Charles Caldas, Ex-Merlin CEO, Talks Exceleration Music

Charles Caldas
Magnus Arrevad

Charles Caldas

When it comes to the global independent music community and its myriad challenges, Charles Caldas really knows his stuff.

The Australian native was there at the very beginning of Merlin, announcing the independents’ digital rights agency to the industry at Midem 2007, and helming the organization from its inception in 2008.

During his time in charge, Merlin distributed over $2 billion to roughly 900 members, including more than 20,000 labels and distributors in over 60 countries that make up 12% of the global digital recorded-music market.

Prior to leaving at the end of 2019, Caldas had struck licensing deals with Spotify, YouTube, Deezer, SoundCloud, Pandora, Facebook, Tencent and more.

Merlin is a multiple winner of the A2IM Libera Awards' Independent Champion honor, Caldas is a recipient of the Indie Champion honor at the AIM Independent Music Awards.

Post-Merlin, Caldas stayed true to his independent roots by joining the newly-formed Exceleration Music, spearheaded by former Concord Music Group CEO Glen Barros with a calling to “invest in the future of independent labels and artists.”

Unveiled earlier in the year, its mission statement touts a values-led approach to investment and acquisition, and a mindset of preserving and building on the legacies of labels and the artists the venture works with, with an eye to a “future focused on growing the value of their rights.”

Caldas is part of Exceleration’s foundation team of indie power-players, which includes Amy Dietz (former GM of Ingrooves), John Burk (former president of Concord Records) and Dave Hansen (ex-GM of Epitaph Records and executive chairman of Merlin).

“With all of the market consolidation we are seeing, we felt there was a room for a venture like ours that can invest in music, but in a better way than by simply amassing music as an ‘asset class,’ which is frankly an anathema to us,” Caldas explains.

Its team of experts “understand the independent culture and who will work to enhance and protect the legacies of the people we work with. All of the founders have slightly different backgrounds, and we cover a lot of bases,” he continues.

From the outset, Caldas will contribute the knowledge and experience “amassed in the global streaming market, and across the independent sector to ensure we create a truly global offering,” he explains.

Early investments include the Chicago blues label Alligator Records, specialist jazz label Candid Records, plus a strategic partnership with the Ray Charles Foundation.

“At our heart,” explains Caldas, “we care about keeping independent companies independent and the independent sector healthy.”