Roger Roustabout Town! #1

///Fear and Loathing on The Croisette: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the MIDEM Dream///

We were somewhere around Nice, on the edge of the Alps, when the croissants began to take hold.
I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive….” And suddenly there was a terrible yapping all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge poodles, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Cannes. And a voice was screaming “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
Then it was quiet again. My Finnish companion had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. “What the hell are you yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. “Never mind,” I said. “It’s your turn to drive.” I hit the brakes and aimed the Fiat 500 toward the shoulder of the Péage . No point mentioning those poodles, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
With apologies to Hunter S Thompson.

Yeah, well, maybe I’m kidding myself that MIDEM is in anyway like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas these days, but there were definitely a few moments back when I first started going (1991 to be precise) when it felt like it had a bit of an edge to it, and there was certainly a whiff of “bad craziness” in the air.
The attendee numbers are so far down nowadays that as you walk through Cannes during the day to a meeting or in the evening looking for a restaurant, that it’s pretty much impossible to tell that the MIDEM show is even in town.
To be honest, the whole thing feels well past its sell by date, and the sky high registration and exhibiting costs together with the ridiculous local prices for eating out and entertaining clients make it totally inaccessible for the very people who could benefit from it the most – the emerging talent that is the very lifeblood and future of our industry.
Most unforgiveable of all though, is the way that the organisers (Reed MIDEM) have completely dropped the ball when it comes to the live showcase part of the event.

Apart from some of the bands at the ever-reliable Canadian Blast showcases at Morrison’s Irish pub, I couldn’t find a single showcasing artist that I was interested in seeing. When you consider the scope and quality of the live artists showcasing at Eurosonic (Groeningen) also in January, The Great Escape (Brighton) in May, the Reeperbahn Festival (Hamburg) in June or SXSW (Austin) in March, there really is no excuse for MIDEM to come out with this selection of events: “Taiwan Music Night”, “K-Pop Night Out” and “Malaysian Supernova”. All respect to the artists performing, but none of them have a hope in hell of breaking out in European or North American markets.

roger photobomb 4

Roger Roustabout photobombing a panel. Vivendi, owners of Universal Music Group, started life as a sewerage and water company called Compagnie Générale des Eaux. Funny that -Ed.

For my part, I have fond memories of seeing Burning Spear, Amy Winehouse (2007), Hugh Cornwell (1996) and Richard Hawley (2008) at various MIDEM showcase events over the years. Even the legendary Captain Beefheart played at MIDEM once – on the beach in front of The Carlton Hotel on 27th January 1968.

So what does go on at MIDEM these days? Well, during the daytime it’s a seemingly endless succession of panels about “monetization”, digital hacks, brands and bands, social media, well you get the drift. The exhibition space for MIDEM, has now been cut back to around 1/3 of what it was even five years or so ago, and MIDEM now occupies a small add –on pavilion at the back of the main Palais exhibition space, which is a pretty telling reflection of the state of the music industry these days.
So what of the future? Well there’s talk of the event either merging with MIPCOM (the entertainment content event) in Cannes in October, or perhaps re-locating to Barcelona from next year. If MIDEM is to stay where it is and reverse the decline in attendance and relevance, the obvious answers would be to reduce the crazily high registration and exhibitor fees; and re-locate the exhibition space from the back of the Palais to one of the hotels on the Croisette. The Martinez perhaps, which always used to be the go-to place for schmoozing and networking back in the day. They need to re-invent the live showcase programme with a relevant showcase selection of vibrant up and coming bands in a similar vein to the Reeperbahn and Great Escape festivals.

As for me, I am stocking up on the tanning butter in preparation for a “real” music event in March in Austin, TX and then The Great Escape in Brighton in May, when I hope I will be able to bring you some more positive news from the front line!

“A cap of good acid costs about $5. For this you get to hear the Universal Symphony, with the Holy Ghost on drums, and God singing solo.” – Hunter S Thompson

///Karousel’s Roger Kent has over 25 years experience in the music business including retail management, trade and consumer publishing, international label management and distribution. He runs his own consultancy service – Oyster Music Consulting. Clients include Proper Records and Distribution, Navigator Records, Rooksmere Records, DeAgostini Group and of course, he is a Karousel Kolonel///