Merlin, the global rights body for independent labels, has described the launch of MySpace Music without its members' repertoire as "incredibly disappointing."

However, the London-based trade association says it remains in negotiations to license its members' music. Merlin says its represents labels who have a 9% share of the U.S. digital recorded music market.

Merlin CEO Charles Caldas was critical of the decision to launch today (Sept. 25) without the indies, and the exclusion of the independent sector from any equity component in the new venture.

"It is incredibly disappointing that MySpace will launch their new service without having finalised a deal with the world's most important independent labels and artists," said Caldas in a statement.

Caldas added that it was "absolutely clear that any independent deal struck without an equity component (as was done with the majors), will see independent labels face a situation whereby their major competitors will profit from the use of their [the indies'] repertoire without an appropriate upside opportunity being extended to them [the indies] by MySpace Music and its major label equity partners."

MySpace launched the service as a joint venture with all the majors - EMI Music Group signed up at the eleventh hour - and Sony/ATV Music Publishing. It also unveiled licensing deals with digital aggregator the Orchard and distribution groups as ADA, Red, Fontana and Caroline.

"Whilst Merlin continues our negotiations, we remain extremely concerned that with MySpace Music the major record labels are acting not only as competitors, but through their equity stakes in the venture, as the clients/end user as well," added Caldas. "Without an equitable participation by independents, that creates a situation that is both unhealthy and dangerous."

Updated: Meanwhile, MySpace responded to Merlin's complaints by noting that it has offered the group a licensing and revenue sharing deal-albeit not an equity stake-and remains in negotiations.

"We have offered a relationship with Merlin that provides equal opportunities to Merlin's labels and Merlin's artists that we have provided to ALL labels and artists whether they are Indie Artists, Major Artists or Unsigned artists," reads a MySpace statement. "We hope that the entire Music Community including the Labels and all Artists will take advantage of the unique relationship that MySpace has built between Artists and Fans."

By contrast, Orchard CEO Greg Scholl downplayed the immediate importance of securing an equity stake in MySpace Music.

"The opportunity to create an ancillary and noncannibalistic revenue stream and ignite growth in the sector is, on balance, more important to our clients than holding out for an equity stake of uncertain future value that will likely never come to pass," Scholl says. "So [we] chose proactive engagement . . . We will continue to press our case for equity or profit sharing for the independent sector, but in the meantime, [we will] ensure our clients prosper from the value MySpace Music creates."