Sunday, January 13, 2013

Nibs from Groningen: Google, Martin Mills, C2C

By Emmanuel Legrand

> One of the most attended sessions at Eurosonic/Noordeslag was 'Google's view on music and the creative industry', and it was also the most frustrating (at least for this writer!). Google was facing the industry. So kudos to Simon Morrison, who works in London as part of the internet service's public affairs team (in other words, a lobbyist), for accepting to walk into the snake pit. But it was a walk in the park for him. First he gratified us with a nice fairy tale: Google is great for the creative community, copyright is important is for Google and Google can help 'you' maximise the value of your copyrights. Fair enough, since he was given time, at least he could place a few Google adverts. 

But what was then less pleasant was the inability from the panel – with included Billy Bragg manager Peter Jenner, Spotify's Will Page, Jeff Price and Buma-Stemra's head of public affairs Robbert Baruch – to come up (with a few exceptions) with questions that would destabilise the man from Google. Jenner started by asking why couldn't he get any clarity in the structure of the deal deal between Google and PRS for Music and why were there non-disclosure agreement (NDAs for the cognoscenti), and got a soft answer. 

Then Jenner and Price started bickering about the role of government in setting rates, and it went wrong from there (aside from Baruch who quite rightly pointed out that Google's lobbying aims are far from transparent – “we are quite transparent" was the answer) and Morrison was looking at it this circus with some sort of bemusement, and was probably very relieved to see that the focus had shifted. So the moral of all this: If the industry intends to take on Google, it'd better clean up its act beforehand and speak with at least some sort of united front...

> Beggars Group founder Martin Mills came across as clever, witty, unfussed, intellectually sharp and quite modest during the one-hour keynote Q&A at Groningen with yours truly. It was very pleasant and informative and it seems that the audience was listening. He was so weary and stressed before starting the interview that he asked for a glass of schnapps or “anything strong”. I guess the vodka got him going... My favourite quote from him (tweeted by Mark Mulligan): “[Former Warner Music chief executive] Lyor Cohen said '360 deals are our new religion' and I said 'Well, I'm an atheist then'.”

C2C at the Border Breakers Awards
(Photo: René Keijzer)
> C2C were the clear revelation of this year's European Border Breaker Awards. The gang of 4 French DJs proved that you can have dance music that can be both fresh and intelligent, whilst being also entertaining. Other winners/performers include Amor Electro from Portugal, French Films from Finland, Juan Zelada from Spain, Ewert and the Two Dragons from Estonia, Nahiba from Denmark and Dope DOD from the Netherlands, introduced by none other than the Dutch Minister of Culture, which in itself was quite a treat (how about hearing the word 'dope' from a politician...). Overall a good show for the tenths anniversary of the awards, hosted by a Jools Holland in good form. 

[Disclosure: As one of the founders of these awards, I am still in charge of the pre-selection of artists. To qualify, they must have released a debut album which has had some airplay and sales traction outside of the artist's country of origin (tracked through Nielsen data), plus having played live in several countries outside of theirs (especially through the ETEP programme). In addition, programmers from EBU stations chip in with some editorial suggestions. The EBBAs are supported by the European Commission.]

> After resisting for over a year, I have finally opened a Twitter account... You can now follow my words of wisdom @legrandnetwork

[Typed while listening to The Byrds's 'Younger Than Yesterday']

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