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Midem 2014

Through the eyes of Tommy Darker

Jean Michel Jarre

This is my experience from Midem 2014. I'll explain what Midem is all about, where the money in the music industry is, my speaking session and other lovely things.

It was my first time as a speaker in Midem. I had never been to Cannes before and, to be honest, one year ago I didn't even know about Midem at all. I went there with no expectations at all, and that was proven to be a good thing.

Overall, there's not much I can say about the experience: awesome.

This short trip to Cannes enriched my way of thinking, got me in touch with amazing individuals, helped me see where the money in the music industry is (hint: not in the musicians' pockets!) and discover really talented musicians.

The Author

I'm Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician. I started this website because I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far and I believe my experience can help others that struggle with the same problems I had.

Having spare time and being flexible - regardless of the location and purpose of the trip - is a very important issue for me and I enjoy the moments better when I immerse myself in them, not when I merely capture them in a picture. In other words, I was not a japanese tourist taking pictures and shooting videos. Nevertheless, I have some memorabilia to share with you: it's all in my head.

Let's go, my impressions of Midem 2014. Let's have a trip through words, pictures, tweets, links. What can we learn from it?

I Midem = Networking

Next: II Midem Agenda (Where The Money Is)


hat's the only thing I would say, if I had 5 seconds to describe what I experienced. All the music dudes and dudettes were in Midem to look for people to network with, meet existing partners or close deals in a nice environment.

How do I know? I simply asked them.

Since I had no agenda and expectations, I made sure not to pack my schedule with meetings. After all, I don't like this networking craze and stress. In total, I knew I would meet 5 people. 5 meetings only! The rest was improvisation, random encounters and chatting with people that seemed interesting.

I ended up coming home with a huge stack of business cards in my hands, but that's another story. At least I remember who they are and I spent some time with most of them.

Networking craze

This is something I loved about Midem. People are not distant. They talk. They help. The close deals. They're there for a reason: NOT to stay in the corner of the room. They're there to connect with others.

In Midem you'll see different kinds of people. These are the three worth mentioning that came to Midem with a bang.

1. The connectors

It's the people that will say 'Oh, awesome! I know a guy that might be able to help with what you do, let me put you in touch'. Some of them do it because of joy, some of them see that helping strategically can go a long way, some of them just talk to talk (and they never actually keep in touch!). But most of them have good intentions.

I'm a connector myself. Helping others boosts my karma and helps me go to places I'd never be otherwise.

2. The spammers

"This is my card. Listen to my music/this is what I do/this is how amazing my website looks like", followed by a perfect pitch.


One common characteristic of these people: they're annoying and they don't realize they talk to other humans. Human communication doesn't start with a card, it doesn't start with a pitch. It starts with a 'hi, how is Midem going so far?'

Anyways, I avoided most of these people. I'm a human, you know?

3. The knowledge keepers

The highlight of Midem for my tastes.

I'm always keen to learn and I appreciate having a chat with knowledge keepers and visionaries. When I encounter these people, I become an avid listener. And I love it.

I will mention a few of them, and I'd like to thank them for the vastness of knowledge they share every day with us:

Midem did a great job in the engagement bit as well, incentivizing the attendees to tweet and interact more, by showcasing the best tweets on the walls of Palais des Festivales and their newsletter.
Tommy Darker RT Midem Tommy Darker Midem newsletter

Two of my tweets appeared on the wall and one on their daily newsletter. Thanks Midem, it boosted my ego.

II Midem Agenda (Where The Money Is)

Next: III My Session: A Musician As A Startup


came to realize that there is a lot of money to be made in the music industry. It just doesn't get into musicians' pockets. How did I come up with this conclusion?

I saw what Midem participants were discussing, what the topics addressed on the panels were and which sector most attendees were working on. I placed all this input in the factory line of my brain, sprinkled some dust of personal knowledge and - voila! - I created my understanding on the issue.

There is a lot to say about why I think musicians can tap into a great opportunity for new revenues, but I'll hold my horses and will retrospect before I publish anything.

After all, the music industry is all about experimenting nowadays. Nobody seems to know where we're going, and I saw that clearly at Midem 2014. Let me explain where I think money is.

Will.I.Am: It’s sad that as a collective industry, we don’t do our own hardware.

1. Aggregators/Services (Platforms)

Services that work as platforms for people to connect and create/receive value are the future of successful business. They aggregate two, three, or more parties around a common denominator and they enable them to carry out activities, usually getting a cut of each transaction (or, if smart, adding extra revenue through ads or other business models). Why is it powerful? Because you merely intermediate and become the enabler of things. You don't create anything yourself, once you've established the platform. This gets translated to less risk (or no risk, most of the time!). Think iTunes, what's the risk of Apple to justify the 30% cut of each transaction? None. They merely maintain the platform (that, now, everybody needs).

How is this relevant to musicians? Still thinking about it. But, for certain reasons, I do believe musicians will turn into platform-owners, simply because music is something that connects people by nature. More on that in the future.

2. Hardware

The upcoming era of 'Internet of Things' will make every hardware product extremely important. Why? Because each product will have its own intelligence and its own ecosystem. This is what Apple did. They connected their platform (iTunes) into their hardware (iPod, iPad, iPhone), making it impossible to switch. Same for Android. And now, Beats Music, as Will.I.Am acclaimed in his Skype-powered keynote speaking. I know what he's talking about, and I do agree that him and his Beats team are visionaries that will change some things in the music ecosystem (well, it's up to them to prove it).

How can a musician tap into this huge opportunity? Get collaborations with these hardware companies, to begin with. Or create their own hardware about their community, if they're hardcore. Do you think it's impossible? With the right business mindset, it's not. Each big brand (say Beats in headphones) dominates the mainstream market, but there are always niche communities that starve for tailored solutions that support their culture. Are you a goth band with a strong tribe (and you've created a platform for them to create and exchange value)? Build the kind of hardware that will express your community's needs. Just like creating t-shirts, but this one is way bigger in terms of revenue (well, and risk). Cannot create hardware? Go for clothing. Good enough. Better revenue than 99 cent downloads, anyways.

3. Licensing/Ghostwriting

The majority of the attendees were looking for songs to license (or ghostwriters, as an alternative). Unfortunately I'm not the most knowledgeable person on this subject, but, since every other person I met was on a sync business, I got tempted to ask for more. What they're looking for, how they're searching for tracks to license, how much it pays, what kind of alliances they have and who they collaborate with. If one can answer all the above, they can clearly find a way to get their song used in a movie (and get a nice pay-check).

Why ghostwriting? First and foremost, it pays. Quite a lot. Enough to cover the activities of your band and help you focus on your own creative compositions and experimentations. Movie, ad and game supervisors want specific kind of sounds to use, so they either look for people's music to license or for custom compositions to match their needs. They commission you to compose music for them, without having to compromise your personal projects and brand.

I personally saw some kind of despair for new songs, which made me think: since there is so much demand, a proper distribution system needs to be set up to cover this demand. Something like AirBnB for licensing songs. A platform that taps into new resources and songs to be synced, without the manual work of a real person. This will be the next big thing.

4. Brand collaborations

You have a community, certain culture around your music and coolness, brands need all that to look more human-like and appeal to the real world (their customers). Let's not kid ourselves, music is inextricable part of our lives, so much that we cannot live without it. There was a huge discussion at Midem and I got the underlying message: brands do need artists, badly - and therefore they have the disposable budget to invest. As the head of Chrysler, Olivier Francois, said, 'stars need to align' for this to happen: the artist must be ready to make their music and personality available for, say, a commercial, and the brand must have an upcoming plan that requires a specific profile of artists, your kind of artists.

What does a musician need to have to achieve such a collaboration? Depends on the brand: a passionate community (niche or big), strong identity that can be associated with a culture, good music (known to a wider audience, if possible) and coolness. Kinda difficult to achieve, if you're starting out. The way to think about it: if you want to work along with brands towards a common goal, you need to be well-branded yourself - with all the connotations this phrase might bring.


Keynote: Jean-Michel Jarre (Building a sustainable future for music)
Panel: Modern Licensing Solutions
Panel: Next Big Thing in Licensing
Panel: Sync It or Leave It!
Panel: Music & Brands, Growth Opportunities
Keynote: Will.I.Am (Entertainment As A Trans4mation Driver)
Keynote: Olivier Francois (Chrysler & Fiat)
Panel: Who's Investing in Music
Panel: Big Data, The New Eldorado


Musicians need to start considering how to create businesses ABOUT music, not ON music.

Since the only way to make money with music is through downloads (99 cents), streaming (not reliable as a revenue model yet) and physical (CDs, vinyl, etc) sales are declining, musicians need to change their approach radically.

Businesses related to music, with music being a connector, is the way to go. Experiences, platforms connecting people, collaborations & co-creation, hardware and brand development are where things - and money - are going.

III My Session: A Musician As A Startup

Next: IV Cannes: Inspiring City


ime to talk a bit about myself now. (yay)

Since I'm building my vision on stealth mode and I'm not fully ready to call for attention, it would not make sense for me to go to a major networking music event, like Midem, and spend my precious time there. Why did I go? Because I was a speaker.

I came second in the OpenMic contest that Midem organized (my speaking proposal got 836 votes) and I got invited to speak about the topic of my preference.

My topic was "A Musician As A Startup: The Rise Of The Musicpreneur".

1. Pre-Midem Coverage

Before my actual arrival in Cannes, though, MidemBlog published a mini-essay of mine on how startups and musicians are connected. I'm undoubtedly convinced there's a lot to learn from the lean startup mindset and the tech world.

My essay got shared rapidly and became the most-shared piece on MidemBlog within less than a week.

It was great to see how people responded to my ideas. A lot of conversations started on social media and I received many emails in my inbox due to this article.

I knew it would be a nice and controversial session.

It's high time we change the paradigm.

2. The Speaking Session

The day of my inaugural Midem talk came. My session was the last day of Midem, 4th of February. 70% of the attendees had already left and I was speaking at 11.30am, quite early for those who went out last night! I knew we would not have 200 people in the audience. We had around 40-50, it was good enough for me. The more we were speaking, the more people were joining.
Tommy Darker D2F system
Tommy Darker platforms

The presentation started with a simple point: today's music business is often framed around the companies offering services to artists, and not around artists themselves. That's what I wanted to focus on: how an artist can create a viable business in today's music ecosystem.

I'd rather not talk about the session itself, you can watch it below. The slides and various resources are available on the right column. Feel free to download them and share them with your friends.

From the depths of my heart, I'd just like to thank the exceptional Musicpreneurs and friends of mine, Turan Webb from London, UK and Kay Darens from Athens, Greece for their participation in the session. We had a great time in Midem.
Live tweeting rocks. Midem sent out a couple of tweets while I was delivering my presentation. Next time, I'll make sure I have 2-3 people of my team in the audience to do the same. Here are some tweetable takeaways:

3. Post-Midem Coverage

It would be delusional to believe that the music world would start writing posts about my session like an avalanche. I still need to push things for them to happen.

I know, however, that, my topic offers an interesting and fresh perspective about the future of the music business and will be heavily debated in the future, once people get more accustomed to hearing about it.

Songhack covered my session, one day after the presentation took place. Part of the summary of my session, Zac Shaw underlines:
"As a musician, Darker respects the artist’s need to be creative for creativity’s sake, and keeping money a separate issue. Nonetheless, to accomplish something truly great with your music — and a sustainable career from music is pretty damn great if you ask any musician — one must understand where the value is and how to grow it."

One day later, International Arts Manager included two Midem tweets about my musicpreneur session in their 'Midem 2014 Highlights'. It was a pleasure to see them included.

Thank you both for including me in your newsfeed, it means a lot.

More coverage will follow, I'm sure. My goal is to connect the startup world with the music world and have a debate about how both worlds can benefit from each other's wisdom. There is a rough diamond that needs to be worked on.

Stay in touch by joining my pen-pals and I'll send it to your inbox to discuss further.

IV Cannes: Inspiring City

Next: V Midem Live: Malaysia, K-Pop & Kaye Ree


here's not much to say about Cannes. I simply loved it. Many things I didn't like as well, but they were not enough to cover my strong feelings about this absolutely inspiring city of the Mediterranean coast of France.

Picturesque roads and alleys, kind people and an empowering mood dominate the whole city of Cannes. Cannes has its way to refresh you and take you away from your routine. Ok, I find it a bit overpriced for my taste, but what the heck. It's not that I live there.

In case you're wondering where I stayed, I got a flat through AirBnB. Sharing economy, people! It cost 60 pounds per day, Turan, Kay and me decided it would be very convenient to live in the same place.

As a quick conclusion, I wouldn't mind visiting Cannes once a year. For leisure or professional reasons.

Enough with talking, let the pictures speak for themselves.

The beautiful port, you can see Palais Des Festivales.

La Croisette, the central place with all the restaurants.

A typical road in Cannes, narrow and one-way.

An old clock tower, at the castle area

On the way to the castles. Beautiful rocky stairs.

Drinking water from the numerous fountains in Cannes.

More stairs, this is how the old city looks like

V Midem Live: Malaysia, K-Pop & Kaye Ree


ell, you're going to the biggest music conference of Europe and expect to see lots of live performances. This is what Midem people made sure of, having deployed two stages with live performances every night, for the joy of the attendees and the promotion of the agenda of each country participating (and paid quite a lot for).

This year, Brazil was the honoured country. That explains the colours in the logo. Nevertheless, what caught my attention was Malaysia, Korea and a german-persian artist, Kaye Ree.

1. Malaysia

In the book of Nicholas Cook, 'Music: A Very Short Introduction', I first got my head around the idea that using words to describe music is not always the most optimal thing to do.

Impressive. Worth of a global career.

That's what I'll do: I will not use any words to describe the malaysian artist that impressed me the most and immersed me with her tone of voice.

I will just mention a name (Shila Amzah), will put a link (with her, performing Wrecking Ball), a video (her performance in the chinese show Asian Wave) and a picture (left).

The rest is for you to decide.

As a fellow musician told me after the show, "this is how humble superstar musicians should be."

Good luck, Shila.

In general, I was pleased to see that the Recording Association of Malaysia takes good care of their artists and try to promote their talents all over the world. After spending some time at their booth, talking with them and listening to their local music, I have only positive things to say.

2. K-Pop

You know, when we think of K-Pop, we think of Opa! Gangnam style! This craze that started recently and it's here to stay. At least this is what the Koreans want to happen.

I was so curious about what I'll experience in a live K-Pop show, that I couldn't wait for it to start. Female screenagers with cameras made sure you couldn't go anywhere near the stage. That was 'their territory'.
The boy band VIXX came out, they sung (playback), they danced and they sung again (each member solo acapella, this time, so we can hear how good their voices really are). Girls kept screaming and recording!

I only have one thing to say:

Very well orchestrated effort. Everything screamed 'branding'. Every move, every word that came out of their mouth, everything was part of a great play that aimed at one thing: to entertain you and 'wow!' you. It really got me. I enjoyed it.

Flawless. Is that good?

Obviously, one would be stupid to think that this is 'art', as 'art in music'. It's definitely art, but as 'art in branding and entertainment'.
Well done, Korea. When I went to Singapore, I thought I would hate the artificial island, Sentosa. Everybody told me to avoid it. On the contrary, when I visited, I took my girlfriend and started walking around the island, in the forest, at the bridges and wooden japanese-style houses. We didn't pay for entrance to any entertainment activity, we just walked. We found meaning in things that mattered to us. My point is, even if you're offered something artificially constructed (call it an island or a boy band) with no innate natural beauty, you will always find something that matters for you, that relates to your true nature and will enjoy it your own way.

This is what these girls in front of the stage did. That K-Pop act meant something for them, they screamed for the dream they experienced right in front of their eyes. If you look for real, you'll find real.

So well-branded. Love it.

Is this any less real? Well, depends on how you look at it. If you look for real, you'll find real.

3. Kaye Ree

It was our last day in Cannes. The next day we were flying back to London. It was the 4th day of Midem, most of the attendees were already touching familiar soil. Not us, we decided to stay one day more and enjoy the evidently more quiet side of Cannes.

We met a hippy, persian girl, Kaye Ree, on the way back to the hotel and she invited us to join her performance later at night. We said 'we'll think about it'. Not that we were busy, we just wanted to weigh our options and choose accordingly.

We didn't regret it.

Kaye Ree sang in a small restaurant in an intimate performance for 30 people. Her band was using the absolutely necessary instruments - guitar and percussion (the indian instrument 'tabla', to be specific). This is what made the songs beautiful, the minimal approach in instrumentation.

Kaye Ree didn't merely sing beautifully. She encouraged the audience - us - to sing along and, a bit later, be her partners-in-crime and do the backing vocals for most of her tracks. This involvement got people excited. More and more participated, more and more got immersed.

I know how to describe it. She's a charismatic communicator. She can draw people in her world and make them feel like home. What a talent!

Kaye Ree and her amazing band.

A bit of wine, eyes closed, people singing along, sweet guitar sounds, soft percussion hits, angel voice stating 'we are one', dark ambient with candlelight and smiley faces. This is what it was like.

I loved it. The end of the performance found me talking with her again, hugging her for the immersive performance and buying both of her albums - signed, of course.

That's the only way to give something back and sustain the art of such a lovely music creature.

To sum up: we need more Kaye Rees in the world. We need more charismatic performers that make a living out of their love - music. We need more interactive performances, inspired collaborations and improvised music experiences. Music used to be something communal that unites people around the same campfire. This is where it's going today as well - back to the basics. And Kaye Ree inspires such an attitude.

Want some action?

The video on the right was shot that very night.

This is Kaye Ree's website. Check her out, I'm sure you won't regret it.

For more videos, go to her YouTube channel.

This is 'Midem 2014: Through The Eyes Of Tommy Darker', with a lot of pictures, tweets, comments. I hope you enjoyed it and got value out of it. Let's sum up really quick.

Quick Summary:

1. If you have a product ready and you're confident about it, Midem is a great place to network and find possible partners and ambassadors.

2. Be careful not to drown in pre-arranged meetings. The best encounters happen randomly in bars and streets.

3. If you like theory, serious analysis of the industry and deep, almost academic knowledge, go to the Training Room (Level -1).

4. Will.I.Am is a visionary appearing in holograms.

5. The money in the music industry is there: platforms, hardware, licensing/ghostwriting, collaborations with brands.

6. If you're a musician, build a business AROUND your music, with music being the magnet attracting people in your world.

7. Musicians are startups. The Musicpreneur is here and will only exaggerate in the future.

8. The most awesome and educational video you've watched in a while is this one.

9. Musicpreneur = Revenue Streams + Smart Business Model

10. Cannes = inspiring, beautiful but expensive.

11. You can discover a lot of music gems during Midem. Some of them are on the stages of the Midem Festival, some of them in the numerous bars of the city.

12. I will make sure I'll be there next year, teaching in the Training Room (Level -1).
Thank you for reading.

For more essays like this as soon as they’re published, let's stay in touch.
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I’m Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician.

Think Beyond The Band’ started because I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I like helping other fellow musicians that struggle with the same problems.

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  • Dude! That was SOME round up – I feel like I was there…but without the future benefit of ACTUALLY being there. You’ve condensed what, before, was a confusing grey area (“Should I go/should I not go – what actually IS Midem?!”) into something tangible; I can now see the value for going next year. More importantly, though, you’ve concisely highlighted some great takeaways that I can use RIGHT NOW; be they information to apply to myself, or inspiration links (both from a “business” and “music” perspective). So to sum up; cheers, that was really helpful and I’ll catch you there next year! (Though not via a scheduled meeting, naturally! 😉

    • Cheers mate! Thanks for the comment. Hopefully you’ll be in the audience in my session and will ask the coolest question ever!

  • Great round-up, Tommy!

    I’ve always been aware of MIDEM, but this is the first time I’ve read an overview that gives a real sense of what it’s like to be there amongst the action.

    I love what you said about the different types of people who are there. I wonder how much business the people with the spammy approach got as a result, as opposed to those who treated everyone as individuals and had a more personable approach to networking. I always feel like networking works best when it’s not forced, and is more natural – and it sounds like that’s how you approached it, too. Going in without any expectations and just taking things as it comes can often yield better results.

    Your post has made me really want to head along next year! Really great – thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • It’s high time you go there, Ross. I don’t know how relevant it will be with what you do now, but definitely you’ll meet interesting people – that’s valuable by itself.

      I agree with the spammers. They often get ignored, just because people want to talk with people, not robots. But, don’t worry, the majority were hard-working professionals looking for meaningful connection. And that’s lovely with Midem.

  • Zac Shaw

    Keep up the great work, Tommy. This roundup is killer.

    I love the Tweet “Yeah… laziness has to die”… I would also add entitlement has to die! The record biz conditioned musicians to feel entitled every time their song is heard. This may have made sense in a pre-digital world, today it is anachronistic. To me, that’s one of the major reasons the “musicpreneur” is ascendant.

    • Cheers Zac, glad to see you here!

      I will agree (kinda) with the notion that entitlement (for whichever reason) destroys any potential growth from a business perspective. But how can you explain that to an artist? It will take a while till this idea becomes more widespread.

      We’re not in a rush.

  • Elisaday

    Keep it up Tommy! This post made want to go to Midem next year! 🙂

    • Why not? Hopefully we’ll walk together the old town of Cannes in 2015!

  • Loved this MIDEM writeup! And great to get to see your presentation via video. It’s a very interesting approach to mix your presentation with a live example panel like that.

    I couldn’t believe the guy from Bill Haley & the Comets afterwards saying all you need to do is make great music. That seems like really irresponsible advice to be giving young musicians these days…!
    It seemed like quite an advanced-level talk – perfect for musicians who are already thinking entrepreneurially, but perhaps quite a lot to take in if they’re new to that idea. Did you get a good response after the talk?