Despite a decline in record sales in recent years, the German music industry can boast one significant success story-the development of the Popkomm music fair since it moved to Berlin in 2004.

According to the IFPI, retail sales of all recorded music have slumped by 17% since 2004, but in the same time frame Popkomm has seen a 23% increase in the number of exhibitors at the fairgrounds.

Popkomm managing director Dr. Ralf Kleinhenz says, "The successful three-pronged approach applied since 2004-comprising a fair, a conference and a festival-has paid off." This year, Popkomm will again be held in Berlin Sept. 19-21.

With the motto "Music meets business," last year's Popkomm, under the auspices of Kleinhenz and director Katja Bittner, managed to sign up 817 exhibitors (up from 663 in 2004) from 55 different countries (up from 41) in 2006. Individual delegate numbers, while slightly down from 2004 levels, were still a healthy 15,311. Bittner attributes Popkomm's continued success to its strong international outlook, the enormous appeal of Berlin as a venue following German reunification and the decision to focus on trade visitors. "This is supplemented by the wide diversity of different subjects at the conference taking place at the same time," she says.

Twenty-six nations took their own "country pavilions" in 2006, providing a platform for local companies. Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Scotland and Slovenia all took their first pavilions last year, with Brazil following the likes of France and Spain as the trade fair's partner country. "The Brazilian companies were able to generate considerable business at Popkomm last year," says Michel Nicolau, coordinator of the Rio de Janeiro-based Música do Brasil export office.

The trade booths covered a floor area of more than 52,800 square feet. Bittner says, "Seventy-two percent of the exhibitors and 41% of the [individual] trade visitors reported that they had generated new business in 2006."

Philippa McEvoy is an international strategy manager of music and publishing with the creative and media exports unit of the United Kingdom's London-based economic development agency, U.K. Trade & Investment. She confirms the fair's value. "It's possible to gain an excellent overview of the global marketplace here," McEvoy says, "something which explains the high share of new U.K. exhibitors."

The German arms of the major labels are also aware of Popkomm's promotional power. Hamburg-based Warner Music Group, Berlin-based Universal Music and Munich-based Sony BMG all use Popkomm as a venue for international meetings. Last year, WMG invited retailers and distribution partners to product presentations featuring such acts as James Blunt, Melanie C, My Chemical Romance and Pat Metheny. Warner Music Germany/Switzerland/Austria chairman/CEO Bernd Dopp says, "Ninety-eight percent of the retailers of relevance for us accepted our invitation."

Universal Music Germany president/CEO Frank Briegmann says, "Popkomm has further reinforced its reputation as a top-class international communications platform for the music and entertainment industry."

Independent labels are also well-represented. "Small and independent companies account for the largest shares of Popkomm exhibitors," Bittner says. Berlin label !K7 Records managing director Horst Weidenmüller says the trade fair has helped his label "build up contacts with distributors in countries in which we were previously not active."

For the first time, Popkomm 2007 will host a business forum for the live entertainment industry, while the Popkomm program of evening live events has also continued to thrive. In 2006, more than 2,000 artists from all over the world appeared, providing 600 hours of live music through 400 performances at 30 different clubs.

Acts can register for the Popkomm 2007 festival at sonicbids.com until May 15.