majestic down the street, it’s 15 euros.

There’s also a notable absence of big-name hitters, especially those hailing from the US.  Live Nation Labs leader Eric Garland has now blown this conference off twice in a row, and even longtime fixture Ian Rogers had to cancel at the last minute.  Others like Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and Universal Music Group president of global digital business Rob Wells are also absent, just to name a few.  We’re not even sure where our friendly rivals Hypebot are, though the UK-based Music Ally is in full force.

Which brings us to the next point: there seems to be a far stronger European mix this time around, which makes sense given the cost of cross-Atlantic travel.  Of course, Midem doesn’t want to digress into a regional pow-wow.

Yet, despite all this, there’s a strange upside for Midem survivors: excellent productivity and deal-making.  Most attendees are locked in meetings all day, and many seem happy with the deal discussions, focus, and general business climate.  Because for all the great BBQ and bands, the mob-scene at SXSW is ultimately great for partying and hanging out.  And, not so great for actually conducting business.

Paul Resnikoff, publisher, in Cannes. 

18 Responses

  1. Caroline from Radar

    My first Midem and we’re doing tons of business.
    And the sun is shining, which is a plus for us Brits, so I’m very happy.

  2. Dick Huey

    Best Midem I’ve been to so far in terms of dealmaking. Super productive, and the smaller crowds are an asset not a detraction, because the people are here that I need to see and I can actually get to them.

  3. Some Guy

    Please…this industry is over. There’s about 300 artisits making a go of it at any given time. You can name them all.

  4. Observer

    Midem is an excuse for execs to vacation on the company’s dime. The more outlandish spending in the music industry (by attending things like Midem instead of a phonecall) equals more music companies going under which equals less execs which equals decreased attendence at these conferences. It’s not rocket science folks.

  5. Jeff Robinson

    Just another Music Conference designed to exploit the musician indie or otherwise.
    Who cares?

  6. Robbie Fields

    Until the flu struck me down last week, I thought I might make it back this year after a long absence as I’m only a train journey away.
    But I was flummoxed by no hotels in Cannes offering rooms under 100 euros per night during MIDEM thus requiring a commute from Nice and their 25 euros per night basic hostelries.
    I was also concerned by how effective the MIDEM organisation is at policing the off MIDEM locations like the mentioned Carlton and Majestic lobbies. Were credentials being checked at all the places shown in the photos, beyond the Palais?

  7. Ritch Esra

    The problem is that there isn’t a need to get together Yearly with overseas companies.
    The reason primary reason that Eric Garland, Danirel Ek and many others have not been in attendence over the last couple of years is because they don’t have to attend to get business done. In another era, where we had no instant communication; e-mail, web sites, skype, etc it made sense. In today’s hyper-connected world as your own experience bears out Paul, the need to actually go to such an exorbidantly priced event is something fewer and fewer need to do or actually will do.

    The other reason is that today our industry has literally 20 times more of these types of events BOTH in the US and in Europe as well as the rest of the world, thus negating the actual need to show up in France once a year because this is the ONLY event where we can actually meet all of our international partners, etc. This goes double for Tech companies which are increasingly making up a larger and larger segment of these types of events. Unspoken in all of this is the fact – like Billboard and other trade publications – MIDEM has lost the ability to attract support from its own industry that being music and this has been a problem for many many years.

    • Jeff Robinson

      Ritch Esra wrote, “The other reason is that today our industry has literally 20 times more of these types of events BOTH in the US and in Europe as well as the rest of the world, thus negating the actual need to show up in France once a year because this is the ONLY event where we can actually meet all of our international partners, etc. ”

      I fully agree. In addition to this point is that there is practically no proprietary/useful information to be gleaned for an long-term industry professional at these events. The indie musician might gain something (unlikely), but for the working professional, it’s merely about building the phonebook- for an industry that barely pays.

  8. steven corn

    Forget all the nay-sayers. This Midem may be one of the most productive one ever for us. We met with all of our significant DSPs (ie., old business), established direct relationships with new DPS (i.e., new business), met with existing labels (i.e., old business) and signed up a lot of new content (i.e., new business).

    True, the small booths of indie labels from around the world are gone. Licensing deals are almost gone. But business is good and being transacted.
    What more do you want from a conference. I even shared a joke with the CEO of The Orchard…where else but at Midem???
    Summary: fewer people, more business, good food, better wine…win-win in my opinion.

  9. UK Company

    As a master catalogue and publishing company we attend and still find it worthwhile. Our sales guys (yes folks, there are still physical sales out there!), digital manager and publishers take the opportunity to meet their network of buyers and sub-publishers to help set up the next 12 months. There’s nothing like a bit of personal contact.
    Personally and as a licensing type, I don’t bother as there is little going on and there is certainly no walk-up business nowadays.
    However, have to agree with some of the general comments – the Midem organisation is desperately hanging on in there attempting to make a last Euro. The city of Cannes itself is not welcoming – hotels are expensive (and Midem don’t help here), the main hotels crank up the food and drink prices, although if you avoid these you can eat and drink at semi-reasonable prices and many locals can’t seem to hide thir contempt for people who have brought millions into the economy over the years.
    If there is a future for an international trade market, it’s not Midem. Maybe something based around the Great Escape in Brighton which is already establishing itself as a European equivalent to SXSW.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    I have attended MIDEM for 8 years in a row, last time in 2010, and I say let MIDEM drive their festival straight into the ground.
    As if that “under-attendance” wasn’t enough, as yet another symbol of MIDEM’s utter ignorance and arrogance, I remember when the festival first started forcing all the central hotels in the city to close down their hotel lobbies during daytime and well into the evening, so that only people registered to the festival could get in and attend to a meeting.
    Put that together with the eye-watering combined expense of travel + festival registration + food + beer + hotel + wifi, and what you have is an increasingly bad investment that keeps all the right people (the ones who actually create something of an actual value) away, while attracting all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.
    To put it bluntly – the feeling of attending MIDEM is as if you paid dearly to participate in a small reinactment of apartheid in Cannes, in which everyone except the likes of Google is the n*gger.

  11. Russ

    Did anyone comment on the bag slogan “Quit Work Make Music” ?
    Given the struggles for musicians to earn their crust these days, well-chronicled in these pages, this shows either complete ignorance about the state of the market or complete disrespect for musicians..in either case MIDEM deserves to perish…

  12. Qr-PoS

    If it wasn’t for Digital Music News, midem would be doing much better. L’Américain Paul Resnikoff and almost killed the entire conference back in 2011 by pissing off Warner Bros. by exposiing their secret buoyout negotiations from Access industries. But Midem and Warner gave him very specific instructions about what he could talk and write about. Then, Warner almost pulled out millions from the conference after Resnikoff had the chutzpah to ask the Warner CEO when the deal was happening on stage. Then he’s writing articles like this which has probalby caused a 35% drop in attendance since then.

    • UK Company

      This did bring a smile to my face – “Resnikoff responsible for Midem slump!”.
      Might just be me but the slump in attendence is probably attributable to a number of factors – including a seed change in how our industry does business, expensive registration and hotels, a global economic downturn, an unwelcoming host, SXSW, 50% less people making a living in music (certainly in the UK) and 100 other reason
      As for Warner pulling out “millions”, smug, over-priced, out-of-touch and reactionary Midem may be, but it’s never been anything much other than a nice holiday break for major label execs. When business was being done it was largely driven by indies and people who don’t resgister but meet in the cafes, bars and hotels around the Palais.
      I’m not defending Midem by any means, in fact, I’ll be glad to see it disappear up its own arsehole but this post was the cause of a hearty chuckle.
      Any other conspiracy theories we should be aware of?

      • Anonymous Coward

        That’s not entirely off. Midem basically declared war on DMN after that interview.

        • UK Company

          They may have declared “war”, what ever that is worth, but DMN has categorically not been responsible for a downturn in Midem attendance and Warner did not withdraw “millions” because they weren’t contributing millions in the first place. Oh, and as far as I can see from Midem’s own yearbook, various Warner companies still registered over 50 individuals and I bet every last one of them enjoyed a nice, expenses paid hiloday in France!
          These assertions are, my friend, are utter bollocks.
          Just for the record, I’ve never met Paul and have no involvement with DMN, apart from receiving the daily mailout.