Midem confab will bow island acts, labels

MIAMI — With Latin repertoire hotter than ever, some 3,000 music industry execs and acts will converge on Miami Beach Tuesday for Midem’s second annual Latin America & Caribbean confab this week. The gathering will boast its first appearance of artists and labels from Cuba.

The convention, which runs through Friday and has a strong English-language component, also begins its transition into a pan-American affair, Midem mu-sic director Christophe Blum told Daily Variety.

“Next year it will be ‘Midem Americas,’ ” he said. “Not all American labels are able to get to our event in Cannes, and there’s nothing yet comparable to Midem in the U.S.” The Cannes event is typically held at the beginning of the year.

“This year, we’re taking a step in that direction with the ‘Midem Dance Event,’ with 30 dance and techno companies in one pavilion and six concerts,” he added.

Cuban politics

A host committee has raised more than $125,000 from sponsors — including DreamWorks and the Cisneros Group — to replace funding lost with the withdrawal of Miami’s Convention Bureau. Having the bureau involved violated a local prohibition on Miami-Dade County authorities doing business with Cubans.

But hopes that Midem might this year focus on music without interference from Cuban-exile politics collapsed during the week leading up to the confab when the opening gala was shifted from a county-owned venue to a privately owned one.

A Tuesday night jam session of Cuban musicians — including Company Segundo, Chucho Valdes and La Charanga Rubalcaba — is being looked upon as one of the galvanizing events of the week, though it will be closed to the general public.

Other anticipated highlights include the U.S. debut of Brazil’s hottest band, the 40-member samba-pop So Pra Contrariar on which BMG is spending $100,000 for the group’s Midem visit — as part of a $500,000 push to nab the band crossover status.

Song and speech

The bow of tenor Placido Domingo’s album, “Por Amor” on Warner Intl., featuring songs by late Mexican balladeer Agustin Lara, and a keynote speech by Warner Latin prexy Andre Midani — who has invited veteran songster Gilberto Gil to participate — are also widely anticipated.

The presentation of Midem Latino’s first Man of the Year award to Eduardo Bautista, the prexy of Spanish composers’ society SGAE and the Recording Industry Assn. of America’s opening of a Miami office (which will oversee Spanish-lingo anti-piracy efforts in the U.S.) are also hallmarks of this year’s confab.

RIAA will also release its semi-annual survey of Latino shipments, which is expected to illustrate the significant growth of Latin product during the year. SoundScan’s half-year sales report released earlier this month showed an 11% rise in U.S. Latin album sales (6.94 million units).

“There’s been a much more aggressive marketing and promotion effort (by record labels) — we’re seeing the kind of campaigns that before only applied to mainstream English-language music,” said Hilary Rosen, CEO of the RIAA.

Blum is planning next year’s event for June 22-25 with a New Orleans locale a possibility.

(Adam Sandler in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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