Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The news from the south of France

Every January, the better paid elements of the music business decamp to Cannes for the annual MIDEM conference. As befits a gathering where deals are done and fine bottles of wine are quaffed, there’s usually very little live music and …

Wed, Jan 26, 2011, 09:52


Every January, the better paid elements of the music business decamp to Cannes for the annual MIDEM conference. As befits a gathering where deals are done and fine bottles of wine are quaffed, there’s usually very little live music and new bands showcasing their wares. Instead, there’s a big trade show, plenty of networking, a lot of back-slapping, some keynote blathering (Paul McGuinness gave one of those state of the industry speeches at MIDEM a couple of years ago) and lots and lots of people with record or publishing catalogues seeking to do deals for foreign territories. It’s a reminder of what the music industry was like in the good old days before the internet messed everything up for those with expense accounts.

All the same, there’s always a couple of interesting stories which emerge from what happens around the Croisette. One of the stories which caught my eye was more about Sony Music’s Qriocity music streaming service. If you have an internet-connected Sony device, you can use Qriocity to get your music and the company plan to roll it out to Sony and Android phones later this year. Already available in the UK and Ireland since December (are any OTR readers using it?), Sony are now moving Qriocity (yes, a stupid name, but so is Ready Brek) and its million songs into France, Germany, Italy and Spain provided you’re prepared to pay either €3.99 (basic) or €9.99 (premium) a month for it. Whether it will turn out to be serious competition for such services as We7, Spotify or iTunes remains to be seen – and we know that the history of label-initiated music services ain’t so hot.

Staying with streaming services with silly names, Psonar is a new-ish UK startup where, aside from steaming the songs you already have yourself, you can stream songs you don’t own for the princely sum of a penny. Per Hypebot, here’s the spin bit from big cheese Martin Rigby: “Psonar aims to answer the digital music dilemma where users are forced to choose between expensive fixed cost online streaming services or pay to own tracks which limits the amount of music consumed and encourages copying and side-loading.” While the dude should definitely run in the general election with that sort of spiel, it will be interesting to see how Psonar will manage to wean music fans off YouTube, which Forrester Research’s Mark Mulligan termed “music’s killer app” during his presentation.

Then, there was a bullish contribution from veteran music manager Colin Lester, as reported by Music Week. The man who has works or has worked with Arctic Monkeys, Travis, Craig David, Brand New Heavies and many more is now fronting Twenty-First Artists/Universal Management, a company co-owned by Universal Music. Lester doesn’t buy the notion of a conflict of interest – “I think conflict was a word invented by lawyers to charge us money” – and instead talked up the company’s plans to expand into new markets. “The days are gone when you could run around with a mobile phone and a small office and conquer the world. You have got to go to these emerging markets – or secondary markets – ahead of the record companies and accept that together you can make it happen.”

Bruce Houghton is in France reporting for Hypebot and he filed some interesting observations about a new spirit of DIY which he thought was prevalent at the shindig. “What is actually working? The answers vary by artist and depend on who you ask. The net result is an entire industry – from the smallest players to the largest – stuck in what is effectively their own d.i.y. world.” 2011, the year punk rock hit the record industry again?

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