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The next frontier of music

March 8, 2007

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When Canada’s longest-running music conference began 25 years ago, it was the major labels that formed the backbone of the industry shmoozfest known as Canadian Music Week.

Today, those industry giants are reeling from layoffs and declining sales and the future is anything but certain, says CMW president Neill Dixon.

He predicts the next big music frontier will be mobile networking, pointing to an increased demand for souped-up cellphones that serve as multi-function gadgets for people on the go.

“It’ll become your iPod regardless of whether you have an iPod or iPhone or whatever you’re going to have, they’ll all be the same thing,” Dixon says.

“Eventually we’ll be able to have massive storage and be able to download and do all that. To me, it’s pretty natural that that’s where things are heading in a big way, in a fast way.”

A mobile phone conference in Barcelona last month heard that many of today’s devices are too cumbersome to fully capitalize on the public’s voracious appetite for mobile music.

Warner Music chief Edgar Bronfman Jr. told the 3GSM conference that demand is poised for explosive growth, noting that excitement surrounding Apple’s upcoming iPhone has “raised the bar” for handset makers.

Predicting just where the music industry is headed has become increasingly difficult, says Dixon.

Ongoing leaps in technology mean dramatic shifts in the landscape occur over a matter of months, he says, noting that today’s biggest stories in social online networking were barely on the horizon at last year’s conference.

“Last year, MySpace and YouTube weren’t even mentioned. They were . . . sort of just there,” he says. “Now they’re commonplace. There’s nobody on the planet that doesn’t know what they are.”

“All that stuff’s changing, changing, changing. The one thing about this is now it’s changing literally every six months now, or less. I find it really exciting because there’s always new stuff to talk about.”

Digital innovations will be a big part of this year’s conference, set to include roughly 300 speakers and welcome nearly 600 bands to 42 venues over four nights. Nettwerk honcho and digital music visionary Terry McBride will deliver the keynote address on March 10.

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