Moore -- "Consumer choice has been revolutionised."
CANNES: Knocked sideways a decade ago by online piracy, the record industry had a spring in its step in the run-up to the MIDEM trade fair this weekend, buoyed by figures suggesting legal downloading has taken off for good.
"As we enter 2012, there are good reasons for optimism in the world of digital music," Frances Moore, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), told reporters ahead of the annual Riviera event, which runs from January 28-31.
Industry figures show the digital music business registered unprecedented global expansion in 2011 -- suggesting music lovers are finally turning their backs on piracy and are willing to pay to download the records they want.
Moore, whose organisation represents the interests of the recording industry, says "consumer choice has been revolutionised" and that legal download services with expanding audiences now reach across the globe.
Last year saw a jump in the reach of digital music services, with sites such as Spotify, Deezer and Sony's Music Unlimited now available in 58 countries worldwide compared with 23 at the start of 2011.
Digital music revenues grew an estimated eight per cent to 5.2 billion dollars (four billion euros) in 2011, while the number of people paying to subscribe to music services leapt 65 per cent to 13.4 million worldwide, IFPI estimates show.
News that the industry looks to be emerging from a 10-year crisis and that online music sales are finally proving viable promise to get the four-day MIDEM fair off to an upbeat start.
But the estimated 7,000 executives from the music, advertising, digital and technology worlds expected to attend still face tough challenges as the sector continues its transition from a physical to a digital music industry.
Piracy remains a threat, though government action against illegal file-sharers in some countries, particularly France, is starting to have an impact and has helped boost legal sales, the IFPI's Digital music Report 2012 noted.
Worldwide, one in four Internet users are still illegally accessing music via unauthorised websites, according to IFPI/Nielsen statistics.
The question of how artists should be paid will continue to be at the heart of the packed schedule of high-level MIDEM conferences that run alongside the main business of buying and selling music.
But this year, the spotlight will be on Internet giants and social media players such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and YouTube, which are altering the music landscape via a host of new services.
"The main theme of this MIDEM is about how social networks have made it possible to be in direct contact with the consumer -- the public," Bruno Crolot, MIDEM's new director told AFP in an interview.
There will be keen interest in what Facebook senior executive Dan Rose has to say about music on the social networking giant, which counts 750 million active members, and which recently signed partnerships with several music firms, including a web-based ticketing service.
And cloud-based services recently launched by Apple, Google and Amazon that allow fans to store music on a remote server (or cloud) rather than on music devices will be a hot topic.
New countries attending the event this year include Bulgaria, Belarus, Singapore, Cameroon and Bermuda.
Once the business is done, hundreds of live concerts will set Cannes rocking well into the small hours throughout the fair.
Stars expected to jet in include Coldplay and Justin Bieber along with British indie pop duo, The Ting Tings, whose debut album "We Started Nothing" sold over two million copies worldwide, and the soul singer Selah Sue.