A buzzing and busy Midem opened for business today (Jan. 21), on what would otherwise have been a sunny, lazy Sunday.

The annual music industry convention, now in its 41st year, continued to play host to the MidemNet conference, the specialist technology event which has now extended into a two-day format.

Digital rights management (DRM) and the ongoing debate over interoperability raged on across the MidemNet panel discussions. During an afternoon session titled "DRMs - Do We Really Need 'M?" Gibson Guitar chairman/CEO Henry Juszkiewicz told delegates that the industry ought to scour the past for clues to the future of copyright management.

"The software business went through this 10 years ago," he said. "The same issues, 'Do we encrypt software, how do we get paid?' were topical a decade ago. It is clear that we have to get paid in this industry. There needs to be a simple way to monetize. History needs to be looked at."

eMusic CEO David Pakman explained that cutting-edge firms are loath to have technology standards enforced upon them. "No technology company will voluntarily accept some other interoperable standards proposed by a committee."

Despite a huge range of opinion, the panel failed to rival yesterday's fireworks between Gary Shapiro and Mitch Bainwol.

When asked to predict what would be happening with DRM in five to 10 years time, the responses varied from "DRM will be ubiquitous, but in a way that's acceptable to the consumer" (Geoff Taylor, CEO of the BPI) to Impala and Beggar's Group chairman Martin Mills' prediction of the end of "the per-unit model". But panel moderator Paul Brindley from Music Ally spoke for many when he said: "I just hope we won't still be talking about DRM."

As is typical with the start of the Midem conference, a raft of companies used the confab to make key announcements. Among them, the news that the Music Publishers' Association has teamed with the MCPS-PRS Alliance to create a pan-European online licensing template, the completion of PPL's merger with PAMRA and AURA, newly-formed rights agency Merlin's first deal (with Snocap), and DRM leader SDC's entry into the Chinese market. Meanwhile, Miles Flint, President, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications ruled out doing a Zune-style deal (in which Universal secured a cut of revenues from sales of the digital music player) on any of his handsets.

Artists took centre stage for much of the afternoon. Barenaked Ladies frontman Steve Page-fresh from accompanying 2,500 of his biggest fans on a special Barenaked Ladies cruise-spoke warmly of how personal contact could make the fans' day-and strengthen his brand.

"So many people said 'I was a huge fan but now I'm a fanatic'," he said during his "Conversation With" slot. "Allowing people some access makes a big difference."

Page's co-panellist and manager, Nettwerk Music Group CEO Terry McBride unveiled his vision of making "uber-fans" act as online retailers, and prompted both applause and laughter with his brand of new age biz-speak. He also drew one of the more high-profile questions from the floor when he was cross-examined about his own earnings by Tommy Boy CEO Tom Silverman.

"We benefit directly as the artist benefits," he said. "This model will ultimately make us far more money."

Will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas also revealed plenty during his "Conversation With" slot-including his e-mail address when he was forced to enter his log-on for the Musicane.com website (for whom he is chief marketing officer) on the big screen.

He also claimed he should receive a slice of YouTube ad revenue if someone posts mobile footage of him "falling over" and admitted that some of the more "goofy" tracks he posts on the site-sometimes mere minutes after they're finished-probably only attract "one download".

But he has no plans to swerve the label system entirely. "You're always going to need record companies," he said. "They build superstars."

QUOTES OF THE DAY

"A lot of people get depressed about the music industry. We're not depressed, we're very excited about it. Social networking, expansion of the mobile world all hold great promise for us," - Roger Faxon, President and co-CEO, EMI Music Publishing

"We have created a united front from-on a good day-mutual indifference and-on a bad day-outright hostility," PPL Chairman and CEO Fran Nevrkla on the merger with PAMRA and AURA.

"One of the great problems right now is the appalling erosion of value in our business. The majority of our children think it's probably OK to steal the products that we create," Clark Miller, General Counsel Worldwide, EMI Music Publishing

"The CD format is 20 years old and there's nothing on the horizon that offers a better experience," - Henry Juskiewicz, Chairman and CEO, Gibson Guitar

"If they ain't talking about you, then you ain't doing anything," Black Eyed Peas Will.i.am on the backlash against the band's many advertising tie-ins.