Taking A Dip At Cannes

Although eyewitness reports suggest attendance was down by more than the 12 percent MIDEM reported, event director Dominique Leguern said the numbers held up well in all sectors other than the CD business.

“Some delegates may have anticipated a steeper decline after a relatively quiet five days on the Croisette,” but the official figures show the attendance dropped from 9,100 in 2008 to “around 8,000,” according to a MIDEM statement.

“It’s not a music industry crisis, it’s a CD crisis,” Leguern explained.

Asked about the conference coming a week earlier and the effect that might have had on attendance, Leguern told Pollstar, “It may have had some small effect, but I think it was a very small effect compared to what we would have suffered if we had clashed with the Chinese New Year, which would have cost us a lot of Asian visitors.”

She said the size of MIDEM, which has three times the number of delegates as Eurosonic-Noorderslag and more than six times as many as ILMC (March 13-15), and the fact it covers all sectors of the music industry means it’s more likely to be hit by any downturn in any area of the business.

At the moment, she said she’d be happy to match this year’s figures in 2010, pointing out that the shrinking of the CD business is now being followed by a global economic downturn that will to some degree impact on how much money companies have to spend.

“The press gets hooked up on numbers. I don’t worry if there are 8,000 or 8 million people at MIDEM, it’s the quality of the attendance that interests me,” world-famous U.K. promoter Harvey Goldsmith CBE told the conference organisers. “In fact, if there a few less people, it makes for a better event as you don’t get hassled every five minutes.”

Leguern was also quick to stress the quality of this year’s MIDEM, pointing out the number of important speakers it attracted and the hard-hitting sessions.

The list of big-hitters at Cannes included Martin Blomkvist (Sony Ericsson head of content acquisition management), who echoed Goldsmith’s praise for MIDEM 2009; Online Distribution Alliance (IODA) founder and chief exec Kevin Arnold; and Brian Message, manager of a strong stable of U.K. acts including Faithless, Kate Nash and Radiohead.

There was also a high-profile attendance from the likes of Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Orange and Blackberry parent Research in Motion (RIM), whose co-chief exec Jim Balsillie said “the music industry is living an extraordinary moment.”

French minister of culture and communications Christine Albanel, who opened this year’s MIDEM, reaffirmed her commitment to pushing through new online anti-piracy legislation.

The proposed law, which has already been accepted by the French senate, contains a series of anti-piracy measures including suspension of Internet access for persistent offenders.