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Cliff Richard not face of British music any more

UK Music sets sail

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The Monday morning after the clocks go back traditionally brings us very little cheer, but here's one piece of good news - you'll be seeing less of Sir Cliff Richard in the future.

A new umbrella group headed by Feargal Sharkey aims to be the face and brains of British music, and represent the often warring factions within it. British Music Rights, which represented publishers and songwriters, is now UK Music, with a board that reflects the warring factions: managers (MMF) musicians (Musicians Union) independent labels (AIM), collection societies (the PPL and the MCPS-PRS Alliance), composers (BAC&S) and Universal Music Group big labels (the BPI).

Britain has the most rational and progressive music business in the world - eight years ago publishers and independents here recognised the original Napster - but you'd never guess this from the programme of behaviour modification, technological countermeasures and litigation against end users led by the biggest (typically non-UK based) record labels. And that's what gets reported.

In an interview last Friday, Feargal told us that the motivation for the new group had come from a common agreement that the music business was looking into the abyss. He reiterated that music fans should be able to get music on whatever platform they want.

Sharkey took the helm of BMR in January, commissioning research which showed that 80 per cent of downloaders (and 63 per cent of other internet users) would pay for a legal P2P service.

UK Music's immediate programme includes a creator's conference in December, promoting music enterpreneurs in schools, and pushing for a new network of rehearsal spaces. Veteran music publisher, Andy Heath former chairman of BMR, becomes chairman of UK Music.

Last year, British manager Keith Harris lamented how the music business had "made a rod for its own back" by making Cliff Richard the face of its campaign to extend the copyright term for sound extensions. Half of the revenue goes to session musicians, he pointed out, not record labels - a fact lost on most people.

"To some extent the industry was foolish for not preparing the case with somebody else, who needs the money more, but is going to be hit by exactly the same rules," said Harris. ®

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