Singing online tunes

Microsoft deal launches Midem

CANNES — The 34th Midem music market opened on a futuristic note Saturday with MidemNet, a day devoted to the digital distribution of music — the biggest issue facing the record industry.

Microsoft used the occasion to reveal it has pacted with California-based Liquid Audio, a leading supplier of secure software for downloaded music. In the deal, Liquid Audio will recode its current 50,000 music tracks and 1 million previews to be compatible with Microsoft’s Media Player.

Some Midem participants, however, said the move reps an attempt by the software giant to dominate the online market. They argued that it could help lock consumers into using Media Player.

Microsoft also announced that the No. 1 European Internet service provider, T-Online, will use Media Player for downloads, as will music distrib DX3.

Meanwhile, U.S. e-commerce major GlobalFulfillment.com has allied with France’s Grolier Interactive to supply the latter with technology and content for online sales. Grolier customers will have access to Global’s 1 million-plus titles, ranging from music to DVDs to videogames.

At Midem, however, technology is forgotten in the evenings.

Musical notes

The big event Saturday night was the NRJ Music Awards, a TV show featuring Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, Tina Arena, Texas and Lou Bega — mostly lip-synching. U2’s Bono was on hand to collect yet another honorary award for his campaign to cancel Third World debt.

But NRJ, France’s largest radio network, was criticized for having sold the program exclusively to TF1 when its star power suggested it could draw an international audience. One Webcaster, who wanted the show and felt NRJ had failed to capture the spirit of Midem this year, was particularly irked.

There were 7,975 participants at Midem and 2,369 exhibiting companies — 755 from the U.K., 696 from the U.S. and 494 from the host nation, France.

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