„Michael Leahy is a platinum lyricist that first attended Midem in 1997 tying to pimp digital services to labels. He has since done business development for African labels, marketing for Midem itself and pitched projects at the Cannes Film Festival. He has also coached music and movie people in the fine art of networking. He wrote the Cannes Starter Guide last year as a mind-map for getting results at Midem.”
What do you hope to achieve?
If the music business can be said to exist in any one place, it would most likely be Midem. For the past 50 years, the industry has come to meet in Cannes every year to meet, discover new “product”, do deals and celebrate. For the past 10 years, the celebrations have been scaled down – as has the quantity of deals – but is still represents place where many labels and increasingly artists and music tech companies break internationally. For me, there are only two questions – each as important as the other: when should I go? And when should I not go?
When should I go?
Midem is a worldwide market. The companies and people that do best here are ones that already have a level of business and want to bring it to the next level by finding international partners. This could be labels with a few releases that are actually selling, with artists that are actually touring and some publishing rolling in. The same is true of managers and publishers. If they are on a roll, Midem could bring in sub-publishing deals, contacts with other artists or connections with major brands for sponsorship deals or festivals.
The same is also true of artists that have a level of success on their own (even though I really do recommend having a personal or business manager for a whole bunch of reasons). I regularly meet professional songwriters there, although I always feel they are taking a bit of a gamble. But if you are an organised professional that can pimp your material without being either a nuisance or a drama queen, it might be worth considering.
If you are lucky enough to have some sort of back catalogue, such as all the work of a given songwriter, or compilations of 20/70s music or whatever, you can meet compilers or music libraries. Or you can meet people that can put the whole lot online and monetize the catalogue for you.
When should I not go?
Don’t go if you only have a few demos of your songs, no matter how nice you think they are. It might be an idea to work your local market before. Why? Because scale matters at Midem. Labels want to meet other labels, or managers of bands with some back catalogue and some activity already. Or songwriters with a few hits under their belts. Don’t go if your label only has one or two releases of local bands, unless you are willing to use the trip as a learning experience (it certainly is that!). You might pick up some contacts, but will you be in a position to exploit them?
In short, don’t go until you know what you want and who can bring it to you
You need a perfect vision to get the most from Cannes. What are your short and mid-term priorities? Who will help you get there? Attending Cannes is an investment in time, energy and money. Setting priorities is absolutely essential. If you are attending on your own, this should be quite easy to define, such as “Licensing my product in XX number of territories, including at least two major ones”. If you are attending as a company or team, sit down and draw up a series of priorities and ensure everyone subscribes to them.
You also have to put in the time. It’s not just four days of networking. Count another week of mining the database to find likely partners, plus the follow-up. There are a lot of music-related businesses out there, many you will not have heard of. You have to do your homework.
Does this sound like hard work? If so, you need a business manager (see?). There is a shortcut: the Cannes Starter Guide: 17 years of Midem experience for under $7 [link]. And over the coming weeks, I will be providing the outline of a plan for getting the most out of Midem. Start planning now by shooting off any questions you have.
Links: Cannes Starter Guide: http://amzn.to/1C4H07H
Midem 2015 Cheat Sheet: http://amzn.to/1DUCGp8
Cannes or Bust: First time in Cannes http://cannes-or-bust.com/first-time-in-cannes/