Yesterday the organizers of one of Europe’s largest music conferences “Popkomm” publicly announced its cancellation for 2009. Originally it was to take place in September at “Station Berlin”. In an official press statement Ralf Kleinhenz, Managing Director of Popkomm Gmbh gave the following reasons for cancelling this year’s event:
“A situation that was becoming clear early this year at Midem in Cannes also seems to be affecting Popkomm in Berlin. Despite positive reactions to the new event location and a satisfactory number of bookings by exhibitors, because of the economic situation we anticipate a considerable decline in trade visitor attendance. Out of responsibility towards the exhibitors we have therefore decided to postpone Popkomm for one year.”
While this reads like a reference to the overall economic crisis, Dieter Gorny, head of the Association of the German Music Industry, tried to reframe the cancellation into a political statement later that day:
“The digital crisis fully hits the music industry. Because of Internet piracy many companies cannot afford to take part at the Popkomm any longer. […] We want to point the way that politics finally must act to stop theft of intellectual property on the net.” (Handelsblatt, translation L.D.)
This strategy of blaming Internet piracy for all of the music industry’s problems is not new. For years this is the chorus sung by music industry representatives whenever there is bad news. But probably piracy is too good an excuse: if one has the impression that business models and strategies are only threatened by criminals and would work otherwise, this may not be the best starting point for (self-)critical reflexion and innovation. Couldn’t it be that the music industry fails in coping with digital challenges because its major proponents have a “perfect excuse” for their management failures? In a way, their defeatism might thus performatively cause their eventual defeat. Just consider this an alternative explanation.