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Midem tunes up for future

Confab networks to identify new revenue streams for music biz

As the music industry gathers for its annual international get-together at Midem in Cannes from Jan. 23-27, there’s renewed hope that the start of a new decade will revive the biz’s fortunes and boost attendance at both the conference and tradeshow, which have inevitably shrunk in recent years as the music business has contracted.

However, as any visitor to the Cannes Film Festival will bear witness, less people in the Cote d’Azur is not necessarily a bad thing, considering the scarcity of hotel rooms. Last year’s Midem was a fairly quiet, easily navigated affair compared with the confab’s heyday when the major labels would trot out their A-list artists for concerts on the beach.

In contrast, last year’s biggest-name performer was Donovan, and one of the unofficial highlights was a viewing party at the Palais for President Obama’s inauguration.

Among 2010’s live acts, Irish singer-songwriter and Mercury Awards nominee Lisa Hannigan, French girl-group rockers the Plastiscines and Swiss singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Sophie Hunger are generating the most buzz.

This year, though, the tradeshow’s organizer, Reed Midem, (the parent org of which owns Variety as well) is pointing to the changing nature of the biz as a gateway for its revival. Central theme of the confab will be monetization, with experts from all over the world sharing their knowledge of new revenue streams and opportunities. MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta will give the confab’s keynote address — his first such speech outside the U.S.

Other keynote headliners include Jeffrey W. Hayzlett, chief marketing officer of Eastman Kodak Co., which had to reinvent its business model to deal with the impact of digital technology, as well as Sony Music Entertainment CEO Edgar Berger, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing David Renzer and Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb.

The great thing that Midem does is that it brings all the constituents of the business together to meet,” says live music promoter Harvey Goldsmith. “There are others that specialize in certain parts, such as the Intl. Live Music Conference in London or South by Southwest in Texas, but nothing else gathers decision-makers from everywhere in the business.”

Goldsmith is one of a number of high level executives who coordinates MidemNet as part of the Visionary Chair committee. His fellow committee members include Skyline Music president Bruce Houghton, TAG Strategic partner Ted Cohen, Nettwerk Music Group CEO Terry McBride, Rock Music Group founder Sam Duann, and Mobile Entertainment Forum chairman Ralph Simon.

A number of years ago, MidemNet seminars were introduced as a prequel to the main Midem sessions, but as the digital and technical aspects of the music business have become dominant, MidemNet this year is being integrated throughout the five-day schedule.

The diversity of leadership talent reflects the changing nature of the music biz, where the likes of mobile phone operators and social networking sites are becoming increasingly important partners.

One of the bigger players in that brave new world is MySpace, and Van Natta will use his address to outline how the MySpace model relates to music delivery and the future monetization of music.

Kodak’s Hayzlett, meanwhile, will reveal how his company generated a new range of revenue streams to deal with the digital competition, and suggest ways in which the music business can evolve.

And with an eye to mixing suits with talent, Midem also has lured N*E*R*D frontman and producer Pharrell Williams to give a keynote address sharing his vision of the development of fan relationship in the digital era. Also on tap: a look at how musicians are joining forces with advertisers to create and strengthen brand awareness and raise the profile of artists, much as UMG and EMI have done by partnering with Australia-based, ad-supported music site Guvera.

Other speakers include Australian entrepreneur Michael Gudinski, chairman of the Mushroom Group; and live music veteran promoter Marek Lieberberg.

Midem veteran Joel Katz, president of law firm Greenberg Traurig, attests to the confab’s continuing vitality as a networking mecca.”I have never been to a Midem where I did not meet someone new who became a friend, colleague or client.”

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