The MIDEM global trade fair and conference in Cannes kicks off on Sunday (Jan. 24), including an opening night party for country of honor, South Africa. As usual, digital-focused MidemNet is the MIDEM curtain raiser, launching the Jan. 23-27 events on Saturday.

MIDEM director Dominique Leguern has already told Billboard.biz that attendance at MIDEM will be down this year by around 13% to 7,000. But Leguern explained why she is confident it will remain an essential annual destination for many in the biz...

What was the reaction to your decision to unite MIDEM and MidemNet, so that delegates would no longer pay a supplement to attend the digital event?

The idea and the fact that we took that decision were very well received by our clients. It was a good decision, the right timing, especially because we didn't reduce the content - on the contrary we increased it. And it's great value.

It is now 11 years since MidemNet launched, do you think it has now established itself as an essential, annual music conference?

We were right to start talking about the digital issues 11 years ago. This fragmentation of the new music industry is complex but it's also very positive because it makes more revenue streams possible. Everybody has to be really inventive. It's not easy and I think that's where we play a very important role because the mix of companies attending is really wide.

Attendance is down again, how do you think MIDEM is performing in the light of the industry's own decline?

It's a tough environment. There have been a lot of layoffs and shutting down of companies in the past year and for the moment we are reflecting what the industry picture is as a whole. The issue the industry is facing is that over a long period of time the hope was to find one business model replacing the CD. Now we have to face the reality - we will not have one answer but many answers in terms of possible revenue streams, and the adaptation to this world has taken some time. Even though it's still difficult for everybody to make a living out of this new industry I think it's becoming maybe easier than it used to be. We see more clearly what's going to happen.

South Africa is the country of honor at MIDEM 2010 - the year it hosts the soccer World Cup. Was that good timing?

A sporting event like the World Cup is of such huge importance, it gives a focus on the country, which you can never obtain if you don't have that kind of resonance. Soccer is - maybe less in the U.S. than rest of the world - but in all the south American countries, Europe and everywhere in the rest of the world, it's a major issue.

And brands will be a key part of MIDEM once again?

It is a key theme for MIDEM and also, from what we understand, for the brands themselves. Because today they have to find new ways of communicating to their audience that are completely different from what it used to be, the traditional way - print and television - and they have to adapt themselves. And music is one of the vectors of communication they will use the most in the coming years. The emotional part of it [music] is linked to their audience and so for us it's a must and for them it's a must too.