The independent sector is losing one of its most successful champions: Alison Wenham is leaving her role as chief executive of the Worldwide Independent Network.
Wenham – winner of the Music Week Women In Music Outstanding Contribution award in 2016 – has led WIN for 12 years, scoring a number of notable victories and providing a much-needed global voice and focus for the independent sector. She went full-time as WIN chief executive in 2016, having initially set up the body in 2006. She also previously served as chair/CEO of AIM, the UK indies body that she set up in 1999.
“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to devote two decades of my life and career to helping ensure the stability and continued growth of the independent music sector,” said Wenham. “Since launching AIM in 1999 I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with amazing friends and colleagues as, together, we set out and then delivered a new era of respect for the role and importance of the sector.
“We changed attitudes towards the sector across the world, and ensured that independent music copyrights are now recognised and valued. I am immensely proud of all we have achieved in that time and independent music will remain a passion of mine. I have decided, however, that the time is now right, with the organisation in good health, to step down from my position at WIN. I want to thank everybody I have worked with over the years for their incredible support.”
WIN chairman Martin Mills, also founder of the Beggars Group, paid tribute to Wenham as “a force of nature for all of us, and a central factor in indies being able to compete worldwide with companies many times their size”.
“As she moves on, she leaves us strong and thriving, and looking forward to many fruitful seasons,” he added. “For that we are eternally grateful to her.”
Indeed, the entire indie sector owes Wenham a debt of gratitude. As WIN CEO, she led the calls for the major labels to share their Spotify equity payment windfalls with distributed independent artists and labels and introduced the annual WINTEL report, which maps global market share and sets out the value of the sector to the wider music business. The latest report showed the indies’ UK market share rise to 23%, while its global share hit 39.9%, with Wenham telling Music Week that discovery was “driving the independents’ growth”.
Wenham is renowned as a shrewd negotiator, famously reducing Apple’s Steve Jobs to apoplexy over her demands that the digital giant pay independent companies in line with the majors for the launch of its iTunes store (Apple eventually agreed to Wenham’s demands). She was also instrumental in setting up the indies’ digital rights body Merlin, and the indies’ current healthy position in the streaming age owes much to her tenacity and strategic approach. She also blazed a trail for female executives in the industry.
There is no news yet as to her replacement or on Wenham’s future plans, although Music Week understands she will take a break over Christmas before considering her next move.