‘We Try To Be Avant-Garde’: Q’s With Fernando Ladeiro-Marquès, Director Of France’s MaMA

Fernando Ladeiro-Marquès
– Fernando Ladeiro-Marquès
Director of MaMA Event, which celebrates its 9th edition, Oct. 17-19, in Paris, France

Pollstar speaks with Fernando Ladeiro-Marquès, the director of MaMA Event in Paris, France, a showcase festival and business convention, which celebrates its ninth edition Oct. 17-19. 
When was MaMA launched, why and by whom?
We began to think about it in 2008, simply because there was no such event in France, even though it is the fourth or fifth biggest music market in the world.
We asked ourselves whether that was because no one was interested, or simply because no one had embarked on this adventure yet.
At the time, I was part of the organization of Printemps du Bourges Festival. With Daniel Colling, the festival director, we decided to test the project. We did it in 2009 as part of the festival to gage whether there was interest from professionals.
This test turned out to be a success, we welcomed around 1,500 professional to the number zero edition. Based on this reception, we decided to launch MaMA by moving it to Paris.
What were the reasons for moving it to Paris?
The first reason was the difficulty of developing an event inside another one. Bourges is a big festival, and it would have been difficult to explain, what MaMA actually was, if it happened inside the festival.
MaMA needed to have its own identity, more dedicated to professionals, which involved a separation from Bourges Festival, a festival for the public.
The second reason for moving to the capital is owed to the fact that approximately 80 percent of the music business in France is concentrated in or around Paris, and it’s much easier to get the people when you’re in the center.
We chose the Pigalle District, because there are a lot of beautiful venues in this area, located very close to each other. Historically, Pigalle has always been the music district.
What were the most significant developments in the music business that have shaped the MaMA Event since its inception?
Every year, we welcome around 150 artists from all kinds of genres, 50 percent are from France, 50 percent international. Probably the most spectacular development of the last years has been the evolution of the spirit of the artists and their representatives towards MaMA.
At first, we had to fight to get them to agree to participate in MaMA, we had to explain why they would benefit to perform there.
Now it’s different. They are the ones, who propose to play at the event. Today, everybody understands that MaMA is a great showcase festival to present a new album or show to French and international professionals.
The merging of music and technology is another very interesting development of the last years.
How would you describe the state of business in France at the moment for the recorded as well as the live music sector?
I think the market is doing better than a few years ago, when it still appeared to be in a crisis. Recorded music is on the rise, thanks, in part, to streaming, which increases every year. Live music is doing very well overall.
A few years ago, both sectors of the business were quite far apart. Today, there’s a real balance, they’ve learned to work together. In that sense, the crisis of the business had an interesting ancillary effect.
This development is also linked to the increasing decision-making role of the artist, who is once again moving into the center of the business. Many artists these days not only record themselves but also want to produce their own shows.
There’s a lot of consolidation happening in the market. Will that be addressed at MaMA?
Yes, because we have everybody at MaMA: the young people and the seniors, the big businesses and alternative music. Since five years, we’ve been observing these big companies buying up venues, festivals, and putting a lot of money into the music sector. The question is, why? What’s the idea behind that? At the moment we’re just observing.

Big Junior
Thomas Saminada
– Big Junior
Live on stage at the Bus Palladium during last year’s MaMA Event

Can you describe the idea behind the Avantgarde Program?

It’s a program we created four years ago. It’s designed primarily for international professionals, venues or festival programmers, booking agencies etc., to support French artists.
We have set up a partnership with the Yourope network, which allows us to welcome the programmers of Europe’s most important festivals. We present a selection of French artists that play a showcase in front of this professional audience. They are young artists, ready for export, but not yet known internationally. 
With Avantgarde we respond to two requests. One is to promote the export of young French talent, the second one is to offer international professionals the opportunity to discover artists, who have real international potential. 
Why should U.S. professionals come to MaMA?
Well, for one, it’s a great opportunity to come early or stay a few days longer and explore Paris.
As far as the music industry in particular is concerned, I think that MaMA is the best platform for meetings in France today. The French market is one of the most important in the world, but it’s very complicated to understand for foreigners.
We have a lot of doors, you have to know on which ones to knock. If I tell you it’s French, you know it’s complicated.
MaMA is like an accelerator between professionals, to facilitate meetings. All the French music business is present at MaMA: publishers, labels, producers, agents, managers, institutions – everyone comes to MaMA, because it has developed into a very important event. We have grown, in a few years, from 1,500 to up to 5,600 professionals. 20 percent if them are international, representing more than 50 countries.
So MaMA is the place where American professionals representing all the activities of the sector can meet their counterparts from all over France but also from all over the world.
Of course, I’m the director, I wouldn’t tell you anything contrary, but it’s true. Honestly, it’s true.
What places should they definitely check out at the conference?
Difficult, we have around 15 or 16 different venues. But the great advantage of MaMA is the close proximity of places. Everything happens in Pigalle, it’s very easy to move from one venue to another, to see many debates during the day or many concerts in the evening.
Two years ago, an English professional, who came to MaMA for the first time, told me that he saw 19 bands on the same night. 
If I had to highlight a few places of the convention, I’d say it’s necessary to see the Trianon and the Elysée Montmartre – two beautiful venues that host a large part of the conference. Just across the street there is an incredible chapel, in which we also organize the conference – very atypical and wonderful.
Regarding the concert venues, some of them are very unusual, and beautiful, too. Take, for example, La Cigale, La Machine du Moulin Rouge, Le Carmen or Bus Palladium.
And don’t forget that we’re located at the bottom of another mythical district of Paris, Montmartre – a few minutes away from the famous Sacre Coeur. There are many incredible places to discover.
When Le Bataclan got attacked it marked the first time that the industry fully realized it had become a target for terrorists. How has the city coped since the attack three years ago, and what role does event security play at the conference?
These terrorist acts have been a real shock for Paris, the whole country and rest of the world, because these attacks targeted youth culture and a way of life. But the people here were very determined to overcome it.
They didn’t let themselves be oppressed, they refused to live in fear and terror. During that time at social meeting points people everywhere were like: “I’m a Parisian, I’m sitting on a terrace and drinking a beer.”
It said, “we are not afraid,” and it was a big “Fuck you” to the terrorists.
To be honest, during the first two months [after the attack] venues in general were visited less than usually, so the attacks had some effect. But very quickly, after maybe two months, people returned and the venues were full again.
Of course, us producers have the duty to increase the level of security at our venues and festivals, which has concrete consequences for the economy of the sector. But it was necessary to reassure our audience.
People don’t forget, but today in Paris, we decided to live, and music is a part of our life, and we’re not afraid to go to concerts. The festivals are full, the venues are full, and the people are really returning to the music and the culture.
Any other highlights about the 2018 edition of MaMA, we haven’t talked about yet?
There’s so many things: during three days, we offer 150 concerts, more than 100 conferences with more than 450 speakers from France and the rest of the world.
I could talk about the focus country, which will be Japan this year. We will welcome a large delegation of Japanese professionals, as well as several artists, who are going to perform.
We also have a great premiere: as I’ve mentioned, we’ve partnered with Yourope, which also means that we’re going to host the Yourope Event Safety Group’s Health and Safety Seminar at MaMA for the first time. It’s great, because we welcome a lot of important festivals from all over Europe, who can share their best practices.
I could mention, too, the innovation part called MaMA Invent. There’s major interest in bringing the two worlds of music and technology together. Sometimes startups have a hard time identifying the actual problems of the business, at the same time, the music players are sometimes afraid of innovation. So it’s very important to give both parties the opportunity to get to know each other. 
Above all, we try to offer interesting content for the different types of delegates. We have many different people, and the same content is not relevant to a major company and a young junior manager at the same time. 
We welcome the whole sector, live and recorded music, commercial and independent, French and international. And it’s important to offer each person content that interest them and develops their knowledge.
MaMA Invent
Thomas Saminada
– MaMA Invent
The place in Paris where music and technology meet

How many delegates do you expect this year?
Every year we welcome more people, maybe this year just over 6,000. But this is not the objective, the idea is not to have more people every year. We must work out our limit, the red line we do not want to cross, because when you have too many people, they end up meeting nobody. One of the reasons for the success of MaMA is that people are able to meet each other very easily. We want to protect this human side of the event.
What trends do you identify in the music business?
The last 20 years have been a revolution for the music industry. It’s constantly evolving and transforming. We’re probably only at the beginning of all these new technologies, the future is very exciting, I think. Everything is moving in all directions.
One trend is that the artists are moving back into the center of the business, taking up the position of artist-producers. Usually, artists at the beginning of their career needed professional support. Today, more and more artists want to be their own producers, and that changed the rules of the game.
The other trend we talked about before, is the arrival or very big industry groups, investing in venues, festivals and radios. Many people are questiong it, they are curious to find out what the next step is going to be.
There is also the subject of Brexit, which will have consequences for the music market in Europe without any doubt. Or the position of the woman in the music business, another subject on a global level.
All of these things and more will be discussed at MaMA this year. We always try to have debates around the actual problems, but about the future too. We try to be a bit avant-garde.