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Geoff Taylor, CEO Of UK Labels Trade Body BPI, Is Stepping Down

Taylor, who led the organization's fight against online music piracy and lobbied to extend copyright for song recordings, says he's moving to the commercial sector.

LONDON — BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor says he will step down next year after more than 15 years at the helm of the U.K. labels trade body.

Taylor says he intends to move to a “more directly commercial role” after leaving the London-based organization, although he gave no indication what his next post will be.

BPI appointed Taylor chief executive in 2007. The labels trade body represents the U.K. arms of all three major labels, as well as British independents.

Taylor’s time at the head of BPI coincided with a period of transformation in the record industry, driven by the transition from physical CDs to digital downloads and then streaming as the dominant methods of music consumption.

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During this period, BPI fought a long and successful campaign against online music piracy, obtaining blocking orders for numerous illegal peer-to-peer and stream ripping sites. The organization also negotiated significant reforms to global policies for Google, YouTube, Facebook and online advertising networks to better protect music rights by targeting illegal sites for demotion on search engines and disrupting their funding.

The United Kingdom has the third-lowest music piracy rate in the world at 15% (only Japan and Sweden have lower rates), according to a 2021 IFPI survey. BPI has submitted more than one billion infringing music links to search engines for delisting on behalf of U.K. artists and labels. In 2020, the organization said it was the world’s second-highest remover of illegal content from Google, behind anti-piracy company Rivendell.

In addition to fighting piracy, Taylor’s lobbying skills won industry and government support for the extension of copyright on music recordings from 50 years to 70 years – a major victory for artists, record companies and performers that was passed into U.K. law in 2013.

Last year, Taylor gave evidence at the Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) Committee inquiry about the economics of music streaming. Appearing before committee members, Taylor advocated on behalf of U.K. artists and record labels and rallied against “distortions” in the digital market caused by UGC services like YouTube using safe harbor protections to enable them to pay lower royalty rates than subscription services such as Spotify and Deezer.

As chief executive of BPI, Taylor also serves as CEO of the BRIT Awards, the U.K.’s biggest annual music awards show, and the Mercury Prize, its independent-leaning sister event, recognizing what judges determine to be the 12 best albums of the year by U.K. and Irish artists.

Over the past decade, Taylor has steered the modernization of the BRIT Awards, substantially growing its international profile and global reach via partnerships with digital services YouTube, Roblox and TikTok.

Although U.K. TV viewing figures for this year’s BRIT Awards fell to 2.7 million, down from 2.9 million the previous year, there were more than 16 million views of BRIT-related videos on TikTok on the day of the show. Adele’s performance of “I Drink Wine” has since been viewed more than 18 million times on YouTube. (There were more than 30 million total YouTube views of performances from this year’s show.)

Prior to leading BPI, Taylor was general counsel and executive vice-president at the international record industry association IFPI. He also worked as general counsel at BPI and legal advisor at IFPI earlier in his career.

Taylor says he plans to stay in the job until early 2023 — BPI’s 50th anniversary year — in order to help BPI’s newly appointed chair Yolanda Brown find an appropriate successor.

In making the announcement, Taylor said it has “been a great privilege to lead the BPI during such a transformational period for British music,” but, after much reflection, he has decided “15 years is enough for any moderately sane individual and that now is the time to use my experience more directly in a commercial environment.”

The U.K. heads of all three major labels paid tribute.

Tony Harlow, CEO of Warner Music UK, said Taylor’s “insightful and forward-thinking leadership benefited the industry as it navigated huge challenges over the last 15 years” helping “secure a sustainable and growing music industry in our country.”

Jason Iley, chairman and CEO of Sony Music UK, said the outgoing CEO tirelessly “led the BPI with a tight grip on the big issues” and the whole industry has benefitted from its work combatting piracy, showcasing British talent and campaigning for export funding from the British government.

David Joseph, chairman and CEO of Universal Music UK, said Taylor has made “a significant contribution to our industry” and thanked him for his “calm leadership, insight and dedicated work in support of labels right across the country.”