Merlin CEO Charles Caldas spoke both on his organization's new agreement with Deezer
and his disagreenment with the Universal merger.

Streaming subscription service Deezer has signed a global licensing deal with independent rights agency Merlin. The agreement brings repertoire from Merlin labels and distributors such as Warp, Yep Roc/Redeye, Epitaph, Phonofile, Tommy Boy, One Little Indian, Kontor New Media, !K7, Merge, and Koch/E1 onto the Deezer music streaming platform.

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Deezer, which first launching in France in 2007, is currently available in more than 50 countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, Brazil and France. A select number of Merlin partner labels, including Domino and the Beggars Group (representing XL Recordings, Rough Trade, Matador and 4AD), are not included in the terms of the deal due to pre-existing agreements.

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Deezer has amassed 20 million users worldwide, of which 1.5 million are paying customers, according to the Paris-based company. In November last year, the web-based service, which has a catalog of 18 million tracks, announced plans to expand into over 100 countries, although it has said that it has no intention to launch in North America due to the high operational costs and complex rights negotiation involved.

"Deezer has obviously been very successful in France and given that success, we are keen to see how they execute their global expansion," Charles Caldas, CEO of Merlin, told Billboard.biz. "For Merlin we hope this becomes another significant source of subscription revenue, and opens up new markets to us. We are sure that the global nature of the Merlin repertoire and its proven success in local and international markets will be a vital factor in Deezer attracting the global audience it is seeking."

Asked about the complexities involved in finalizing a global digital rights license with a subscription service such as Deezer, Caldas conceded that the process remains "a long and complex negotiation, as most are," but "we are hopeful that as time goes on, the increasing importance of independent repertoire to consumers, and by extension, to the success of digital music services is becoming more apparent."

Other digital services that Merlin has signed licensing deals with since commencing operations in 2008 include Spotify, YouTube, Rdio, MySpace Music, Muzu. TV and German subscription service Simfy. It has also helped reach copyright infringement settlements on behalf of its members with XM Satellite Radio, Grooveshark and LimeWire, among others.

"The services that focus on satisfying the needs of [consumers] will be the ultimate winners," Caldas went on to say, before stating his unsurprisingly forthright opposition to the proposed EMI-Universal merger and its potential impact on the independent and digital marketplace.

"The abuse of the dominant position of the largest record companies remains the major obstacle to the development of the digital music market, which can only worsen under the proposed acquisition of EMI by Universal Music Group," Caldas told Billboard.biz. "Putting even more power in the hands of the company already most likely to try and shape legal music services to its own advantage doesn't seem the likely path to a consumer friendly outcome," he continued. "I sincerely hope the European Union and U.S. regulators reviewing this transaction will quickly appreciate the negative impact further consolidation would have on the digital music market, and act accordingly."

"We need a better understanding of the dynamics of the new digital music space, and an end to the outmoded and regressive thinking that assumes that independent repertoire is by definition of inferior value to that of the largest labels," concluded Caldas.

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