Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ten tips to break the French music market

(This story was originally published in the Feb. 4 issue of German trade magazine MusikMarkt)

by Emmanuel Legrand

The French market operates with its own dynamics and idiosyncrasies, notwithstanding the language issue. But overall, it is a market worth exploring, not least because of its geographic position, in between Northern and Southern Europe, and because of its economic strength. Success in France can spearhead long careers for artists and steady income streams over the years. Here are a few tips to consider before trying to break the French market.

1 – Make sure you have the right the repertoire
Obviously if you have a catalogue dominated with German schalger, it's not worth trying export to France, but classical, world, jazz and electronic can do well. Pop and Urban are tricky, especially if sung in German, although Tokio Hotel sold thousands of albums to French teenagers, but they had songs people could hum and the proper packaging (and the marketing backing of Universal). Metal can be a steady market, as shown by the success of Rammstein recently and the Scorpions in the 70s. France is also “more open to articulate and artistic musicians which are often overlooked or viewed with slight suspicion” in their countries, says London-based Christine Chinetti, International Manager at Proper Music Distribution. This applies to artists like Joseph Arthur or Charlie Winston, among others.

2 – Don't rush!
France is a slow market, things take time to blossom, but once the machine is on tracks, it delivers. Take that in to consideration when planning. “In France, the audience faithful but it takes time to build a following,” says Ben Oldfield, Vice-President France and Benelux for digital distributor The Orchard. “You have to give time to time.”

3 - Find the right partners
The French system very complex, the administration is very heavy so you need local partners to go after your rights” says Jean-Raphaël Maraninchi, Managing Director of Buddemusic France. Hence the need to work with local partners – label, distributor, publisher, promoter, plugger, etc. Even better is to set up shop in France if you can generate significant volume. “It took me a long time to learn that when working international repertoire in the French market,” says Julian Wall, a former executive from BMG, PolyGram and Sanctuary, and who also worked for the BPI where he coordinated trade missions abroad. “You do have to bed down deeply with your French partner/distributor and let them by and large lead the way, even when you feel that the strategy might be a little long-winded, off kilter...or just plain wrong!”

4 - Be prepared to invest
For recordings, all options are possible: license to local labels, direct distribution deals, catalogue deals, album deals... But if you chose the route of direct distribution, “be prepared to spend money,” warns Christine Chinetti, International Manager at the UK's Proper Music Distribution. “Distributors are reluctant to release anything without tour or PR in place, so make sure you have strategy in place to ensure results,” she explains.

5 - Leave marketing and promo to locals
The French market has cycles that are different than the British or the German markets. Singles can take up to six month to become hits. Mainstream radio is tough to break and access to TV is not easy, but press can be open to new artists and genres. It takes people with experience to drive through the system. “I worked quite a few UK projects in France and one of my biggest problems was always explaining to my London bosses that things seem to take a longer time cycle in France and it's very hard to circumvent the recognised stages of developing profile and sales in the market,” says Wall. For Chinetti, Promo can be expensive and needs a long lead time, so costs can be prohibitive.”

6 - Touring is crucial
Jun Miyake
France has a very efficient and modern network of venues of all sizes, and one of the healthiest festival scene in Europe. Over 16 million tickets were sold in 2013 in France. It is important to have a local promoter who knows the market. “With pop acts, without radio support, you won't sell tickets. Not so with rock bands, who have a different dynamic,” says Francois Millet, founder of music publishing company vital song. “The difference between France and other Latin countries is that we sell a lot from acts that tour, that have a fan base,” adds Oldfield.

7 - In publishing, chose the right sub-publisher
Publishing requires real expertise,” says Maraninchi. And you need all your partner's knowledge to navigate the arcane of authors' society SACEM, and also a publisher who is well plugged in the synch market. There are about 100 music publishing companies of record that can either administer catalogues or work on specific projects.

8 - The synch market is growing
France is a good market for the business of rights, with a strong film industry and some of the world's largest ad agencies. With the appropriate catalogue, synchs and performance rights can deliver hefty dividends. “Advertising agencies are trying to lower prices, but the business is still strong. Electro and pop work best for synchs,” says Adrien Deniel, in charge of copyright and synchronisation at Métisse Music, whose signing, Japanese composer Jun Miyake, has been supplying instrumental music used in many synchs. Electronic is very much in demand for documentaries, films d'auteurs and online usage, according to Budde's Maraninchi.

9 - There's neighbouring rights too!
The 1986 copyright bill introduced in France neighbouring rights for recordings and performances, benefitting labels and artists. These rights are paid by broadcasters but also by manufacturers/importers of blank media, on which is applied a private copy levy. Revenues from neighbouring rights have grown to a point where they can represent up to 20% of the turnover of an indie label, according to Jérome Roger, Director General of collecting society SPPF. Comments Julian Wall, “France has delivered impressive uplifts in income from the sync and performance rights sectors, so holding onto and energetically pursuing those type of income streams is something that any rights-owner participating in the French market should be directly concerned with.”

10 – Be patient!
It will take time but the rewards can be high. “Given that France is a territory that is now showing actual positive growth, it's definitely a good time to be getting into the world's fifth largest music market,” says Wall.

[This piece was part of a series on the French Music Market. Other stories include:

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