Musical 'renaissance' coming

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Cannes — Artists and managers took center stage Monday as MIDEM moved into its second day.

Peter Gabriel and U2 manager Paul McGuinness were the undisputed drawing cards, assembling full houses for their respective stints on the trade fair's podium.

McGuinness packed the biggest punches, delivering a tough message for Internet service providers to clear their networks of illegal music and prove their loyalty as "real partners" to the music industry.

"The ISP lobbyists who say they should not have to 'police the Internet' are living in the past, relying on outdated excuses from an earlier technological age," he said. "The Internet has moved on, and the pace of change today means a year in the Internet age is equivalent to a decade in the non-Internet world."

During Gabriel's relaxed, conversation-style presentation later in the afternoon, he reflected on his career and gave hope that the industry's ills would give rise to a brave new music world.

"My hope is that the fundamental economic model … if it catches fire, all types of music forms will exist, he said. "It will be a renaissance of creativity. And it should be a lot more fun." Artists in the digital age, he reckoned, might be able to survive on "just 100 fans, if they were passionate."

Gabriel, who was recognized as the MIDEM personality of the year during a function Monday night, arrived on crutches, having broken his left leg in a skiing accident. But it didn't affect his sense of humor as the veteran artist spun anecdotes and joked throughout his Q&A presentation.

Earlier, panelists during a music managers session used the opportunity to analyze and deconstruct Radiohead's groundbreaking "honesty box" release of its "In Rainbows" album last year.

"What Radiohead is telling you," Global Village Entertainment president Danny Goldberg said, "is it's great to have the idea first. Being the third, fourth or fifth to do it isn't so interesting."

In the absence of any hard data on the download experiment's performance, panelist Jazz Summers, CEO of Big Life International, said his informed sources indicated that the average price paid was £2.90 ($5.75), "vastly bigger than any superstar royalty."

"Radiohead set the precedent, and it gives young bands the confidence to do it," he said.

In the late-afternoon session titled "Talent Discovery: New Opportunities to Grab, New Challenges to Cover," panelists scrutinized the current means for breaking artists.

"There are a ton of new bands, but there are very few artists that are making that leap from going on be a headliner band in one or two years," said Alex Jones-Donnelly, senior vp A&R at EMI Music Publishing. "We're very thirsty for new music, but then you can't have that developing relationship with the artist because (the fan is) already on to the next one. But it's culture. It's bigger than us."

Lars Brandle is global news editor at Billboard.
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