Stu Watters, CEO of Australia's independent music companies' trade association AIR, will exit next month after five years in the post, Billboard.biz understands.

Watters is believed to be pursing a new career outside the music industry. In the interim, the void left by the executive's departure is expected to be filled by AIR program manager Nick O'Byrne and the AIR board of directors.

During his stint with the non-profit organization, Watters forged brand partners for the indie community with the likes of Jagermeister, V Energy and Sonicbids, and established the AIR Awards, which expanded into a televised event for its third edition in 2009.

Watters took the helm at the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) back in 2004, following a five-year stint as executive officer at Brisbane-based not-for-profit music body Q Music. Soon after his appointment, AIR relocated from Sydney to Brisbane. In September 2007, Watters and his team set up base in Melbourne, bringing the trade body closer to the "indie power brokers" of Australia.

AIR recently appointed Sydney-based law firm TressCox to act as its legal representative, following the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) favorable ruling on collective licensing back in January. The collective bargaining breakthrough means AIR's members can collectively negotiate with the likes of MTV Networks, Telstra, Optus and BigPond without fear of breaking competition provisions.

The Association was incorporated in 1996 with a remit to represent the independent industry on issues of national and international significance, and to offer a range of projects and services for its membership.

Over the past eight years, AIR's membership has grown from 25 to more than 350 companies, and the association serves the interests of about 5,000 artists.