Pirates have upper hand as music industry meets

Monday 24 January 2011 01:00

Thousands of music industry executives are to meet at its annual trade fair to search for new ways to make fans pay for recordings and to turn the tide against digital piracy.

The MIDEM music trade show will bring 7,000 of the global industry's biggest players together on the French Riviera for four days from Sunday.

"Music fans have never had such choice and ease of access to licensed music," said Frances Moore, Chief Executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), in IFPI's annual report released Thursday.

"Around the world, legitimate music services are catering to the lifestyle, taste and modes of access preferred by consumers," he said.

But IFPI statistics reveal that piracy is hitting investment in new music, making it more difficult for new artists to break through.

Total sales by debut artists in the global top 50 album chart in 2010 were only one quarter of their level in 2003, highlighting the cash-flow problem facing artists, musicians and music lovers as well as the industry.

"On the Internet you still find millions of tracks offered illegally and downloaded without the people who made this music, the creative minds behind all these tracks, receiving fair payment," said German jazzman Roger Cicero.

"Some of us are in the lucky position of continuing to benefit from our past successes, so Internet piracy mainly hits young, up-and-coming talents for whom every single euro really counts," he said, in the report.

Despite the gloom, digital music revenues continued to grow last year by an estimated six percent to $4.6 billion (3.4 billion euros) thanks to more than 400-plus licensed online music services.

Other sectors that help musicians earn additional revenue today include music publishing and the increasingly important business of synchronisation, which places artists' music in films, video games, TV and advertising.

But the spotlight this year once again will be on how to find new sources of revenue in a sector where the technology is constantly evolving.

"Thanks to new technologies, users today can access music when and where they want in a multitude of ways," MIDEM Director Dominique Leguern told AFP.

The challenge now is to ensure that new forms of music are successful, how to help artists reach fans in this fragmented environment, how to license music and how to set-up an economic model for social networks, Leguern said.

This year's 45th MIDEM has attracted a much higher number of young executives from the fledgling digital companies that the sector hopes will sink the pirates by developing new payment and licensing models.

Musical stars including Will-i-am of the Black Eyed Peas, James Blunt, Shakira, Germaine Jackson and France's Mylene Farmer will be in Cannes for the NRJ music awards alongside the trade show.

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