The major labels' apparent refusal to start dialog with representatives of the international independent labels body was slammed yesterday at the 8th annual general meeting of the Association of Independent Music (AIM) in London.

In May, AIM approached the IFPI, the international trade body for the majors and several indies, about having an indie label representative on the latter organization's board.

AIM was acting on behalf of its members, and international sister organizations such as the Europe-wide trade group Impala and the Worldwide Independent Network.

At its annual meeting yesterday, AIM argued that such a move would enable the independents to join forces with the majors to find a solution to the dramatically declining global music industry.

"This has now officially been turned down," Alison Wenham, AIM's chairman/CEO, told the audience at Brompton Hall, Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

"We're like the enemy outside the gate. It's a little like having the peasants turn up for lunch at the House of Lords," she declared, referring to the section of the U.K. government representing the country's nobility.

Unable to contain her disappointment, she continued: "We've requested a seat at the table of IFPI to help shape future policies. But the majors don't want us to sit at their table. One has to ask, what are they frightened of?"

She pointed to the indie labels' successful efforts to become a global force via WIN and Merlin, the indies' new global digital-licensing agency.

"All over the world, (WIN and Merlin) are a testament to our organizational skills. We want our voice to be listened to and respected," she added.

"With a (combined) market-share greater than any major in this industry, they resent us for what we have done about the mergers," she added, referring to Impala's successful action to have the European Commission's approval of the Sony Music-BMG merger reversed.

IFPI denies not seeking to work with independent labels. "We already have hundreds, if not thousands, of independents who are members of IFPI," John Kennedy, IFPI's chairman/CEO, tells

He noted that the board also features representatives from individual indie labels. Currently, the two indie members on the board are Paul Birch, owner of U.K.-based Revolver Records, and Toshiaki Shibuya, president/CEO of Japan's Victor Entertainment.

Kennedy also said Martin Mills, chairman of the Beggars Group and Impala, plus Michel Lambot, co-chairman of the PIAS Group, had been invited to join the IFPI board.

But they were invited as representatives of their respective companies, not of a trade association. "We're not going to interact with another trade association," he added.