U.K. Music, a new umbrella organization for the British music industry, is officially open for business and will begin by addressing the thorny issue of illegal file-sharing.

The industry body launched today (Oct. 27) and will aim to be one voice for the collective interests of artists, musicians, songwriters and composers, major and independent record labels, music managers, music publishers, collecting societies and studio producers.

It has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Association of Independent Music (AIM), the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters (BAC&S), BPI, the MCPS-PRS Alliance, the Music Managers Forum (MMF), the Music Publishers Association Limited (MPA), the Musicians Union (MU) and PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd). The new organization will be headed by CEO Feargal Sharkey and chairman Andy Heath, both formerly of the British Music Rights body.

"I think it's a remarkable thing for the industry to do," Sharkey told Billboard.biz. "I think we've all known for quite some time that perhaps we could take a different approach to how we go about relating to each other within the industry, but more importantly with the outside world. It's a clear message right across the industry that we do realize that we have huge amounts more in common than perhaps we ever realized before."

U.K. Music will be engaged in public policy and lobbying, public communications and public opinion, research and analysis and industry-relevant education and skills. Sharkey said it will lobby the U.K government as well as the EU on issues such as copyright term extension.

"It's important that we're all cooperating and doing our best to help support each other achieve a result that benefits the creators, record companies and everyone else involved in the industry," he said.

Outlining the opening strategy, Sharkey said that there will be a cross-industry submission this week (Oct. 30) on illegal file-sharing as part of the government's consultation on legislative options to tackle illegal peer-to-peer activity.

"One of the first things I will be doing as the new chief executive of U.K. Music is to address the internet service providers' annual conference," added Sharkey. "Technology has always needed content and content has always needed technology. We are inextricably linked and we need to ensure that we are on top of all that stuff and doing the best we can."

A "Music Industry Manifesto" will be unveiled by early 2009, to express the support needed for the long-term prosperity of the music business and creative industries.

U.K. Music will also stage a creators' conference in December, featuring artists and songwriters alongside U.K. and EU policy-makers.

Research programs include a follow-up to the University of Hertfordshire's behavioral survey of digital consumption patterns of young music fans.

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