Piracy-hit music industry seeking new ways to bounce back

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The beleaguered global music industry enters the decade hoping to turn a corner by tackling piracy head on while drumming up new sources of revenue.

Grim statistics this week from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) show sales falling by some 30 percent since 2004 as piracy surged.

But a huge 12 percent leap in revenue from digital channels between 2008 and 2009 should help lighten the mood at the industry's biggest annual get-together starting Sunday at the MIDEM trade festival in this Riviera resort.

The figures show digitally-bought music now accounting for 27 percent of total music sales - 4.2 billion dollars of 15.8 billion dollars in 2009.

"Our vision is music availability everywhere, at any time and in any place. But the biggest question is how do we monetise it in an environment of widespread piracy," Eric Daugan, Senior Vice President Commercial Strategy, Warner Music International EMEA, said in an IFPI report released Thursday.

Battered by the slump in CD sales worldwide and the slow response to rampant illegal music downloads and new digital platforms, the industry is finally stepping up efforts to reverse its fortunes.

Next week's trade fair will be "all about how to monetise access to music," MIDEM Director Dominique Leguern told AFP in an interview.

"Today, the number of technical solutions and different offers (streaming, downloads, etc) are multiplying ... We want to highlight these opportunities and show participants how to access them," he added.

Many of the world's leading online, advertising, video, mobile and other technology leaders will also be sharing expertise in new revenue streams, including MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta, who will give his first keynote address outside the United States.

Guitarist Ed O'Brien from British band Radiohead, which shocked the record industry in 2007 by allowing fans to decide how much they wanted to pay to download their new album, will also fly in to discuss the band's use of the Web to reach audiences.

"The music industry is finally seeing the Web as an opportunity more than a threat. Social software and devices such as the iPhone open new, extraordinary opportunities to innovate," said Daniel Ek, CEO of Sweden's music streaming service, Spotify.

This year's MIDEM is offering for the first time a wide range of matchmaking and networking sessions as well as conferences on how to finance and develop artists' careers beyond the simple CD - using social networks such as Twitter and YouTube - or tips on how to get music used in films, TV series and video games or advertising campaigns.

"We are focusing heavily on learning, education and networking because we have to help our participants to identify those elusive revenue streams," Leguern stressed.

Thanks to the world economic crisis and the strain in the music industry. attendance at MIDEM is expected to be down for the second year running at around 7,000 participants.

But managers of music sensations including Blur, Mika, James Blunt, Lily Allen and the Artic Monkeys will be in town to talk about how they are gradually taking on the former role of record labels by helping guide their artists' careers and manage their rights.

New countries attending for the first time this year include Iceland, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ghana, Madagascar and Vietnam.

Asia will be making waves with Korea, Taiwan and Japan due to showcase their latest talent - including Japanese dance act Amwe, Taiwanese indie singer and composer Crowd Lu and Korean girl band F(X).

But it will be the sounds of South Africa on centre-stage as the Country of Honour kicks off a packed programme of events to promote its culture ahead of its hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup this summer.