The U.K.'s 17th annual In The City (ITC) has been hailed a "huge success" by organisers with initial figures indicating a 22% rise in delegate attendance on last year.

While the final delegate figures are not yet available, the three-day conference and live music showcase in Manchester (Oct. 5-Oct. 7), saw over 250 bands play in 44 venues throughout the city. It concluded with keynote speeches from Eric Garland, co-founder and CEO of U.S.-based research firm BigChampagne Media Measurement, and U.K. singer-songwriter Jarvis Cocker.

"It's been brilliant. Without a shadow of a doubt it's the best one that I've worked on," GM Jon-Paul Waddington tells Billboard.biz. "We made a very concerted effort to make this In The City the best that we can. A lot of people were worried about whether it would still continue after losing Tony [Wilson -- ITC founder who died August 2008]. We knew it would, but it's communicating that to people. I'm thrilled. I'm tired and emotional, but mostly I'm thrilled."

Keynote speaker Eric Garland used his afternoon address to explore the finer points of the "In Rainbows, On Torrents," report on the implications of making music available free legally which he published with MCPS-PRS Alliance chief economist Will Page earlier this year.

Criticising large sections of the media for taking the report's findings out of context, Garland told attendees: "As we navigate the shark infested waters that are digital music all of this seems less to do with piracy than the headlines want us to think."

Garland warned traditional music companies against underestimating the appeal of P2P services. "The reality for many people is, 'if it ain't broke you don't need iTunes.' So you have a generation of people, in Internet terms a couple of generations of people, who are very happy with the convenience, the selection the quality and the visibility [that illegal P2P networks] provide."

The day concluded with a host of industry dignitaries discussing whether the music business has come full circle.

Chairing the debate was former Rolling Stones manager and ITC guest host Andrew Loog Oldham who opened proceedings by declaring: "at least three of us should be dead." Alan McGee (founder of Creation Records), Geoff Travis (founder of Rough Trade), Mike Smith (managing directior of Columbia Records U.K.) and Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer (co-founders of Sire Records) were among those on the panel.

"[Aspects of] the early days exist now: the single is more important than the album; the song is still what drives people... but we live in a completely new world and this new world is even better," stated Gottehrer during a lively yet always genial discussion.

"The opportunities that exist for the business and for people who want to enter it today are so much greater," added Gottehrer, who co-founded digital music distributor the Orchard in 1997. "The future is really, really bright and technology leads the way to it."