Popkomm

[This post was actually typed on Friday night but technical glitches have delayed publishing until now.]

It was refreshing to see a lot of buzz around Popkomm, the doom and gloom is certainly lifting from the music industry. Here are a few random highlights:

· eMusic found themselves under fire on a panel from some indie labels who really weren’t happy with just how lowly priced tracks can be. They opined that they could find themselves receiving little more than publishers for a song. Despite eMusic’s protestations they just didn’t seem to buy the volume argument. Which goes to show, there is only so much price elasticity, even among indies.
· Everyone is talking mobile, be it marketing, ring tones, video, TV, social networks. There was general consensus that ring tones is really beginning to show significant slow down, but that mobile music videos and over the air full track downloads were showing dynamic growth. But it’s too soon to read the eulogy for ring tones: they are still where the real revenues are. For example Universal sold 3.5 million ring tones of one of Chamillionaire’s single in the US compared to 2.5 million singles…impressive enough, even though the singles market doesn’t really exist in the US.
· Another point that was raised around ring tones was how difficult it is for smaller independent labels to make ring tones work for them. Ring tones are very much a hit driven format and it was interesting to hear Ninja’s head of digital explaining how the effort generally associated with getting ring tones to market just didn’t justify the returns for a label of their size. She did have an interesting anecdote about how well they could do given the right exposure: a 15 year old Singaporean girl was refused on a plane in China when her DJ Vadim (a Ninja Tune artist) ring tone rang during security, with the immortal words “I am a terrorist, I am a terrorist”. The interest that followed that story was so great that it crashed Ninja’s servers.
· I moderated a panel on mobile TV and video which was interesting in how difficult it was to keep the discussion music related! The bottom line is that music is just not that central to mobile TV broadcast models. It has more of a role with on-demand downloads
· There were small signs of a recognition of the need to move beyond transaction based models for music distribution for younger music fans online. Admittedly most enthusiasm was from the technology aspects of the value chain, but some labels did show some interest. Small but important progress…