Behind the Scenes at MidemNet

My presentation at MidemNet last month in Cannes has received more attention than I ever imagined (nearly 17,000 views on YouTube at this time!). If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

However, being that this is a personal blog, I wanted to discuss some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that went on and answer some of the other questions that have been asked by some folks.

First, I have no idea how I got asked to do this presentation. Despite writing about the music industry for a while, and pissing off numerous lawyers who work for the industry, I very rarely hear from the business folks. I don’t think they have any clue who I am. However, I apparently got onto someone’s radar screen, and they called me out of the blue and asked me to present (they picked the topic).

I wasn’t joking (at all) about the jetlag. When I gave the presentation I had a killing throbbing headache the whole time. I wasn’t working on very much sleep. I arrived in France about 24 hours before I was to give the presentation — and I barely slept on the plane at all. I tried to do some work in my hotel room, but it was crazy hot (turns out there’s no way to turn off the heat, despite it being warm outside). Everything I did to try to turn off the heat (or get the AC on) seemed to increase the heat. I finally slept for an hour before heading out to meet with the conference organizers.

Due to my original hotel closing down, I ended up in a hotel about 10 km away from Cannes itself. During the conference there was supposed to be ongoing shuttle service between the conference and the hotel (in practice, it existed, but wasn’t as trustworthy as promised). However, that first day the shuttle was not running. I was told I could take a train… but the train was apparently on strike (this turned out not to be true). Instead, I ended up taking a bus. While waiting at the bus station, I kept my streak alive: whenever I am somewhere new and taking public transportation *someone* will ask me for directions. I babbled in English, and the woman walked away in disgust. Lesson learned: if you can’t speak French, at least learn how to say “My French is really really bad” in French. Then they treat you much nicer.

The conference organizers were *awesome*. I really can’t say enough about the crew, who were amazingly well organized, professional and super friendly as well. It still amazes me, though, that they put me on the mainstage on the morning of the first day of the conference, having no idea if I’m any good as a presenter (though, they had been nervous and kept asking for my presentation well before I was ready to share it). They also kept repeating over and over again that I *really* was limited to 15 minutes. They were quite afraid I’d go over it. So I promised to practice my talk to get it within those 15 minutes, without fail.

An offshoot of the Midem event is the NRJ Awards, which is sort of the functional equivalent of the MTV music awards here in the US (though, with the same musicians, basically). So, security was crazy tight, and just to get backstage to see where I going to speak, I had to wear a special badge, as the backstage area intersected with the backstage for that show (some friends later got tickets to the Awards show and got to walk up the red carpet with 1000s of screaming teenie boppers). There were a lot of teenie boppers around trying to photograph famous musicians (Chris Martin, Katy Perry, some others were around).

The night before my talk (the night before the event started) there was a dinner for all the speakers. My original intent was to (a) not drink (b) go home early (c) practice my talk and (d) get plenty of sleep. None of those things really worked out as planned. First, it’s France, where there is no such thing as an early dinner. Dinner wasn’t until 8:30pm. Then, I was told that the guy who sponsored/organized the dinner was a wine connoisseur and had picked the wines himself… so I had to partake somewhat, especially with the awesome French cuisine. On top of that, I was having such great conversations it was difficult to get away. Eventually, though, Martin Thornkvist and I agreed to head back to Juan les Pins (he was staying in another hotel nearby as well). He had taken the train over (strike apparently wasn’t real) and had looked at the schedule, saying that there was another train back to Juan les Pins a little before midnight. We walked to the trainstation where that turned out not to be the case. There were no more trains to Juan les Pins, but there was a train to Antibes, one town over, where we were told we could catch a cab.

We took the train and discovered… no cab. So, we wandered. Generally following the street signs and made our way successfully back to Juan les Pins, after wandering through unknown French villages past midnight. I was very thankful to have Martin along as well, as it would have been a bit more frightening on my own (Martin was great company — and it was great to have that time to chat).

So… back at the hotel at approximately 12:30… and exhausted. Sort of half practiced the presentation once and fell asleep. Got up early, took the shuttle (I was the only rider on a full sized coach bus) back to Cannes, and watched the morning sessions. There was the opening debate, then a short 15 minute presentation, and then a coffee break. Then me.

The opening debate was great. Then the 15 minute presentation began. Assuming you’ve seen my presentation, you know that the one thing I depend on is having those slides change when I click the button. So as I’m watching the guy on stage go through his presentation, I begin to notice that he seems to be talking about things that aren’t showing on the slides. In fact, it looks like he’s stuck on a single slide. After about 5 minutes, he notices this as well, and has to actually stop his presentation and call out the tech support guys. This happens 3 times, after his slides refuse to proceed when he clicks.

My heart sinks. My headache starts pounding even worse. I have 280 slides to go through with, if not precision timing, at least a decent sense of timing.

By the time the other guy has finished his 15 min presentation, it’s taken nearly 25 minutes, in part due to all of the requests for tech help. I head to the speaker’s lounge to convey a… polite sense of worry. I’m told, repeatedly, that I shouldn’t worry. My presentation is fine. The problem with his had to do with (a) last minute changes to the slides and (b) the use of different views (on the laptop it had a notes view, rather than the presentation view on the screen). Still, I’m nervous. With a headache. And tired. Really, really tired.

I’m given my special pass, escorted backstage, where the tech guys insist (again) not to worry. Everyone in the theater is out getting coffee, so I run a quick test, and indeed the slides do seem to be working. Since the last presentation ran long, the Midem folks want to make sure people have enough time to have some coffee and get back into the theater. So they say they’ll wait and won’t start my presentation for about 10 min after the scheduled time (11:45am). But Ted Cohen, the MC of the event shows up and is bouncing up and down saying that we gotta get going… even though people aren’t back in yet. In fact, they’re just starting to stream in, and only a few have taken seats. The Midem people suggest waiting… which lasts about 30 seconds before Ted says he’ll just head out and talk to the audience for a bit to encourage them to come in. His talk lasts about 20 seconds (“how’s the show going this morning so far? Good?”) before he says, “Now I’d like to introduce…” and I’m on.

When I walk out, there are probably only about 1/4 of the people actually in the theater, and mobs of people streaming in and talking, but the big red clock on the stage has a 15:00 on it, and I’m not supposed to go over on the time, so I say something along the lines of “I see people are still finding their seats, but, let’s just get going…” and that’s where the video starts.

As you can see, it mostly did go off without a hitch. Mobs of people were still streaming in the doors until about 5 or 6 minutes in (a lot of people contacted me afterwards noting they had missed the beginning), but overall it worked. I also freaked out around the 11 minute mark when I started mentally calculating in my head how much more I had in the presentation and if I could do it in 4 minutes. You can sorta see that I shift into a different gear as I start “chapter 4.” I went just slightly over on time, but no one seemed to mind.

I finished, Ted shook my hand, told me how much he liked the presentation, and I walked back stage and collapsed. They gave me a bottle of water and told me to relax until I felt ready to go back to the speaker’s lounge, which I did about 10 minutes later, at which point I asked for something (anything) for my headache, and was given a packet of some sort of medicine to dissolve in water. That seemed to work… and I finally began to feel good again.

So… there you go. The story behind the presentation.

The rest of the time I was there was great. Without having to worry about my own presentation, I got to see a bunch of other great presentations, meet a ton of fantastic people, and explore just a little bit of that part of France. All in all a great experience, despite the stress, the headaches and actually trying to get through 280 slides in 15 minutes. I’m hopeful that I get a chance to present again in the future.


ashau  on February 19th, 2009

a. i can’t believe you had 280 slides. that is roughly 3.2 slides per second.

b. did you check out Cannes at all?

c. that’s it.

Mike Masnick  on February 19th, 2009

Heh. Not 3.2 slides per second… more like 3.2 seconds per slide. That’s a bit more reasonable.

But, if you’d like to see the actual PPT i can send it to you as proof. It was actually 278 slides.

And, yes, I did check out Cannes somewhat… Not a huge amount, since there wasn’t that much time, but did have some time to wander about and explore.

Brian Walsh  on February 20th, 2009

Mike…yet again you rocked it! Congratulations!! I would be very interested in learning about the follow up and feedback from the record industry execs in the audience. You drove it home that the model is broken and people are innovating right under their noses.

Awesome work…

Bas  on February 20th, 2009

What an absolute nightmare scenario, haha. You did very well. Besides the content matter being very fascinating, and the topic of my thesis, your way of presenting is inspiring.

I always try to keep my slides as simple as possible and use as few slides as I can… but this huge amount of slides is something to experiment with. How long did it take you to get comfortable with this style of presenting? Was this your first time doing it?

Could you get in contact with me using the email address I’m using to post this?

I’m writing my final university thesis about The Future of Music Distribution and was wondering if I could get a Powerpoint version of this presentation, so I don’t have to direct my professors to YouTube; you know how they can be with new media – they’re like record label execs ;-)

If I can’t get the Powerpoint, please still get in contact with me, I might want to get some first hand ‘expert opinion’ on a few matters for the thesis. :)

Bas (@Spartz on Twitter)

ashau  on February 24th, 2009

oopsie. that is what i meant. i am a disgrace to the asian race…:(

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