Music Industry Eyes Digital Age With Growing Optimism | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 28.01.2007
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Music Industry Eyes Digital Age With Growing Optimism

At the 2007 Midem music fair in Cannes, artists and executives from the music and media industries come to discuss and promote the latest fads and trends. One forum tackled the digital age with much optimism.

Consumers and sellers mingle with the movers and shakers at Midem 2007 in Cannes

Consumers and sellers mingle with the movers and shakers at Midem 2007 in Cannes

All the talk at the Midem international music market's Net Forum in Cannes on Monday was of the digital age and whether artists were getting what they deserved in terms of money and exposure. Most of the participants in the discussion agreed that the advances in technology had done much to secure theirs and music's future.

Jeremy Dawson, a member of the US band Shiny Toy Guns, was one of the people who expressed his satisfaction with the contribution the Internet and digital media had made to the music industry. Citing the example of his band, Dawson said that by creating their own identity on MySpace, the group had reached a worldwide audience that even the most dynamic record company would have found impossible in the same amount of time.

"The social networks have no borders, they are global," Dawson told those attending the forum. "You can reach any and everybody at any time -- every age group, every genre -- and they themselves are then used as a marketing tool."

However, Dawson believes that the traditional ways of breaking through and creating a fan base, like touring, will never be overtaken by the Internet -- and shouldn't. "The Internet is like an airline," he said. "It offers an alternative; just like television and the radio, the Internet is now just another option, another airline you can take. They will continue to operate in unity and never destroy each other."

Cross-border licensing problems

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Artists can make huge bounds through MySpace

Even the big media companies seem to hold no fear of the future. EMI, the biggest music publisher in the world, also has high hopes for promotional platforms and the benefits they can bring their artists.

"We think that social networks and the progressive expansion of promotion are very promising," said EMI President Roger Faxon. "If we create the right licensing system for this, the music market will continue to blossom. If not, the pessimists will be proved right and piracy will blossom, but we will not allow this."

And there lies the biggest of the problems facing the music industry in such a self-empowered world: each region has its own licensing systems. In Europe, the record companies were slow to react to the impact of digitization and failed to secure copyrights.

Now, according to EMI's Faxon, international media giants are combining and catching up fast.

"We have cooperated with Germany's GEMA and Britain's Alliance (artist copyright organizations) to create a pan-European copyright protection organization which simplifies licensing," he said.

Taking on illegal downloading

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Licensing partnerships can help tackle music piracy

As well as securing cross-border licensing agreements for digital media, EMI is involved in promoting download services which aim to compete with illegal sites. Its own Spiral Frog service was set up to provide consumers with higher quality downloads than they could get from file sharing and peer-to-peer platforms.

Users can download the music for free but the artists do not lose out; reaping financial benefits from the advertising revenue.

The artists themselves still see a silver lining to being illegally downloaded or having their work bootlegged and shown/played on the Internet. Will.i.am, singer with The Black Eyed Peas, said that even if someone records part of his band's show on a mobile phone and then posts it on open broadcasting platform YouTube, therefore potentially damaging sales of the show's DVD release, it's still not all bad news.

A silver lining to music piracy

Screenshot YouTube, Portal für Amateurfilmer

There's no such thing as bad publicity...

"Our name is out there," the rapper, producer and composer said. "It's on everyone's lips who saw that clip and that is useful when you're touring. If people see you on YouTube and like what they see, then they will want to come and see you live."

What does make The Black Eyed Peas nervous is how the music industry reacts to the demise of the CD.

"The CD has no market anymore," Will.i.am said. "The kids today who have all these new toys don't care about this format that their brother was into years ago. A product in a plastic cover means nothing these days."

That's not to say that the companies who produce the product are likely to go the same way. There still needs to be a record company to groom and promote the next Michael Jackson or Marvin Gaye. At least for now.

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