News January 13, 2022

Chris Maund says Merlin’s market share is ‘comparable to Warner’

Chris Maund says Merlin’s market share is ‘comparable to Warner’
Chris Maund

Merlin, the independent sector’s digital music licensing partner, has unveiled a new board, which sees Chris Maund, Melbourne-based COO of Mushroom Labels, re-elected for another term.

The association was set up 15 years ago as a collective bargaining livewire for independents to get equitable rates from streaming platforms partial to major labels.

Merlin has now struck deals with nearly 40 digital services and distributed over US $2 billion to its members across its first decade.

It distributed $845 million in the 12 months to March 31 2019 – a 63% year-on-year rise.

It says members represent over 20,000 labels which have 15% of the global market share.

“I think it might be slightly higher than that on certain services but its strong market share and comparable to Warner,” Maund told TMN.

“While Merlin acts as a not-for-profit and is not focused on growth, there are certainly a number of independent labels who I know would derive a lot more value from Merlin membership than a distributor one, and we would love them to join.”

To tap into the growth potential in emerging markets, Merlin set up an Asian office in Japan, “having at least four board member’s from those markets and staff who understand the Latin market.”

The new board has yet to meet to plan strategies for 2022. But Maund suggests strengthening its analytics offering to members would be one.

Pooling members digital data in more detail “can benchmark their performance against a large pool of like-minded labels to make better business decisions.”

A priority for Merlin is to grow its global membership base in emerging markets.

That is reflected in the make-up of the new board.

The other nine returning members represent primarily the long running indies, including pioneers as Martin Mills, founder & chairman, Beggars Group (UK); Michael Ugwu, CEO, Freeme Digital (Nigeria); Darius Van Arman, co-CEO of Secretly Group (US); and Pieter van Rijn, CEO, FUGA (Netherlands).

There are also entrepreneurs who have built companies from the ground up and technology experts as Marie Clausen, head of NA and Global Streaming, Ninja Tune (US) and Michael Ugwu, CEO, Freeme Digital (Nigeria).

Newly elected are Pascal Bittard, owner, IDOL (France); Tom Deakin, Head of EMEA, AudioSalad (UK); Sandra Ortega, director of Global Partnerships, Altafonte (Mexico); Louis Posen, president & executive director, Hopeless Records (US); Jason Taylor, sales and label strategy director, Redeye (US); and Yushi Yamashita, president, RightsScale (Japan).

This is the most diverse Merlin board yet and comes after 110 new members from 33 countries joined from January 2020.

They included first-timers from Albania, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan, Peru, Singapore, Slovakia, Taiwan, Turkey and UAE.

“Merlin is led by the needs of our diverse and growing membership,” Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota said.

“We take great pride at Merlin in representing members from every part of the world through trust, access, flexibility and transparency.

“Our board is a vibrant and strong voice from our membership.

“We’re pleased that our new board has music industry leaders with such a wide range of expertise—I look forward to their advice, guidance, and perspectives.”

Australian labels make up about a dozen of members, leaving plenty of room for more growth.

“Yes, there would a number of Australian labels who I think would derive a lot of value from joining Merlin,” Maund told TMN.

“When you put up Merlin’s admin fee of only 1.5% against any distributor rate, I think all indie labels should at least look at it and if there any are reading this article I’d be happy to talk to them about Mushroom’s experience and direct them to Merlin’s excellent membership team.”

But, he emphasises, there are exceptions.

“Some labels may have a strategic reason to work with a distributor or are not at a level where they can manage their own digital business and would be better placed with one of Merlin’s distributor members until they scale up to that level.

“Merlin’s membership team are great for any prospective indie labels to talk to about whether they are ready to become a full licensing member.”

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