Andy Burnham, Britain's culture secretary, has reached out to the U.K. music industry with a show of support, while promising to keep an "open mind" on the rumbling debate that is the 50-year term of copyright issue.

Speaking at collecting society PPL's 74th annual general meeting in central London today, Burnham did admit that he had not stashed-away any "cast iron solution" for the industry's various problems. But he soundly urged the various segments within the music industry to find collective solutions, while continuing to develop a dynamic creative culture, one which he noted was the envy of Britain's other business sectors.

"We've got to find as a matter of urgency a point of balance," he said, where elements of risk, reward and looking after artists and consumers were all taken into account. "It's a very complex equation," he noted.

It was the first time Burnham has addressed the U.K. business en masse.

During his time on the British Museum's stage, Burnham addressed various industry talking points, such as the pros and cons of business in the digital age, and music within the schooling curriculum. But one of the most tangible signs of his backing came in relation to EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, and the Irishman's unequivocal support for an extension to the term of copyright protection on sound recordings. "I will take a close look at McCreevy's details when they are revealed later in the summer," he said. "I understand the issues," he reiterated, "[And] I will engage constructively in the process and join in the debate with my European counterparts."

McCreevy's proposal in February was diametrically opposed to the British government-backed Gowers Review on intellectual property, which recommended that the 50-year term be retained.

In a Q&A session with the audience, he later noted that he would take on the term of copyright issue with an "open mind." He added, "Let's see how the debate develops in Europe. It's a work in progress."

Burnham showed his music credentials when quipped of being a "failed musician," who had transitioned from double bass, to bass, to electric guitar, and spent time locked away in his bedroom studying from his Billy Bragg songbook. "Music motivates me personally and of course, now professionally," said Burham, who was appointed to the governmental role in January. He boasted of having bought the Wedding Present's 1987 album "George Best" on four formats, most recently as a download. He broke the ice with an anecdote in which he jokingly apologized to the industry for having "murdered" Manfred Mann's 1966 hit song "Pretty Flamingo" when he guested on stage at the Royal Albert Hall performing alongside parliamentary music act MP4.

Immediately following the presentation, PPL CEO Fran Nevrkla told the audience he was "tremendously grateful that we have an advocate in Andy Burnham." Going forward, his "job is to listen to us," Nevrkla added, "and to mull it over and hopefully help come up with some 21st century solutions."

PPL used the platform of its annual meeting to highlight for its members and guests some of the organization's recent breakthroughs, and pledges for the year ahead. PPL achieved top line revenues of £115 million ($224 million) in 2007, the first time it had surpassed the £100 million ($195 million) milestone. Distributable revenue grew to £99.5 million ($194 million), up 18% from the previous year. The organization also reported a strong income performance from the online and mobile field. Thanks partly to a recent deal with the BBC covering fees for the corporation's iPlayer, online and mobile now generates 2.5% of PPL's total broadcast income. PPL's broadcast revenue grew 20% to £56.8 million ($111 million).

"However," said Nevrkla during his speech, "we must do better still by aiming even higher and achieving more. I have always said that collecting societies should not be satisfied by comparing themselves with other similar bodies but rather, we should strive to achieve the standards of performance maintained by the best run companies in any commercial business environment."