The future of music counted in months

Once again, MidemNet will be debating the future of music this year prior to Midem itself. Won’t the current financial mayhem only make life more difficult? What is left for music as a business? Well, I’d say the relatively good news is that music as a business has already sunk 50% in value since 2003. So logically, there is not much lower it can go. Plus, an awful lot of restructuring and downsizing has been taking place already. The structures in place are probably ready for a rise in business when it comes.

In their blogs (see the sidebar), Ted Cohen and Gerd Leonherd are quite upbeat. They see a new approach to the business shaping up. After years of blocking access and ignoring possible partnerships with other media (such as online), the major labels seem to be finally coming around to the idea of engaging with the world rather than trying to control it.

Amazon is now selling DRM-free files (although of course 7Digital and eMusic have already been doing so successfully for some time). There is also talk of licensing music to major sites. It’s not mentioned, but the name Google is ringing in my ears.

So upbeat, they are! But of course this is the optimism of a business that is battered and bruised. Are they just clutching at straws? One of the big dangers is that some people are giving up. The temptation is to stop investing and see what happens. I’m not sure when that has ever worked. But what is true is that when people talk of the future these days they mean the immediate future, not something ten years from now. So now is the time to talk to the distributors, licensors, platforms, brands and media that have audiences. Nothing will happen without experienced professionals that are quick on their feet, plus a flow of exciting new music.

Midem 2009 will again provide the platform on which new alliances will be built. It’s going to be an interesting few days in Cannes next January.

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