British trade minister Ian Pearson today (March 2) unveiled a series of joint government and industry initiatives intended to help rebuild the profile of U.K. music in America.

British trade minister Ian Pearson today (March 2) unveiled a series of joint government and industry initiatives intended to help rebuild the profile of U.K. music in America.

U.K. Trade & Investment, an organization the government established to foster international trade, is lending its support to various projects to help crack the world's biggest music market.

These include training for commercial officers across the network of U.S. diplomatic posts to help them understand the requirements of British music firms attempting to enter the U.S. market.

UKTI will also back new research on the U.S. music market, which will be available free to British music companies.

In addition, industry and government will collaborate the creation of a music portal which will highlight the latest British music for a U.S.-targeted audience. Details on the portal will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Speaking at a press conference today in London, Pearson emphasized the central role Britain's music industry to the national economy. "The creative industries are big business for the United Kingdom. And the music industry is big business for the United Kingdom."

The government-industry partnership comes as the British prepare to send their largest-ever contingent of executives and artists to the Austin, Texas-based festival-cum-trade show South by South West from March 15-19. As part of a mission, organized by indie labels body AIM and supported by UKTI, close to 100 British music companies will be present at SxSW. In addition, more than 120 acts from the British Isles are expected to perform in Austin.

The UKTI has an annual budget of £500,000 ($872,000) for the U.K. music industry. Just over £300,000 ($523,000) of that is used to support music companies attending exhibitions and helping set up missions abroad.

Billboard.biz understands that UKTI will plug £35,000 ($61,000) into a series of British music events. The AIM-mission incorporates travel grants worth about £45,000 ($78,500).

Hot British alternative rock act Hard-Fi will be among the British acts that will perform at Exodus on March 17. Warren Clarke, Hard-Fi manager and owner of Necessary, which releases the band via a worldwide licensing deal with Atlantic, comments, "For any act, breaking America is a long and hard process," he explains. "More importantly, it's an expensive process. You do a couple of tours of America and you're well over £100,000 ($174,000)."

British music executives claim that music produced in the U.K. seems to be back in fashion in the U.S. British repertoire's standing in the United States has improved in recent years to roughly 8% of the market, according to the UKTI. This compared with a low of less than 1% in 1999; a period described today by AIM chair Alison Wenham as resembling a "market failure" for the U.K. industry. As recently as 1986, British music accounted for about 32% of the U.S. market.

James Sellar, secretary general for trade body the Music Managers Forum, says "I don't think the prospect of increasing market share in the U.S. has been very far from our thoughts, especially for those involved with the Music Export Group. What we are now seeing is the culmination of a lot of graft by industry & government to help create new opportunities and reduce barriers to entry."

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