Placido Domingo Signs With Sony Classical
Placido Domingo Signs With Sony Classical

Legendary opera star Placido Domingo might have played a record 134 operatic roles in more than 3,500 career performances during his more than 40-year career. He may also have made more than 100 recordings of complete operas, plus arias, duets and crossover discs, conducted 450-plus opera performances and symphonic concerts with the world's leading orchestras and opera houses. And along the way he picked twelve Grammy awards. Today, however, he announced his biggest challenge to date.

He plans to use his influence to fight the epidemic of digital-music piracy in his new specially created role as chairman of IFPI, the international music-industry trade organization.

The man, who introduced the global masses to opera as one of the illustrious "three tenors" with Jose Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti, has been appointed to support IFPI in its mission to promote, enhance and protect the role of recorded music internationally.

This includes improving and enforcing copyright legislation, promoting rights owners' works, developing the rapidly growing digital-music sector, and educating the public and policy makers about developments in digital music and their impact on national cultures and economies.

One of his first assignments could be the pending European Union directive for extending the term of copyright protection for recorded music to 70 years from the current 50 years.

"I gained something from the generation of artists before me, and now I want to pave the way for the artists coming after me," he said during a media briefing at the IFPI's offices in London.

"The rights of these artists need protecting. On my own, I might not have done anything. But when the (bosses) of the different major labels approached me to help, I thought about how they had helped me during my career. I also realized that young artists might not get a career if this (piracy) situation continues."

He and IFPI believe he has the recognition, influence and personality that will open doors to world leaders and grab the attention of the biggest decision-makers whose policies make significant differences to the music industry's long-term fate.

"Wherever I go for my performance, I'll aim to make myself available wherever our message is needed and, in the case of an (urgent issue), I will make time for it."

Explaining why he accepted such a challenge now, Domingo pointed out how the international music industry has been amazed by the accelerating pace at which digital technology has changed the battle rules against piracy.

"We've all been supporting the fight against piracy little by little over the years. But consider a (big emerging) economy like China, which has the potential to become the world's biggest music market. Yet, today, if you release a film or music, a (pirated version) will be on the streets in less than three days. On the one hand, we might be happy about that because, hopefully, as they listen to our music, that might lead to a change in their attitude towards its value."

Yet, his native country Spain is one of the world's worst pirated-music markets. In 2003, 10 artists made their debut in the country's Top 50 recordings by sales. In 2010, there was no debut artist in Spain's Top 50.

The industry was facing the reality of music theft and if successful artists like him have seen their royalties decrease, minor artists have virtually no chance of a viable career. "The (record) companies have been seeking new ways to solve the problem," he explained. "But if this piracy continues, one record company after another will disappear."

Frances Moore, IFPI's CEO, tells Billboard.biz that the IFPI had appointed artists spokespeople, such as Irish folk-rock act The Corrs and French composer/performer Jean Michel Jarre, in the past to spread the organization's message. But it needed someone of Domingo's stature because "he's somebody who's heard at the highest levels of governments. He and the IFPI have common interests, such as the investment in and promotion of talent and he understands the problems we're facing with piracy."

Apart from the fact that he's recorded with all the major labels, she added, "not many acts, including pop stars, are known in every single country in the world. He is."

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