As I am making the last preparations for my next participation in a Trade Fair, representing The Orchard at WOMEX 2012 in Thessaloniki, Greece, even I can’t try to pretend that “it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.”
I’ve had a long and enjoyable relationship with WOMEX through my work with various World Music distributors, labels and artists over the last 20 years, starting with WOMEX’s precursor, the “Berlin Independence Days,” which were held in East Berlin just after the fall of the Wall. In those “physical” days — lasting well into this new “digital” century developing the international sales of Cesaria Evora, Lucky Dube, Salif Keita, Toure Kunda or The Skatalites (yes I insist that Reggae also fall in the scope of “World Music,” as does Electro Cumbia or Hungarian Speed-Folk) — involved mainly finding the right distribution partners distribution, promotional activities (via key media outlets and actors of the live scene) and developing solid mutually advantageous business relationships. A lot of these relationships have become friendships and despite changes in companies, some industrial disasters and difficult financial moments, many of these people are still strong players in the very tight-knit World Music community.
The tools that I will be bringing this year are only materially different. Instead of lugging around boxes of CDs, I’ve got a few presentations, pre-prepared collectively to be shown on a computer as to how best use our Sales Analytics, Interactive Marketing, or maximize results from Social Media Advertising. The goal of developing a mutually profitable network of relationships between the various actors of this sector stays essentially the same however, just more detailed, especially since the changing nature of the methods and means of consumption of music worldwide means that more and more world inhabitants are gaining access to their own cultures and those of others.
To quote from memory from an article that appeared in the Berlin Independence Days guide, World Music is also Bob Marley or Rod Stewart blasting from a battery-powered cassette player in Nairobi. However, in those days there was no realistic way of monitoring this usage such that all parties involved got paid. The mobile phone has become the essential vector of this progression in the controllable growth in access to music that we presented on The Daily Rind already a while ago. The main model is streaming via Telco bundles that includes Internet access with the possibility of listening to music.
These kinds of offers are spreading like wildfire across the world. Telephone operators have understood that musical content is a primary attraction within the Internet. For our labels and their artists, this specific source of revenue breeds additional sources of revenue, creating new uses and relationships with fans that can also be monetized. As I always say in my posts: music is contagious, and these models bring in lasting and growing financial returns. This ecosystem exemplifies sustainable development — recontextualized!
So though we have already developed tactics on all of this in association with some of the most prestigious World Music labels around — Lusafrica (selected as World Music Label of the Year for 2012), World Circuit, World Music Network, Sterns African Records, Cantos/Frochot, World Village, Mr Bongo, Stonetree Records, ZZK, etc. — we are always looking for ways to improve these collaborations and build others by involving our teams in 26 different countries around the world. Each team demonstrates its expert knowledge and understanding of its local market and gives each of our partners the possibility of simplifying some of their work in order to focus on the essential point: discovering, producing and sharing great music from everywhere.