Mart's on an upbeat note

CANNES — Delegates at Midem, Europe’s biggest music industry trade fair, are being told they can look forward to significant increases in revenue — if they can get focused.

After years of declining income due to online piracy via peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, the industry is on the brink of a new boom, according to those involved in the development of legitimate services.

“There is a huge amount of back catalog not being exploited to its full potential,” declared Richard Wheeler, VP of digital development at Sanctuary Records U.K., on Saturday. “And with this now being made available as digital music, it gives us another major revenue stream.”

But independent companies could lose out if they do not invest adequate resources.

“Administration is not the indies’ strong point,” said Alison Wenham, chair of U.K. indies trade body Aim. “But the indies have to understand that although admin is not cool, it’s necessary if they want to be paid.”

With the major record companies directing vast resources into marketing their repertoire in online stores, Dilip Mehta, managing director of Indian label Saregama, urged, “An exclusive store for indies should be a challenge for the next year.”

Although in its infancy, the digital music market is beginning to deliver significant revenues to record labels. But artist Chuck D, front man of Public Enemy and head of indie label and Web site Rapstation, warned against greed in the new digital arena.

In a keynote Midem speech, he said, “The music industry has a gold rush mentality, but we should concentrate more on making a living, rather than making a killing.”

And with issues such as standardized digital rights management (to protect music files) and, more critically, revenue shares still to be resolved, there is a lot of work to be done before the industry can realize the full potential of the new distribution and sales models.

“This is a very complex industry, and you cannot simply apply the old rules of the physical world,” said Ted Cohen, EMI Music senior VP of digital development and distribution. “There isn’t a single (business) model; there will be 10, 20, 30 different models with different pay structures and different ways of interacting with the consumer.”

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