The Yank contingent was noticeably absent at the annual Midem bash in Cannes (Jan. 20 to 24), as the Persian Gulf war upset organizers’ plans to celebrate the confab’s 25th year. Nevertheless, those who did make the trip arrived in fine dealmaking spirits.

Total attendance was nearly a third below preregistration figures, with Midem chief exec Xavier Roy reporting 6,475 participants – well short of last year’s 8,200 attendees. There were 65% fewer Yank companies than last year, and Japanese attendance was down sharply. Hotels reported that about 30% of their expected guests posted last-minute cancellations.

Of the big names, former Midem man of the year Quincy Jones and Ray Charles were no-shows, but Philips head Jan Timmer – Midem’s man of the decade – did attend.

In keeping with the times, security at the Palais des Festivals reached new heights – the building was termed “the bunker” – and market organizers decided to cancel the opening gala.

“Despite current events, Midem fully realized its role as the essential meeting place for the international music industry,” per Roy. “Serious business was the order of the day.”

Perhaps the most talked about deal was Sony Music Intl.’s (formerly CBS Intl.) licensing agreement with Belgian dance label ARS, covering most of the world outside North America. ARS released last year’s debut album by Technotronic, which sold over 6.5 million units worldwide.

Gallic record producer and distributor Vogue and Soviet national diskery Melodiya launched a 50-50 joint venture, to be called Melodiya European Corp. The venture gives the new company exclusive distrib rights to the Melodiya catalog in western Europe. Vogue also was seeking similar pacts with Hungary’s Hungaroton label and with Czech concerns.

Poland’s Polskie Nagrania also announced plans to privatize in the next few weeks.

With key French players in attendance, Gallic distribbery Fnac chose Midem to unveil its new Fnac Music label. The new company hopes to carve itself 5% of the 5.35 billion francs ($1 billion) French market.

It’s a French market that needs an injection of life, per Patrick Zelnik, prez of Virgin France. Zelnik warned that while hunger for CDs helped biz grow 30% in 1988 and 1989, revenues only climbed 10% in 1990.

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