Digital music calls the tune at France's MIDEM

20th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, Jan 23 (AFP) - The explosion in digital music has given a much-needed shot in the arm to the struggling global music industry that gathered here Sunday for the opening of the influential annual music trade fair, MIDEM.

CANNES, France, Jan 23 (AFP) - The explosion in digital music has given a much-needed shot in the arm to the struggling global music industry that gathered here Sunday for the opening of the influential annual music trade fair, MIDEM.

But while the new online music stores and portable jukeboxes are ringing up sales, the sector has not turned the corner yet, industry experts cautioned.

News that online music sales in Europe and the United States jumped in 2004, with a tenfold increase to more than 200 million paid-for downloaded tracks, could not have come at a better time for the industry's movers and shakers.

More than 9,000 music industry bigwigs have jetted into the small Mediterranean resort of Cannes for the five-day MIDEM.

And this year they have been joined in force by the brightest and best brains from the high-tech sectors as music and technology merge.

2004 saw digital music come of age with portable music players, led by Apple's iPod flying off the shelves and the latest mobile phones offering new ways to enjoy music start to come to market.

But these new revenue streams are far from big enough yet to make up for the slump in album sales, which the industry blamed on the rapid spread of illegal Internet music downloading.

Physical sales rose in the United States last year for the first time in some time, but it is too early to say that the industry is out of the woods, John Kennedy, boss of the global recording industry body, the IFPI, said Saturday.

"We don't yet have the full international picture - but it certainly will be much less gloomy than in recent years," he told delegates at the one-day MidemNet, the annual digital-music brainstorming conference that traditionally takes place on the eve of the MIDEM.

With 10 million iPods now on the market, 230 million tracks sold through the iTunes online store and USD 1 billion (EUR 760 million) of digital revenue in Japan - to name just three major areas of digital growth - record numbers of participants jammed into this year's MidemNet.

Organisers said nearly 1000 people had attended, compared to 600 last year.

The high cost of moving to digital, music licensing red-tape and lack of compatibility between the various systems is slowing things up, however, industry experts said here.

"Success hangs on giving consumers the opportunity to enjoy music without having to worry about how to operate it," commented EMI senior executive, Ted Cohen.

Online digital piracy also continues to haunt the record industry and is not going to go away.

"Legal alternatives will always struggle to compete with free," Kennedy said.

But illegal file sharers can no longer claim "they are Robin Hood sharing great music amongst those who otherwise could not get it online," he added.

Last year saw the industry file 7,000 court cases against illegal downloaders.

This is not something it relished, Kennedy said, but "the problem will not go away of its own accord," he added.

Price will be the key to how fast digital music will take off, experts underlined. "Intelligent pricing will speed up the uptake," Cohen emphasised.

Although digital accounts today for just around two percent of worldwide music, it will be the dominant theme at the main MIDEM music market that runs until January 27.

It seems everyone is eager to snap up musical content for the increasingly popular services that range from ring tones to video clips and play stations.

Less technological-savvy music lovers, however, should not despair. MIDEM will also concentrate this year on the live performance sector that has never been more alive and kicking.

It seems artists have picked up their instruments and hit the road to combat falling record sales. And it has paid off, boosted by today's new merchandising opportunities, according to MIDEM Director Dominique Leguern.

Europe and North America dominate the exhibition hall at MIDEM but more Asian exhibitors are in town than last year.

China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong are all sending more exhibitors, while newcomers include Ghana, Barbados and the Baltic countries.

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article