EC Gets Chummy With WOMEX

The indie sector may find it odd that the European Commission will be at WOMEX to discuss how it can work with the industry to strengthen the music business in developing countries.

The directors of indies organisation IMPALA believe the EC speaks with a forked tongue ever since former antitrust commissioner Mario Monti did what looked like a U-turn to allow the Sony-BMG merger in 2004.

Patrick Zelnik, one of the organisation’s three presidents, even went as far as saying the Japanese and German companies blackmailed the Commission by threatening to pull out of certain markets.

“What kind of a message does this send to European citizens? That the EU’s prioritisation of cultural diversity, creative SMEs and pluralism is purely rhetoric?” he asked.

The dialogue at World Music Expo Oct. 31 will be between the parties that approved the 2005 UNESCO Convention, which includes the European Community and each of the EU member states.

A year ago Guy Bono, a French member of the European Parliament, and a few of his colleagues cited the UNESCO Convention when questioning the European Commission on why it approved the Sony-BMG merger for a second time. He was following up on a complaint that IMPALA had made to the European Ombudsman.

The MEPs suggested the decision appeared to conflict with the Convention, which underlines that “cultural diversity is manifested through the varied ways of artistic creation and production.”

They said it also conflicted with the Commission’s own policy decisions regarding a European agenda for culture and supporting the SMEs that help generate it.

The items for discussion at the Seville Conference & Exhibition Centre are set to include investing in culture for creativity and innovation and looking at better ways to integrate it into development policies.

Various EC agencies including the Directorate Generals for Development, Education and Culture and the External Cooperation Office say they want an open dialogue with the professionals of the music sector to gather views and ideas on the way forward.

The European Commission will also have a stand at the WOMEX exhibition, which will provide details of its cultural policy.
Apart from discussions on various aspects of world music, the Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 conference also includes an interview with Thomas Brooman, who co-founded the U.K.’s WOMAD Festival and ran it for seven years.

He was awarded the CBE for services to music and charity in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, and is currently setting up a new festival in Reading, England.

It’s called Heavenly Planet and will be on the same Rivermead site where WOMAD was held for more than a decade. Brooman is producing the event in cooperation with Melvin Benn’s Festival Republic and the local town council.