Charles Caldas

Charles Caldas

Courtesy Photo

Since launching in May 2008, Merlin, the global music rights agency which negotiates the economic parameters of music licensing with more than 20 digital music services on behalf of independent labels, has paid out $1 billion to its 20,000 independent record labels and distributors in 53 countries around the world.

After growing to $42 million in the year ended April 2013, Merlin's payout growth began leapfrogging to $89 million in 2014; about $160 million in 2015; $232 million in 2016; and in the year ended April 2017, $353 million.

"It makes me immensely proud to reach this landmark," Merlin CEO Charles Caldas said in a statement. "Like all the best independent labels, Merlin is run with passion, as a lean and efficient operation -- albeit with an extensive and profound global responsibility. Our unique structure has empowered Merlin's members to sit centre stage in the streaming market, while enabling digital music services to capitalize on the immense consumer demand for independent music."

Tommy Boy founder Tom Silverman notes that "when we dreamed up Merlin, we hoped to better compete with the then four major labels and to be able to negotiate competitive deals for our members and participate in industry settlement actions. We never dreamed that we would eventually distribute a billion dollars to our sector. And this is only the beginning!"

Meanwhile, Ashley Whitfield, owner of Hong Kong-based Evolution Ltd notes that in addition to the $1 billion payout, Merlin's market share presence enabled it to negotiates a settlement with the Warner Music Group to divest some of its music in order to buy Parlophone Records without independents protesting that acquisition to the EU. "One billion dollars -- not to mention the Warner divestment, and other key achievements," Whitfield said. "Merlin has been the essential key for thousands of independent labels, big and small, to thrive in the digital era."

Moreover, last year Merlin collected more money from Brazil that it did in France, noting that the streaming channel has made many of its members have an international presence.

Caldas noted that thanks to the digital world, about 42 percent of Merlin's member now make more money outside their territory, while only 16 percent of members labels can report the same accomplishment when it comes to physical music.

"Thanks to Merlin, independent music companies can compete with the biggest recording companies," Secretly Label Group co-owner Darius Van Arman, said in a statement. "Now that Merlin has paid over a billion dollars to its members, we can proudly say that Merlin is an essential pillar of the music economy, supporting a fair, healthy and diverse marketplace for artists and companies of all sizes."