Portuguese music industry tries to improve poor image .jpg

Portuguese music industry tries to improve poor image

PORTUGAL’S FIRST Music Industry Fair (FIMP) took place in Lousã, near Coimbra, recently in a brave bid to reverse the painful and slow decline of the country’s musical culture image in recent years, reports The Resident’s Chris Graeme.

The fair was organised by music lobbyist, Helder Bruno Martins, with strong support from both the Author’s Rights Management Association (GDA) and the Portuguese Authors’ Society (SPA). The four-day event, which included discussions, workshops, stalls and up to 500 visitors per day, had several key objectives:

•  To provide and promote a business platform for all those involved in the music industry.

•  To raise the profile, image and prestige of Portuguese musical culture and national repertoire.

•  To encourage a national voice for the music industry, which has been ignored by successive governments since the 1990s.

•  To discuss problems of piracy, illegal downloads, and declining CD and music sales.

•  To try and evaluate the cultural, social, economic and financial impact of all aspects of the music industry on Portuguese national life.

One day was devoted to discussing issues related to music and the internet, with speakers from the Portuguese Phonographic Association (AFP), consumer group DECO, as well as internet law and radio online specialists.

For many years, the Portuguese music industry has been unable to compete with the country’s ready acceptance to absorb and give preferential treatment to music from Anglo-Saxon countries and Brazil.

Portuguese commercial radio, unlike their counterparts in Spain and France, has been unwilling to give significant airplay to Portuguese music in recent years, often devoting between as little as five to 15 per cent airplay to national repertoire. The main commercial radios have said, more than once, that extensive market research surveys show that audiences prefer to listen to music sung in English.

Throughout the 1990s, successive governments suggested that the country had more pressing problems than worrying about the music industry, although in recent years that stance is changing.

Last year, a law was passed forcing radios to up their airplay quotas of Portuguese music to 25 per cent for commercial stations and 40 per cent for the state held RTP stations, between 7am and 8pm, with stiff fines of up to 50,000 euros for non-compliance.

However, successive attempts by music retail and industry lobbies to get the government to lower IVA (VAT) on music to five per cent – such as is the case with other cultural items like books – have fallen on deaf ears, despite supportive campaigns by one of the country’s leading music retail outlets, Fnac. IVA in Portugal is among the highest anywhere in Europe, with luxury items taxed at 21 per cent.

Eduardo Simões of the AFP said: “The fair was mainly dedicated to musical instruments, music schools and one or two small record labels. Yet, I think this could become a regular annual event because of the excellent way the organisers put it together.”

Helder Bruno Martins of the FIMP said: “We’re trying to address the humiliating image that Portuguese music has both here and abroad. We have good music, but we don’t know how to market ourselves successfully. We don’t even have an export bureau like most other countries.

“We’re trying, through this fair, to transmit a cultural musical identity that doesn’t really exist in Portugal. But things are changing and this fair is part of it. Radios are now starting to get involved in new Portuguese musical projects, and multinational record companies are waking up to the fact that they are losing ground nationally,” he said.

“It’s incredible to think that the music industry, at all levels, simply doesn’t have statistics setting down specific amounts in music and music-related sales. We must be one of the few countries in Europe that doesn’t know the total value generated by the wider music industry and its impact on the economy,” he stressed.

However, despite the success of the event, which had up to 50 stallholders, not one multinational record company was present at the fair.

The music industry in Portugal, in terms of music CD sales, has suffered double digit percentage declines in the past five years. Total CD sales represented 103.1 million euros in 2005, of which Portuguese music represented 12,498 million euros. In 2000, before the current economic and illegal download crises hit the music business, that figure stood at 18,230 million euros for national repertoire.

“We’ve partly got ourselves to blame for our poor self image,” admits Helder Bruno Martins, because all of the various music and cultural entities should work together and say, “hey, we have good Portuguese music and we are proud of it, so let’s tell the world!”