Merlin CEO on new ‘streams’ of digital music revenue

There has never been a better time to be an independent label in the music industry. While digital distribution is levelling the playing field, music rights agencies such as Merlin are ensuring indie artists get their dues in what is still a major-label dominated market.

In a recent interview, Merlin CEO Charles Caldas said: “We’ve moved independents from the back of the queue very much to front and centre in those businesses.” And soon after, in what was touted as a landmark day for independent music, Merlin announced its billionth dollar in distributions.

Ahead of his keynote at Music Matters, as part of All That Matters from 11-13 September here in Singapore, we caught up with Caldas to understand the impact of digital on indie labels and what this means for the future of indie artists as well as music rights agencies.

[Meet Caldas and other global music leaders including Cussion Pang, CEO, Tencent Music Entertainment Group; Lyor Cohen, Global Head of Music, YouTube; Hartwig Masuch, CEO, BMG; Alex Zhu, Co-Founder & Co-CEO,; Joshua Burke, Global Head of Music Sourcing, The Coca-Cola Company; Tom Windish, Senior Executive, Paradigm Talent Agency and many more at Music Matters. Book your seats here.]

“In the digital market, consumers are free to listen to, and discover music they would never had access to in the past. They don’t care what label an artist is signed to, they are looking for music that satisfies their individual tastes, and increasingly, that music is coming from independent labels,” Caldas said.

Since signing its first commercial partnership in September 2008 as a launch partner to Spotify, Merlin has now licensed more than 20 digital music services – including Deezer, Google Play, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, YouTube Red, Pandora, Vevo and KKBOX.

Over the past five years, annual revenues paid to Merlin members have increased eightfold, while administration fees have dropped almost 80%.

The agency has firmly established itself as a market leader, enabling new-generation services to license – via a single global deal – the largest basket of rights outside of the three major labels, and to access music from the world’s most important, unique and successful artists.

New “streams” of revenue

According to Caldas, Merlin’s members are performing better in the streaming marketplace than they ever did in the physical market, and the smart digital services are realising that, and ensuring that they offer their consumers the best possible choice of music from all labels.

“This has turned the preconceived notions of where value comes from in the market on its head. In a few short years, we have gone from criticising services such as Myspace Music for launching without independent licenses, to services such as Spotify and Pandora ensuring they are in business with us and the majors concurrently,” he said.

The emergence and global growth of streaming services has created a truly global marketplace for Merlin’s labels regardless of where they are from, according to Caldas.

“Not only are we seeing labels from the West discovering significant new audiences in South America, Asia and Russia, we are equally seeing labels in South America and Asia finding audiences in the West,” he said.

While Merlin is only just starting to understand the impact of this global marketplace, Caldas strongly feels that for its labels, the streaming market is delivering revenues from previously untapped markets, and opening the market to new players in a way that is unprecedented in the music business.

What is Merin’s plans in Asia? What the growth markets for Merlin in the region? To know more, join the crucial conversations happening at our biggest-ever Music Matters 2017 presented by Tencent.

5 nights of music, 3 days of conference and one All That Matters experience!

With over 30 Keynotes already announced and more to come, there has never been a more valuable time to be part of Asia’s biggest entertainment event of the year! Join us at All That Matters to hear from and connect with key decision makers from the entertainment industry.



Leave a comment