At 14:30 on Saturday, I’ll be at Midem talking to Peter Gregson about revenue streams, business models, music, technology, expensive coffee and free stuff. It’ll be fun. Here are the details from the Midem brochure:

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Last year, I got an email confirming my “Gold Status” at Midem*. Apparently I’ve been eight times over the space of a decade. This came as something of a surprise – it seems like only yesterday that a very kind colleague took me under his wing and showed me round Cannes for the first time.

Still, eight (nonconsecutive) trips later, perhaps it’s time to share some of that advice.

Over at Digital Music News, Paul Resnikoff has a post about how Midem is an unpleasant waste of time which, coincidentally, is roughly the way I feel about reading Digital Music News.

Midem is a music industry conference. Labels, artists, distributors and startups all get together to do deals. Classical labels use the conference to meet with all their distributors, to negotiate new deals, find out how things have gone, and to talk up the coming year’s new releases. I don’t have a very clear idea what the pop people do there. For me, it has always been a good time to see everybody in one place.

The actual conference happens in a big conference centre called the Palais des Festivals, where the beach meets the harbour. It is said that, once upon a time, labels would throw lavish parties on the yachts in the harbour. These, like unicorns, are hard to find these days.

Other observations in no particular order:

1) Hotels are generally booked through the conference organisers, but you might get a better deal on an apartment. If gives you somewhere quiet to have meetings, and you can prepare at least some of your own food.

2) The really big deals happen outside the conference, in the surrounding restaurants and hotels. A lot of people go without buying a conference ticket at all. There was a time when having a conference ticket was your only chance of getting into a halfway decent hotel, but that’s not really the case any more.

3) Midem’s business model is really an extension of the traditional seaside occupation of deckchair rental. In my experience, anybody worth doing business with is fully booked before they arrive. You might bump into a few people, but walk-up business on stands is not where the important things get done. The reason people pay a fortune for a stand is because there’s nowhere to sit in the whole place. This year, I’m seriously considering buying one of these.

4) I have never managed to sit through any of the actual conference sessions. It always feels like people go to these in the hope that they’ll hear from the one person in the music industry who actually knows what they’re doing. Please don’t expect this of our conference session. It’ll be fun, though, and there will be ideas.

5) The quality of the food is inversely proportional a restaurant’s proximity to the conference centre. The sandwiches inside are overpriced and mediocre, and when it comes to filing your expenses, you’ll have to explain a receipt marked “Casino Croissette”. Take your life in your hands and cross the street. Buy an omelette.

6) A lot of people seem to use the mood at Midem as a barometer of the confidence of the overall industry, although I’m pretty sure the mood at Midem is mostly a product of the weather. Still, if you’re stuck for something to say, try “Midem’s not what it used to be, but at least it isn’t as depressing as last year” or perhaps “Are you going to ClassicalNext?”

7) What happens in the Irish bar stays in the Irish bar. Not a lot of sleeping gets done at Midem. Combine this with long flights, alcohol, unfamiliar diet, and thousands of people from different places all shaking hands with each other, and it should come as no surprise that a lot of people get sick. One of my iTunes colleagues recommended a bottle of hand sanitizer between meetings. I don’t know if she meant I should drink it.

8) I haven’t checked this, but it feels like there’s about a 70% chance that the company advertising on the big billboard on the front of the Palais will be out of business by next year. Does anyone remember Spiralfrog?

9) There’s a helicopter shuttle service from Nice airport to Cannes. If you can figure out how to get away with expensing this, please tell me. I have been trying for years. If you’re one of my clients and you’re reading this in two months, the receipt from Azure Sky Aviation was a necessary connecting flight, ok?

10) I have never listened to a CD or read a brochure that I was given at Midem. It works like this: people ship promotional material to their hotel in advance. They then give it all away so they don’t have to carry it home. They give it to you. You carry it around all day in big building where there’s nowhere to sit. You take it to dinner, then to a bar, then back to your hotel, where you add it to the pile. At the end of the trip, it either doesn’t fit in your suitcase or it sits in an increasingly ominous pile while you catch up on everything you missed because you were at midem. After six months, you throw it away. Save yourself the excess baggage, and say no to promos.

* Free wifi, in case you’re wondering. Very slow wifi.


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