On Music: MIDEM presenters aim to stop music piracy

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Stopping music piracy was the main topic this week when the MIDEM trade show moved into its final sessions.

More than 7,000 attendees arrived in Cannes, France, Saturday, Jan. 22, for the five-day show. The annual event was centered largely on how to stop millions of users from downloading free music and buying from vendors in a growing Internet black market.

Insiders say the ability to download music for free not only comes with financial consequences, it prevents new artists from breaking into the mainstream. Even as iTunes and other digital download services gain steam, pirate software still makes it possible for millions to obtain large catalogs of music for free.

“Music fans have never had such choice and ease of access to licensed music,” International Federation of the Phonographic Industry CEO Frances Moore said. “Around the world, legitimate music services are catering to the lifestyle, taste and modes of access preferred by consumers.”

Meantime, the numbers continue to tell the story. Last year, total album sales by debut artists were only about one-quarter of where they were in 2003. While some new artists do give away a song or two, and some are leaked digitally, the majority of material is still available through free downloads.

“On the Internet, you still find millions of tracks downloaded without the people who made this music—the creative minds behind all these tracks—receiving fair payment,” jazz musician Roger Cicero said. “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.”

Cicero hasn’t been alone in his claims. Napster came under fire in 2000, after Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich became an unofficial spokesman for musicians, after realizing hundreds of back catalogs were being distributed through the free peer-to-peer network.

The MIDEM show wasn’t entirely encased in doom-and-gloom. In spite of piracy, more than 400 licensed online music services exist today. In 2010, digital music revenues increased by almost 7 percent.

Show presenters also unveiled innovative tools to help musicians earn additional money while their albums are marketed. In the last five years, scores of online publishing houses have emerged. Each specializes in placing music into films, advertising, television and video games.

MIDEM, which stands for Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale, is the world’s largest industry trade show. More than 200,000 companies have been represented, and some 20,000 journalists have covered the event since 1967. The 2011 show was held at the famed Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the site of the Cannes Film Festival.

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