A bright future for artists, consumers and the music industry was the general prognosis at the second day of Manchester's In The City (Oct. 6) -- the U.K.'s biggest music conference -- but only after several more years of struggle and dwindling revenues.

"It's going to be tough for a time to come," stated Barney Wragg, who exited as EMI Music's global head of digital in January. Speaking at the event's digital music panel "the Digital Buffet," Wragg said: "I think it's going to be hard for labels and that's going to make it hard for artists. The change that [the industry is going through] is going to make it very difficult."

Speaking at the same digital forum, Ted Cohen, managing partner of TAG Strategic and former senior VP of digital development & distribution at EMI Music, sounded a similarly cautious appraisal of the future.

"I was hoping last year, my 25th Anniversary in digital, was going to be the year that we all got it right-and then I was hoping for this year," he said. "Hopefully, twelve months from now, we'll still get it right, but I think people are talking more. We're actually looking at making money now and doing business and growing this, instead of arguing over things that really won't matter 10 years from now."

However, MySpace U.K. managing director Anthony Lukom did cite the "phenomenal success" of the recently-launched U.S. MySpace Music as an example of how legitimate music providers can succeed in today's market. According to Lukom, the MySpace Music download service, which was rolled out via Amazon.com in the U.S. Sept. 24, "has been getting great numbers since launching" while the ad-funded music player "had over a billion plays within the first few days."

"The future is really bright," he stated. "I think there's a real desire out there for us to get [music to consumers] in a way that they can have access to what they want, where they want, how they want."

By far the most popular panel of the day was the closing "Knights of Independence" keynote discussion between Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer, the co-founders of Sire Records, chaired by former Rolling Stones manager and guest ITC host Andrew Loog Oldham. Reflecting on their 50-plus years in the music industry, Gottehrer and Stein entertained delegates with a selection of songs and anecdotes, as well as offering their own views on the current music industry.

"The business that I grew up in was great. The business today is greater," stated Richard Gottehrer, who co-founded digital distribution network the Orchard in 1997. "Technology is making it possible for artists to have freedom to choose who they want to work with -- to reach people without depending on a small group of tightly organized, individual record companies."

Stein's continued love for the music industry was also strongly evident, with the former Billboard chart researcher stating: "All I care about is what I cared about 50 years ago: I like chasing bands and finding new artists. That's really what interests me now and is what has always interested me."

ITC concludes today (Oct. 7) with keynote speeches from Eric Garland, co-founder and CEO of BigChampagne Media Measurement, and U.K. singer-songwriter Jarvis Cocker.

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