An animated debate on the future of music publishing formed the backdrop for this year's annual general meeting of the U.K.'s Music Publishers Association.

The meeting, held Tuesday in central London, kicked off with elections for positions on the board of directors, which saw Nigel Elderton, managing director of peermusic U.K., elected chairman. He replaces Paul Curran, the ex-CEO of BMG Music Publishing U.K., who is now COO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment U.K. and Ireland.

During "Playing Out the Future," a panel debate on the music industry's future, an optimistic Andy Heath, chairman of British Music Rights, said he believed the industry could more than double the revenue generated from digital distribution in just a few years' time.

This followed a presentation by Steve Porter, CEO of the MCPS-PRS Alliance collecting society, during which he announced that online had generated nearly £10 million ($19.6 million) in 2007 for its members. This represented a 54% increase from 2006.

Feargal Sharkey, CEO of BMR, said he felt positive about reaching agreements so that Internet service providers (ISPs) would remunerate rights owners. "BMR is not only at the heart of the ISP debate, it is at the epicentre," he said. "We're pushing forward initiatives to building the next generation of business models, and ones that will unlock the full potential (of our business)."

However, Nicholas Riddle, MPA deputy chairman and CEO of Peters Edition, warned that the industry also needed to bring in fresh blood for its long-term good health.

"There's an old boys' network in this industry and we need to break this up," he said. "And then, there is the need for gender balance. (The industry) is appallingly white and male, dominated by WASPs: White, Anglo-Saxon, Publishers. How can an industry that deals with cultural and artistic forms look quite so unrepresentative?"

The MPA elections also saw Chris Butler, COO of international sheet-music distributor Music Sales, become deputy chairman. The MPA board was joined by six music-publisher board representatives: Peter Barnes (Pink Floyd Music Publishers); Paul Connolly (Universal Publishing); Jane Dyball (Warner Chappell Music); Heath (4AD and BMR); James Fitzherbert-Brockholes (Kobalt Music Group); and Fran Malyan (EMI Publishing).

Also during the program, peermusic's Bryony Walden was presented with the MPA Richard Toeman Scholarship, which provides funding of £3,000 ($5,900) to support an outstanding individual's progress in the music publishing business. The scholarship is named after the music publisher Richard Toeman, who passed away in March 2005 following a 40-year career with the Josef Weinberger firm.

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