Thursday, February 05, 2004

Almost Famous


There I was at the biggest music event of the year—an event with Beyonce and Christina and Kylie; an event you’ve probably never heard of. It’s name? MIDEM – the “International Music Market” that draws people from all over the world for one week of conferences, concerts, and industry mingling.

People throw down major bucks to gain an entrance pass to MIDEM, the place where
Music Technology People launch Music Technology Things, where European radio conglomerate NRJ hosts its annual music awards, and where independent musicians and labels suck up to major label CEOs in the hopes of scoring distribution deals.

No, it’s not the place where Britney kissed Madonna.

But they were there, and I missed them both.

In fact, I pretty much missed everything that is supposed to characterize the MIDEM experience. No long-night parties, no drunken debauchery with 20-year-old Brit rockers. Let’s retrace my leaden, misplaced steps…

I arrived at Cannes and discovered that the city of glamour and facelifts was no warmer than Paris, with thunderclouds threatening to outdo anyone’s star power. But I was in good spirits as I made my way to MIDEM’s Palais des Festivals, my optimism reinforced by passing MIDEM badge-toters who all looked appropriately important in suits and sharp haircuts.

I checked in at the registration booth and snagged my free bag filled with the MIDEM conference program, free CDs, and throwaway ads. I considered checking out the schedule of events, but then decided that I wanted no such program for myself, since I would have plenty of schedules and deadlines the following day, when my company would host its own press conference.

Instead I began to wander throughout the Palais des Festivals, which despite its fancy name looked a whole lot more like your basic conference center than any sort of palace. The hundreds of stands represented different facets of the music business, from known record labels to copyright societies to national culture ministries to…the Hip Hop Honeys???

Yes, here in the midst of deal makers and Serious Looking Stands with Serious Looking People were the Hip Hop Honeys, a group of naked girls with breasts the size of Christina Aguilera’s platinum records.

“A lot of people just watch rap videos for the girls that are in them. So we made a video where the girls—and not the music—are the focus,” said the Honeys’ representative, who apparently didn’t realize that an industry porn show might have been the better place than MIDEM for his product.

Meanwhile, 50 meters away, rock gods Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel made a MIDEM appearance to discuss their plan to launch a musicians’ union. Oh, and by the way, they were handing out free MP3 players just to thank you for paying attention.

Did I attend? Did I even know any of this was going on?

No, I was too busy trying to figure out whether the Honeys’ heads had been shrunk on their promotional banner in order to accommodate their extraordinarily large, symmetrical assets.

“Pretty wild, no?” said a guy next to me, attempting a seductive smile.

Nothing like referring to the size of a woman’s breasts to break the ice, right?

“I’ve got to get going,” I said, darting my eyes about the stands to find an easy out. “I promised to meet some people at the...Estonian booth.”

Not a smooth out, but it worked, and two minutes later I was standing at the Estonian booth, pretending to be captivated by a description of the renaissance of Estonian music. I eventually slipped away, claiming I had a meeting with someone representing Balearic music.

Granted, MIDEM wasn’t a total bust, even if I didn’t find myself rubbing elbows with big stars. After all, I did get to meet Evander Holyfeld (the U.S. boxer and, apparently, a budding rapper) and an Italian singer who removes her clothes while singing. I scored lots of free wine, a “Discover Denmark” bag, and a no-doubt fantastic CD by a group called “The Butt Feelers.”

Other highlights: I partied at Australian Day with the guy who catapulted “Who Let the Dogs Out” to such fame that it joined “La Macarena” in the category of Songs That Never Should Have Been Written. And at my company’s own press conference, I spotted the Italian composer Franco Migliacci and heard a few people hum “Volare” as he walked past...

What? You’re not impressed?

Well which one of us has been invited to the Hip Hop Honey’s release party, eh???

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