By Inês Henriques and Teresa Pinheiro
MIL – Lisbon International Music Network
A music festival and convention that turns Lisbon into a meeting point for the portuguese speaking music markets
MIL – Lisbon International Music Network
MIL – Lisbon International Music Network is a festival and convention focused on the dissemination and internationalization of current music and the opening of new markets. As an exchange platform, MIL is committed to creating an artistic program that involves the city, and thoughtfully combines debates, masterclasses and professional meetings between the different agents of the music industry with a great variety of emerging alternative artists and both national and international projects. The focus of the festival is the current musical production scene in Portuguese-speaking countries, with the goal of building and maintaining a successful communication between the European, the African and the South American markets.
MIL’s agenda is composed of two different programs: The Pro Program and the Artistic Program. On the one hand, the Pro Program is thought out for national and international professionals from all sectors of the music industry. It is built around conferences, debates and workshops that encourage sharing experiences and knowledge in between its participants. By creating a fertile ground for networking opportunities, the Pro Program allows agents, artists promoters and journalists to present their work and exchange ideas and contacts. On the other hand, the Artistic Program is available for a general audience and drives its strength from the live component of the festival, presenting a variety of showcases that combines emerging alternative projects of both Portuguese-speaking artists and their international counterparts.
MIL intends to involve the city of Lisbon in its programming, streamlining the different spaces that characterize the Cais do Sodré neighborhood. The 2020 edition would have the involvement of 9 spaces (clubs / social spaces) in the Artistic program and the Pro program would take place at the Marqueses de Pombal Palace, in Janelas Verdes.
The main working lines of MIL are described below:
Innovation, creativity, and trends. MIL focuses its attention on emerging popular music projects and innovative concepts which, by exploring new sounds and new intersections, create new trends. In parallel with innovation in creation, MIL highlights the importance of technological innovation and creativity that drives the growth of the music and cultural sector and is at the service of content production, editing and dissemination, through a program of presentation sessions and workshops.
Promotion of modern popular music from Portuguese languages. It is the starting point of this project. Lisbon is the strategic capital where Portuguese music and music from Portuguese-speaking countries are projected for international markets. At least 50% of the artists selected for each edition of MIL come from countries where Portuguese is spoken.
Music: expression and communication vehicle. Popular music is perhaps the artistic expression that involves more creators and communicates with a wider audience. Its timeliness and ease of dissemination make it a crucial content for reading and recording cultural news. It is a privileged medium for sharing the ideas and values of current generations, which the festival explores through showcases that take place in a rhythmic way in the different venues which constitute the mainstays of the festival’s windows.
Knowledge training and sharing. It is one of the pillars of this project and is developed through two working models: workshops and debates. The workshops are advanced training modules in important areas for professionals in the music sector. The debates are panels of experts who discuss with each other, and with the professional public, current topics of interest to the sector.
Market and business. The success of this initiative is measured by the business opportunities it creates. The presence of professionals from different countries, buyers and sellers, in the same city, at the same event, is the starting point. MIL proposes to create a business context that reflects beyond the formal situations that characterize the two programs of the festival, through the interaction of the various artists, agents and professionals over its three days,
Some tools are made available to professionals to facilitate their work:
- Shared database: a network of contacts from all participants is shared through an online platform, creating the opportunity to prepare the work for promoting and scheduling meetings;
- Speed meetings: a space for quick meetings between professionals, coordinated by the MIL organization which, studying the profile of the participants, seeks to combine complementary interests.
MIL’s overall communication strategy is divided into two different but complementary strategies that follow the festival’s programmes. The first one is focused on promoting the professional programme and is addressed at national and international professionals from the music and cultural sectors. Its main goal is not only to share MIL’s training programme, but also the network of professionals that will be brought together during the festival and the exchange opportunities that will result from it. This work is made mostly via e-mail marketing, sent to a professional database of +2k subscribers, LinkedIn and Twitter. The second one is focused on promoting MIL’s artistic programme and aims to reach wider and younger audiences of national concert goers. While the first is based on a B2B strategy, here there is a shift to a B2C strategy. Hence, the dissemination of the artistic programme takes place on Facebook and Instagram, Facebook and Google Ads, and through the national press.
The festival’s communication strategy is also deeply rooted in the creation of exclusive and original multimedia contents featuring artists and professionals. Contrary to many homologous festivals, MIL’s visual identity changes every year in an attempt to find new ways to express its energy following different design trends.
Partnerships and projects
Since its first edition in 2017, MIL has been building strong relationships with organizations and festivals in a way of exchanging support, knowledge and experiences. It is the case of Live DMA –an European non-governmental network working to support and promote the conditions of the live music sector– and of Liveurope –an initiative supporting concert venues in their efforts to promote up-and-coming European artists– which organize their annual members’ meetings at MIL.
Additionally, MaMA Festival & Convention, SIM – Semana Internacional de Música de São Paulo, Bananada, WBM – Wallonia Brussels Music, Sodec Québec, Blå, BCN Music Export and Linecheck are showcase festivals, music venues and export offices working together with MIL, not only to enrich the festival’s diverse program, but also to contribute to the internationalization of artists.
Keychange is an international movement that aims to accelerate change and create a better, more inclusive music industry for present and future generations. Among other projects, Keychange launched a gender balance pledge for music organisations, which MIL signed in 2018. Within the masculine-feminine gender representation, the 2020 edition reached a proportion of 40-60 in the festival and 50-50 in the convention line-ups.
In 2019, MIL joined five other internationally referenced music conventions (MaMA Festival & Convention [FR]; Un-Convention [UK]; Athens Music Week [GR]; Nouvelle Prague [CZ] and Linecheck [IT]) to create JUMP – European Music Market Accelerator, a training program for European professionals related to the music industry with innovative ideas to develop the sector. The initiative, financed by European Commission’s program Creative Europe, is committed to offer its participants the necessary know-how and practical tools to allow them to develop their innovative business idea. Therefore, JUMP is one of the innovation components of MIL, enhancing the development of new projects aiming at the evolution of the music sector.
Finally, in 2020, MIL initiated a new project: the MIL Magazine. It is a bilingual project with a national and international approach, which has as its starting point in each edition a central theme from which the exploration of different approaches and relationships with other themes derive, all of them relevant to the music industries today. Through the preparation of essays, interviews and research reports, this project aims to be a space for reflection and critical theory where challenging perspectives on the topics covered will be introduced. The magazine is aimed at professionals in the music, cultural and creative industries, oriented to the national and Portuguese-speaking countries. Its edition exists in two formats: physical (annual edition, launched at the festival) and digital (website with updated information).
As many other music events, MIL 2020 unfortunately was cancelled following the national contingency plan for COVID-19, issued by the Directorate-general of Health of Portugal. More than 30 talks were going to bring together professionals from the music and culture sectors in a unique sharing of knowledge and experiences. Hence, to keep thinking about the present and future of these sectors, MIL got back to some of the topics that were going to be discussed during the festival and put them up for discussion in online talks. With MIL URL talks, MIL tried to reinforce its training and innovation components and adapt them to the current context. This training programme was also part of JUMP – European Music Market. MIL URL Talks kicked off with a Facebook livestream panel in Portuguese about deconfinement process for the live music sector and, along the month of June, MIL shared on its socials the outcome of five MIL URL talks.The cancellation of the fourth edition of the MIL led to the adoption of new formats for debate and training to keep the joint debate on the present and the future of the music and culture sectors open.
After the launch of the MIL URL talks online series, with MIL after MIL the discussion and sharing of experiences between professionals in these sectors took place live. Starting from the space for reflection and critical theory initiated in the magazine, and continuing it during the month of September, MIL programmed three cycles of conversations, masterclasses and workshops that would have taken place at MIL 2020. MIL after MIL cycles were divided into three themes –music and cities, sustainability in the music industry and equality, representativeness, and diversity– and took place in different cultural venues of Lisbon.
MIL is a meeting point for professionals in the music industries from around the world, boosting business opportunities and opening markets. Since MIL emerged, it has grown from edition to edition. The third edition, held in 2019, received about 920 participants, including musicians and professionals, from 29 different nationalities, with the presence of nearly 4,000 spectators.
In the future, MIL intends to continue meeting its goals based on innovation, creativity, and new trends. The exploitation of music as a vehicle for expression and communication, the dissemination of music produced in Portuguese-speaking countries, the formation and sharing of knowledge, as well as the creation and strengthening of links between the European and Brazilian markets, are some of the main pillars of this project that will continue to be worked on and reinforced in the next editions.
Questions for further discussion
- With travels limited, many showcase festivals are moving to the virtual world and investing in digital editions. Is this the right path? How to reach a healthy balance between the digital and physical format?
- One of the most important components of such events is their internationalization and networking. How to keep investing in it during the pandemic?
- Given the rising investment in digital platforms, it is now possible for festivals to extend their training programmes throughout the year and feed the discussion and exchange of ideas on a more permanent basis. What is the role of such moments in empowering the music and culture sector as a whole?
- Can we think of these festivals as core think tanks to discuss the future of the music and cultural industry?
- Being the artistic programmes now very limited, as well as the live component itself, will these festivals be able to work as a showcase to the most exciting and fresh trends in popular music?
Inês Henriques graduated in Communication Sciences and has a master’s degree in Musicology. For the past three years, she has been responsible for handling all PR & Communication matters at CTL – Cultural Trend Lisbon, a cultural enterprise that leads projects such as Musicbox, MIL – Lisbon International Music Network, Casa do Capitão, Festival Silêncio and Jameson Urban Routes. She is also part of the MIL’s convention programme team.
With a degree in Artistic Studies from the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon, Teresa Pinheiro completed a master’s degree in Cultural Management from the Faculty of Human Sciences of the Catholic University. Her final dissertation “The Exhibition as Knowledge Production” studied and questioned the development of the contemporary art exhibition as a way of producing knowledge, exploring processes of collaboration, participation, and mediation. It is in these areas that Teresa continues her research while working on cultural production. Teresa was part of the production/logistics teams for events such as Festival Silêncio, The School of Live Conference, Eurovision, Rock in Rio and Sol da Caparica, and was responsible for the communication and the residency program at Hangar – Artistic Research Center. Currently, Teresa works on the coordination of MIL – Lisbon International Music Network convention, where she co-organizes the professional program of the festival, and is co-founder of the #garanteolugar project.
Cover photo: ©AnaViotti_Fogo Fogo-25 – MIL 2019