On today's digital-entertainment superhighway, the consumer is in the driving seat, dictating how far an artist can go.

On today's digital-entertainment superhighway, the consumer is in the driving seat, dictating how far an artist can go.

That was the core message in a keynote speech delivered today (Oct. 27) by EMI Music chairman/CEO Alain Levy at the London Media Summit, held at the London Business Schools.

However, he added during the presentation, labels continue to play a vital role as the signposts that give structure to the journey and determine how the artists succeed on the different digital platforms.

"Digital has brought us closer to the people who buy music and has facilitated a new age of empowerment," he said. "Power is shifting everywhere from manufacturers, content providers and retailers to consumers. In the age of empowerment, the consumer is king."

Thanks to the still-increasing penetration of the Internet and other digital platforms at work and at home, consumers' influence on artists' achievements has soared, he added.

"The consumer is now a creator, producer and distributor too," Levy declared in context of the impact of online social networks such as YouTube and MySpace.

Consumers' ability to use these platforms to interact with artists have contributed to the success of acts such as the U.K.'s Arctic Monkeys (Domino) and three EMI artists: Lily Allen, U.S.-originated OK Go and break-out band 30 Seconds To Mars.

Consequently, labels cannot afford to be complacent. "What does that mean for us as content providers? We have to be everywhere," he declared. "EMI Music has undergone a huge shift in culture to ensure that we are now placing even greater emphasis on the consumer. Where once our key focus was on the Tower Records and Virgin Megastores of this world, now all staff are keenly focused on the end consumer."

He continued: "So we must be increasingly flexible, collaborative and open to the outside world - this has fundamentally changed our way of operating. In this day and age, closed media companies will quite simply die."

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