Digital music conference MidemNet has kicked off in Cannes, with the artists taking center stage at the Debussy auditorium.

The hall was busy this morning (Jan. 23) for the opening session of MidemNet, the curtain raiser to the main MIDEM conference and trade fair that starts tomorrow.

Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls provided a musical introduction, strumming a cover of Radiohead's "Creep" on the ukulele, and she promised to play an outdoor show for fans on the Croisette around 6pm local time. (UPDATE: she actually stood on a table near the auditorium at the end of the day and sang "Creep" to delegates again - the crowds of local people outside would likely not have been distracted from the star arrivals for the NRJ Awards if she had performed outdoors.)

However, only half the panel for "New Models at Work - the Artists' perspective" event made it to Cannes. Richie Hawtin was stuck in Asia, while fellow electronic music artist Paul van Dyk slipped on ice outside his studio in Berlin.

Nevertheless, a brace of artists - Palmer and Dizzee Rascal collaborator Hal Ritson of dance act the Young Punx - ensured this was an insightful opening discussion. Although, as ever, there was no one-size-fits-all solution for artists in the digital era, and labels were criticized for their lack of vision in some cases.

Palmer even claimed that one label clash helped build her connection with fans via her Web site. It happened when she posted a message online about her label Roadrunner being unhappy with shots of her stomach in the edit for the video "Leeds United."

Fans posted pictures of their own stomachs in response and the protest became known as "rebellyon.

"The fans always knew my relationship with the label was not great," said Palmer.

Palmer had to fund her solo album "Who Killed Amanda Palmer," although Roadrunner later took up the option on the 2008 set

Asked about her current arrangement with Roadrunner, she commented: "It's not something I can talk about. Sorry!"

"It's looking good," she added.

She estimated her online community as totaling between 10,000 and 20,000, but was cagey about how her online activity can boost sales.

"I think it's hard to measure those things," she said, adding that her intense online activity is "impacting everything in a good way." She admitted posting to Twitter within one minute of waking up in Cannes today - "the light was so beautiful."

But she conceded that taking control as an artist is time-consuming. "I just don't make art any more," she joked.

While admitting that selling music is tough, Ritson said "there is money out there lurking." Ritson said that fees from DJing are the most lucrative source of revenue.

He also cited a branding deal in Germany with local beer company Warsteiner. The Young Punx played branded events in Germany - Ritson said there was a big boost among German Facebook followers as a result - and made a Warsteiner edition of their podcast, which has 10,000 listeners.

Ritson described the podcast as aiming to imitate a good night out as they just drink and play music. With a brand partner involved he said simply that "we drank their beer" during the making of the podcast.

Discobelle and blog aggregator Elbo were named as key places for the Young Punx to get their music, and fans are alerted when blogs makes tracks available.

"We proactively hire somebody whose job it is to be in contact with the blogs and treat them as gods," said Ritson.

Radiohead's Ed O'Brien was unable to attend in person - the band play a Haiti benefit in L.A. on Sunday - but his video address had some tough talking on behalf of artists. He is a founder member of the Featured Artists' Coalition in the U.K.

"The money men are now running the companies whereas traditionally it was always the creatives," he said.

O'Brien was also critical of the outcry from some quarters - including Lily Allen - when he (and the FAC) said government should not criminalize file-sharing. The FAC never actually said P2P was an entirely good thing, but they objected to any three-strikes measures by government.

"You just disagree on that point and you are typecast as the Taliban," said O'Brien. "I thought in a strong, vibrant and healthy industry you [should] consult all parties involved - particularly the creatives."

The video of O'Brien is available on the MidemNet Web site.