Q&A with MaMA director Fernando Ladeiro-Marques

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The 11th edition of the music conference MaMA has been canceled on short notice due to the Corona crisis. The MaMa conference was founded in 2010 by director Fernando Ladeiro-Marques as a cross-sectorial platform for the international music community. Within ten years the conference established itself as a multifunctional gateway to the French music market, featuring conferences, workshops, talks, speed-meetings, and typically French “thematic lunches.”

In the first year of the Corona pandemic, when many live music events unexpectedly have been forced to undertake a sabbatical, the cancellation of MaMA is just another example of a worst-case scenario probably nobody has seen coming. But as music conferences are like melting pots of live event formats with a more holistic approach, Fernando Ladeiro-Marques is an eligible expert to ask him for his opinion and estimations of how the Corona crisis affects the various parts of the music business.

How do you cope with the decision to postpone MAMA 2020?
Fernando Ladeiro-Marques: The cancellation of MaMA 2020 was a difficult decision to make. We fought to the end so that the event could take place because the whole sector, silenced since March, needed to get together, to take stock of the consequences of this pandemic and to have a vision for the future of our sector. Professionals needed to get together and this feeling was confirmed by the large number of accreditations we were selling despite this context and uncertainty.

For several months now, based on the measures that were announced by the government, we have been adapting. We have dedicated this edition exclusively to professionals, depriving ourselves of the presence of the public and the revenues that go with it. We have reduced the number of people present in each space in order to comply with health requirements.

We made a “sanitary kit” consisting of a mask and gel that was to be given to each person present at the MaMA. We set up entry and exit checks in each room to ensure that the number of authorized people was not exceeded. We have condemned one seat out of two in each room…

With all these measures, however, we were able to offer 140 debates, lectures, and workshops (almost the usual number) as well as 84 concerts (instead of 160). Despite these restrictions, the 2020 edition remained an important event.

Then, in mid-September, new government measures were taken, for example, closing bars at 10pm. All concerts had to be rescheduled because some venues, in which bars occupy a large place, are considered as bars and not as concert venues. But, once again, we have adapted our arrangements to meet these measures and to be able to maintain the MaMA event.

Finally, other measures, each time more restrictive, were announced on Monday 5 October, one week before the MaMA event. These new measures (total closure of bars, prohibition of gatherings such as congresses) made it impossible to hold the event and we had to announce the cancellation of the MaMA event the next day, Tuesday 6 October.

It was a very hard decision. A week before the event, as you can imagine, a large part of our expenses had been incurred.

This is a very important economic loss, it’s also a shock for the whole team who have been fighting for months to make the event happen. But unfortunately, there was no alternative, no other option.

We were considering the possibility of offering some online conferences, but we cannot do a digital MaMA. In the first place; it’s not what our event is about. Our goal is to bring people together, to encourage meetings and collaborations. That is the added value of an event like MaMA.

Can young artists still gain awareness and reach their fans?
Among all the consequences of this crisis, some can be positive. The total absence of concerts as we like to experience them and the frustration it implies for the audience can bring the audience and the artists closer together. The internet can be a fantastic tool for rapprochement and dialogue.

For several years now, many artists have had direct contact with their audience via social networks. The current context can encourage the development of this type of direct relationship by offering the public new services.

What is the economic impact on the music sector?
The impact is terrible on the entire music industry and, in particular, the live music industry. We probably can’t oversee the effects just yet.

All the indicators are alarming, the recovery seems far ahead of us and many companies in our sector are likely to disappear around the world. This means there’s another danger looming; centralization and monopoly. This phenomenon (which did not wait for this crisis to distinguish itself) could take advantage of the pandemic and the economic crisis that follows to buy out the weakest and extend its monopolies.

The Corona crisis apparently is a long term game-changer.
What do you think this means?
We want to remain optimistic despite the current situation and the direct impact on MaMA.

Of course, today we are still in the dark, we have no visibility on the future, but we want to believe that things will evolve and that we will be able to meet again as early as next year.

As far as MaMA is concerned, we are fortunate to be in France, where culture is considered an important asset and where the government, but also our various partners, consider that it should be supported.

But, in the medium and long term, we can’t look into the future. It’s obvious that everyone is trying to imagine other ways of working, other ways.

This was, moreover, the priority objective of MaMA. We had brought together the entire industry, French and international, to take an overview of this pandemic in the music sector on the one hand, and on the other hand, to envisage future prospects.

What does this all mean for artist development in general?
It seems to me that, unfortunately, this crisis will have a major impact on the development of young artists. Production companies have been deeply affected by this pandemic and many of them are in a very fragile situation.

They will therefore focus on the already known artists who will guarantee them commercial success and they will rely much less on new talent for whom it is necessary to invest to hope for eventual success

What are the likely consequences for MaMA 2021?
For MaMA 2021, we are reassured for the time being. We have the full support of the vast majority of our partners. Nevertheless, the great vagueness that currently reigns in our sector does not offer us any guarantee. Of course, our partners support us but we don’t yet know to what extent they could be impacted on their side. If they were seriously affected, this could have consequences for MaMa.

Interview: Manfred Tari