The last word: The industry's energy gives cause for optimism in 2007

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The Independent Culture

Demob happy, I'm on my way home from Midem, the music industry's annual international trade fair. Being the music industry, this has to be held on the Riviera in the South of France. It's been a tough few days...

High on adrenalin and feverish deal making, the place pulsed with entrepreneurial energy. This event shows the independent record companies in all their glory. Many of these companies have been going to Midem for decades, with the same people who founded them still running them, and still as intoxicated with being able to introduce their music to the world.

But back at home it is a different story. 2006 was a tough year for the independent music industry, with the charts at the end of last year almost devoid of independently produced albums, in part due to the supermarkets' dogged dedication to supporting the majors with their priority artists, and to ferocious price-cutting on the high street.

A major casualty of this unhealthy state of affairs is high street retailer Music Zone, who have recently been in the news after administrators failed to find a buyer for the chain of stores.

Losing yet another outlet for specialist music is a blow to independents, as they rely on the stores that care about the music more than the prices. Because, despite all the endless chat about digital at Midem, good old-fashioned sales of CDs and vinyl still make up the majority of our business.

True, the business is evolving, and the opportunities will be immense once the digital revolution has settled down and everyone can work the gadgets which promise us unlimited access to everything, anywhere, anytime.

But in the meantime, and judging by the spirit of the independent record companies at Midem, it is onward and upward. Everyone I spoke to was enthusiastic, and some will make it through the current malaise in the high street to find their fans, because they are out there and alert to the problems anyway.

We can look forward to seeing some of the best new music live in our new AIM Independent Sessions, in association with Emusic, to be held at the Cobden Club in London. Tickets are free to first comers and details are on page 21. We look forward to seeing you there.

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