Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 17:36 UK

Feargal Sharkey calls for new digital music deals

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Feargal Sharkey
Former Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey is head of UK Music

Innovative new legal music services must be developed as anti-piracy laws get nearer, music business figurehead Feargal Sharkey has said.

The government is pushing through laws to stop illegal file-sharing, but says fans should have more alternatives.

Plans to offer unlimited legal downloads for a flat monthly fee remain stuck on the drawing board.

UK Music boss Sharkey said: "We need to sit down as quickly as possible and start developing these new services."

UK Music is made up of a range of bodies representing record labels, songwriters and managers.

"Over the next couple of days I would like to genuinely reach out to the internet service providers and technology companies," Sharkey told the BBC.

I'm throwing down a gauntlet to all of us and I hope that really quickly we can now get down to business
Feargal Sharkey

"Personally I'm very happy to give people whatever music they want on whatever platform they want it.

"It's going to take all of us - the music industry, the games industry, the film industry, the ISPs, the technology companies.

"It's a challenge and I'm throwing down a gauntlet to all of us and I hope that really quickly we can now get down to business."

Virgin Media is among the ISPs that have tried to launch an "all you can eat" offer - with unlimited downloads for an extra fee added to the monthly bill.

But that has stalled because record labels are worried about how big their cut would be.

Some companies were waiting to see the progress of the new Digital Economy Bill, which proposes that serial file-sharers could have their internet accounts suspended, he said.

That bill has just been approved by the House of Commons and is expected to be signed off by the House of Lords. It will give the industry some "breathing space", Sharkey believes.

Turn on the tap

"Clearly the legislation disrupted things because some people wanted to sit and wait to see what the outcome was going to be," the former Undertones singer said.

"I'm hoping that very quickly we can get back to doing what should be the most exciting thing we should be doing over the next nine to 12 months - making sure we can press whatever button we want, turn whatever tap we want and all this extraordinary music will come out of it."

In October, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said legislation would "only ever be part of the solution" to piracy.

"The best long-term solution is there in front of our noses. It's the market - but it has to be a market in which those who love music and film, for example, can find a deal that makes breaking the law an unnecessary risk," he said.

"I know how complicated building these networks and services can be, but in that respect, the industry needs to move faster in a much more agile, commercial and market response orientated way to help itself."

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