ARTISTS and managers play a huge part in making Midem a dynamic hub, buzzing with creativity and business know-how, and this year some of them get the chance to recount what it is like to be an artist today.

Ryan Leslie, US artist and founder of SuperPhone, is a Grammy-nominated recording artist, multi-platinum music producer, and avid technologist. In addition to logging studio time with Madonna, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Beyonce, he is the architect and ultimate case study for his company Disruptive Multimedia’s simple CRM for creators, a Twilio-enabled product called SuperPhone. “I believe that the greatest satisfaction for any artist comes from discovery and consumption of the works that they create. Today more than ever the channels available provide a powerful pathway for increased exposure,” he said. “At the same time, a greater number of channels and outlets, yields greater complexity as each channel has its own respective optimal communication elements. Advances in technology enable artists today to actually own the relationships that they are building and invest in direct channels that will enable them to continue the dialogue with their audiences irrespective of any shifts in social-media platform popularity.”

According to Emma McGann, artist, ambassador and partner at the UK’s YouNow/Rize, digital tools make life easier, but also more complicated: “There’s a wide selection of tools available today that help artists grow, market themselves and reach wider audiences, but with this access the market does become more saturated,” she said. “There’s tons of new music out there everyday. So more than ever, artists have to focus on what makes their sound and image unique to cut through the noise. Thinking outside the box is a necessity regardless of what tools you choose to use.”

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China-based DJ and artist manager Allyson Toy agreed: “The age of interconnectivity has its ups and downs, but ultimately I feel it has complicated the role of a music manager. One of the obvious advantages of the digital age is the ease and speed at which you can create and distribute music and connect with fans, which has in many ways made music discovery more democratic. We’re less reliant on traditional music industry gatekeepers like record labels or radio, which is great for independent artists,” she said. “On the flipside, with the relative speed and ease of content creation, the volume of output is higher than ever, making it a considerable challenge for individuals to cut through the noise, and even if they do, they then have to maintain fans’ attention. The role of an artist has morphed into that of a music maker, and a public persona that requires a constant dialogue, upkeep, and steady output.”

According to Annabella Coldrick of the European Music Managers Forum: “Being a manager is more complicated than ever. The proliferation of digital services from music streaming to socials and the data that goes with them offer artists greater possibilities to connect with and build their fan base, at a lower cost than ever before. However the bandwidth to sift between these and the time required to execute strategies puts increasing pressure on the manager and illustrates how important it is to stay informed with changes in the industry and consumer behaviour.” She added: “Exciting new developments including the use of blockchain for music streaming and ticketing may well be the next great leap forwards, but we’re not there yet. Keeping an eye on future trends while focusing on present opportunities is essential for all managers.”

Few DJs have had such a dramatic impact on both their local community and indeed a whole nation as South African DJ and producer Black Coffee. His success has seen him adopted as a symbol of positivity in his home country. Black Coffee had his first big break in 2015 when he won the Breakthrough DJ Of The Year award at the DJ Awards in Ibiza.

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Black Coffee said that the life of a DJ has changed dramatically with digital technology. He remembers carrying flight cases of records around the world when he started out. “But today I carry memory sticks which are backed up in the cloud in case anything happens, which is great,” he said. “Also, as an artist today, with social media you can connect directly with your audience, allowing you to communicate anything about what you’re doing, and the greater the numbers, the more you grow your career.”

Artist manager, Juan Paz, said the availability of data is a positive element of the industry today. “I became a manager in the digital age of music, so I am used to looking at stats on a daily basis, but I guess that before, relying only on instinct must have been difficult and perhaps unproductive. Certainly, there was data and information, but not with the immediacy and accuracy of today. Having access to this information supports a more transparent management-artist relationship, which drives confidence, and that is perhaps the most important factor in our job.” He added: “The challenge is that the business has become extremely complex with too many aspects and little details to look at. Sometimes 24-hour days are not enough!”

Nigerian artist Yemi Alade said direct contact with fans is another positive: “It’s satisfying that you have a platform to reach your fanbase much more easily and quickly. It’s such an exciting time to be an artist, especially in Africa, where there are so many talented and creative musicians who are breaking boundaries.”

For artist and owner of Roaring Girl Records, Canadian-born Miranda Mulholland: “The digital revolution promised the elimination of the middle man but it has actually delivered the exact opposite. While there are some advantages to being able to target audiences, the companies that have inserted themselves in the middle of that exchange, taking advantage of artists’ hard-won relationships with their audiences and exploiting their loyalty, make it frustrating. Artists are told that discoverability is the reward for making your music available for fractions of cents. But in essence, the marketplace has changed the way listeners consume music. Passive listening is now the norm. My hope is that the ephemerality of live musical experiences recovers and grows its value.”

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