Inclusive Midem dials into local talent

CANNES — “Fifty Danish jazz musicians march into a French hall” sounds like the opening of a joke, but it was serious business last week in Cannes.

That’s when country after country and region after region hammered home the point that their musical output is ripe for commercial exploitation.

In Denmark’s case, the message was that it has an active jazz community that’s ready to be discovered beyond its borders.

Nearly all of the musicmakers, sellers and buyers gathered for the six-day Midem confab (Jan. 24-29) were in fact clamoring for one or another open-door policy.

In some cases, they brought a plan of action to the Croisette.

Musician-producer Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel unveiled their so-called Mudda Manifesto that states artists need to be invited to the table when the business world writes the rules for downloading.

“By bringing together the creative side and the business side, we’ll come up with a different result than either side would have done by themselves,” Eno says.

Mobile phone companies stated their intent to confabbers to work as partners with labels and publishers to exploit the world of ring tones and true tones, in which entire songs can be downloaded onto a cell phone. Key is getting the U.S. to catch up to Asia and Europe.

And then there’s Denmark, which staged electronic music and jazz concerts to show off its musicians to the rest of the world; and Poland, which made its biggest Midem splash ever, simply to ask for more cultural recognition within Europe.

Nearly all were armed with CDs that exposed the breadth of their area’s music.

“I am an ambassador,” exclaimed Giorgio Valletta of PiemonteGroove, a dance music collective from Turin, Italy, “who wants to project a new image of the area prior to the 2006 Olympics.”

Working in conjunction with Arezzo Wave, which holds a music festival every July and staged a four-act concert at Midem, PiemonteGroove handed out more than half its 10,000 two-CD compilations and overstuffed information packets.

One PiemonteGroove act has been booked to play at Austin’s South by Southwest fest in March.

Valletta’s promotional mission was mirrored in many of the booths.

Memphis, Tenn., is using music as part of its strategy to attract youngish professionals.

“We’re redeveloping and recasting Memphis to raise the ‘Bohemian index,’ ” says Rey Flemings, prexy-CEO of the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission.

“We want to show that we have a musical history” from the invention of rock ‘n’ roll up through the rap genre of crunk, he notes, “and that Memphis is a great place to locate and independent label.”

There’s even a market — albeit small — for classical music from the Basque country. But Juan Rekarte of the 9-year-old Art Records has been cautious in spreading his wings despite releasing 18 titles in 2003. Licensing has drawn limited interest, and shipping and warehousing costs have made foreign shipments prohibitive.

“People don’t realize how much the midprice compilations sold in grocery stores hurt our business,” Rekarte says.

But with ever-smaller niches come new strategies.

Rekarte is keenly aware the contempo classical buyer may want to cherry-pick parts of symphonies and operas, and he has begun talks with labels in London, New Zealand and Portugal about starting a service similar to Apple’s iTunes that would offer individual movements within works for sale.

“Some people want to put together their collections like a sandwich — buy their bread over here and their meat in another place,” Rekarte says. “We need to offer the option.”

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