Combat Mutes Midem As Yankees Stay Home

Cannes-do is turning into Cannes-don’t as an increasing number of music concerns, worried over war in the Persian gulf, have canceled their plans to attend the 25th annual Midem conference in the French town.

Fest organizers said the international confab would go ahead as planned, though the pullouts, led by most of the major U.S. companies, meant the annulment of several seminars and meetings.

“I don’t know why they don’t just cancel the whole thing,” said a U.S. music publishing exec, who requested anonymity.

Midem officials would not divulge how many cancellations they had received, but it appears that the number of actual attendees will be well below the pre-registered 9,000. An informal head count indicated that actual U.S. presence would be no more than a third of the pre-registered 900 people.

Among U.S. cancellations: MCA, Polygram, SBK, Atlantic, Profile, Tommy Boy, EMI Records, Sony Music, MCA, BMG, Warner/Chappell and EMI Music Publishing and members of ASCAP and BMI.

A Sony Music spokesman said all its employees were told to avoid international travel; a promo tour for dance band C & C Music Factory was canceled, while rap group the Afros nixed its Cannes appearance.

Warner Bros. said the few people planning to attend the conference in the first place were mostly based in Europe, echoing similar statements from Virgin’s and Capitol-EMI’s U.S. offices.

Also pulling out was the National Music Publishers Assn., which was set to preside over a Jan. 22 Intl. Copyright Coalition meeting that was scuttled.

ASCAP managing director Gloria Messinger, who was skedded to speak at the Intl. Copyright Coalition panel, noted that the conference “is a great opportunity to meet with the Europeans,” but added that only three ASCAP reps already stationed in Europe would be attending.

Wholesale Yank pullouts have prompted other no-shows, and the pattern snowballed world wide. Many British companies were cutting down their representation, with Polydor and WEA Records pulling out and BMG Music Publishing’s Brit office sending a skeleton staff of two.

“I think that even the European turnout will be poor,” said Profile prexy Cory Robbins. “Not necessarily because of the war but because there will be no Americans there to speak of.”

John Hall, head of Filmtrax pubbery, predicted “it will be a pretty dead Midem.”

At press time, several Australian companies had canceled as well, per publicity coordinator Lundy Castellano.

Peter Dadswell, secretary of Britain’s Music Publishers Assn., said the the Japanese contingent at Midem, traveling under the JASRAC umbrella (Japanese performing rights body), pulled out.

“Those who are going are delighted to go and feel quite secure,” Messinger said, “but they will leave Cannes should anything happen.”

Midem chief exec Xavier Roy assured, “All necessary measures have already been taken both inside and outside the Palais des Festivals and at all other Midem sites to ensure the safety of all our participants.”

But Robbins at Profile said, “It just doesn’t look good.” Robbins had planned to lead a contingent of six employees to the confab but said the fact that “hardly anybody else” is going played as much of a role in his decision as the breakout of war.

Jeremy Silver of the British Phonographic Industry (the diskeries’ trade body) was a bit more sanguine about British attendance. “There’s a little bit of a wobble but nothing significant.”

Also remaining confident was Steve Tannett, managing director of IRS Records in the U.K. Though most American IRS execs had either cancelled or were undecided at press time about attending, Tannett was pushing ahead; the label’s new band 29 Palms was scheduled to play a showcase concert at the festival.

“I’m under the impression that there are still going to be a lot of people down there,” Tannett said.

The gulf situation throws into question other international travel plans. A spokesman said that Polygram prexy/CEO Alain Levy had expressed some trepidation about flying from London to Los Angeles for the American Music Awards Jan. 28.

A spokesman for the Recording Industry Assn. of America, which had not planned on sending representatives to Midem, said the organization had suspended all international business travel. RIAA attorney Neil Turkewitz was scheduled to fly to London on business Jan. 15 but was told not to go.

Jeremy Coopman in London and Blake Murdoch in Sydney contributed to this report.

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