Merlin, World's Leading Independent Label Organization, Opens Up Shop in Japan

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Shibuya crossing in Tokyo at night.

Independent label organization Merlin is growing its international presence, with the opening of its first office in Japan.

Based in the Ebisu district of central Toyko, the department will be headed by former Avex Music Publishing president Haji Taniguchi, who will serve as general manager. Merlin has also recruited Kaoruko Hill to lead on label and service relations as the digital rights group targets new licensing partnerships in the world’s second largest music market.

Merlin’s expansion into Japan arrives a year after the company -- which collectively represents 20,000 labels and distributors across 46 countries and accounts for a 12 percent share of the U.S. and global recorded music markets -- signed its first pan-Asian specific deal with the continent’s leading music streaming service, KKBOX.

“Merlin was conceived as an outward-looking global organization, and the Japanese market will be of paramount importance to our international membership,” says CEO Charles Caldas, who called the expansion “an initial step” into the region that “makes strong strategic sense.”

“That we have an executive as experienced as Haji to guide our membership through the idiosyncrasies of the Asian market, and to bring more local labels and distributors under the Merlin umbrella is a perfect combination,” he went on to say.

“It is a hugely exciting time to be joining Merlin,” added Taniguchi, who has previously served as chair of the Music Publishers Association of Japan and as director of the International Confederation of Music Publishers. He went on to say that the opening of a Japanese office “will offer new opportunities to boost international trade and for independent labels to grow and extend their digital business.”  

Since its foundation in 2008, Merlin has struck global licenses with many of the leading digital services, including Deezer, Google Play, Pandora, SoundCloud, Spotify and YouTube Red. Two years ago, the Amsterdam-based company opened a dedicated U.S. office in New York, headed by former A2IM vp Jim Mahoney. Its expanded international footprint helped generate increased revenues, with Merlin paying out $232 million to its members in the last financial year, up 73 percent on 2014/15.