"What we need is a revolution. What we've got is an erosion," former Warner Music U.K. chairman Rob Dickins told delegates during an impassioned opening address at day two of U.K. music conference In The City.

Speaking alongside Bertis Downs, long-time attorney and manager of REM, Dickins outlined his radical future vision of a "micro-economy," in which millions of tiny incremental payments can add up to a colossal whole for the music biz, during a keynote talk at the Manchester-based industry confab.

"I believe in a micro economy," Dickins told delegates. "To a degree it solves piracy [because] if [cost is] such a small amount then people are more likely to pay than steal."

"Peripheral sales are what's going to make the big money in the music industry," the former Warner exec and founder of U.K. independent label Instant Karma went on to say, citing the 2007 example of Prince giving away his album "Plane Earth" with U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail as an example of how a micro-economy can boost overall revenue.

The micro-payment in that instance was the price of a newspaper, Dickins stated, pointing to the artist's subsequent 21-night residency at London's O2 arena as an illustration of the wider gain open to the music biz.

"What excites me, and I may be completely mad, is that looking at downloads, when we're seeing 1 billion downloads for Lady Gaga, then you can see business is huge," Dickins told delegates during a lively debate in which he voiced his disdain of government legislation punishing illegal music consumers and criticized 360 deals for neglecting to provide the same skills and advice to artists in "merchandise and touring as [they] do in marketing, promotion and A&R."

"I think we can see an age where we can sell 200 million albums [by one artist selling albums at a micro price point] and then the 360 degree deal makes sense," Dickins said. "But if you try and do it holding onto the old model and the old economy then the 360 model does not make any sense."

In response, Entertainment Retailers Assn chairman Paul Quirk commented: "Rob Dickins is part of the generation of executives who benefited personally from the age of £14 ($22.41) CDs and gave the music business a bad name and so it is ironic to hear him espouse the cause of the £1 ($1.60) album. Basic arithmetic indicates that this is a non-starter."

The Secret of REM's Success

Bertis Downs revealed some interesting insights into the multi-million selling band he has managed since the 1980s.

"The secret to REM's success is that they were never really in a hurry," Downs told delegates. "They evolved very slowly. There are so many people to this day that think their first record was the one that had 'Losing My Religion' on."

Asked by Dickins why the band had never set up its own label imprint, Downs said that the band had always declined offers to go down that route because "they've never wanted to have businesses outside of the band - they figure that's enough."

"They're very different guys [with] very different tastes, very different sensibilities," Downs stated. "The band is a good place to have their partnership. They've just never wanted to get involved in what it takes to run their own record label."

Downs also confirmed previous reports that REM's new album had been completed in the last few weeks, with producer Jacknife Lee at the helm. He told the BBC it is titled "Collapse Into Now."

Speaking to Billboard.biz following his keynote address, Downs would only say he was eying a spring 2011 release and that he think it's the "band's best record yet."

He did, however, express his desire for the band's music to once again be featured on Glee, following the recent episode where the cast covered "Losing My Religion."

"I don't think that the [download] numbers were staggering, but I think it was a nice introduction to whole generation of fans that had never heard of REM, "Losing My Religion" or any of their tracks. So it was kind of neat in that regard and I hope that they do another one," Downs told Billboard.biz.

Internet Radio Services Coming Of Age

Other panels examined the growing use of fan analytics when plotting marketing strategies, while the day's concluding debate saw Trevor Dann, director of the U.K. Radio Academy, oversee a lively discussion on the long term sustainability of Internet radio services such as Last FM and social music discovery service mflow, alongside traditional commercial radio stations.

Dann challenged Atan Burrows, marketing manager of mflow, on whether the service was performing strongly, "or are you, like a lot of these very bold new ideas doomed because people will not pay for this stuff?"

"Quite the contrary," responded Burrows. "We've got about 40,000 users on the system, just ahead of our plans so were really pleased. This is a very difficult market. There's a lot of services out there, so it is competitive and you've got to stay ahead of the game already we see services like Spotify copy what we do and we've got to respond."

Tony Clark, director of licensing at U.K. collection society PPL, was cautiously optimistic about the future of Internet radio services, citing services such as Last FM in the United Kingdom and Pandora in the U.S. as services that "appear to be able to generate enough revenue through their business models to be able to pay [rights holders]"

"I think that's a really positive sign," Clark continued. "If enough services et to that point then that benefits the whole music family."

Executives on the "A Question of Sport" panel discussed what the music business could learn from the world of sport and other entertainment sectors, where the idea of talent endorsing commercial brands has long been established.

"Less is more," said Peter Draper, editor of brand marketing for CAA Sports. "If you're going to do endorsements, pick a few good ones. Giving value at a commercial level will give that relationship longevity. George Clooney's got two deals, that's it."

In The City concludes today (Oct. 15) with keynote speeches from Caroline Prothero, manager of David Guetta, Pink Floyd founder member Nick Mason, Jeremy Silver, acting CEO of the Featured Artists' Coalition and dance veteran Mike Pickering.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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