Merlin, the global digital agency for independent labels, has announced its billionth dollar in distributions to members.
The organization, led by CEO Charles Caldas, has reached the milestone in less than a decade: it was established in May, 2008.
Today, Merlin acts on behalf of more than 20,000 independent record labels and distributors from 53 countries, including the likes of Beggars Group, Secretly Group, Domino, Sub Pop, Epitaph, Entertainment One, Kobalt Music Recordings, [PIAS] and INgrooves.
Although Merlin doesn’t distribute revenues from the likes of Apple and Amazon, it handles major accounts across YouTube Red, Deezer, SoundCloud, KKBOX, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Vevo and Spotify – with whom it signed a new global, multi-year licensing deal in April.
In the 12 months to the end of March this year, Merlin distributed $353m to its members – the equivalent of nearly $1m every day.
The figure was up by an impressive 52% ($121m) year-on-year. That suggests its next billion dollar milestone should easily arrive in the next 2-5 years.
Over the past five years, annual revenues paid to Merlin members have increased eightfold, while administration fees have dropped almost 80%.
The agency says its combined membership commands over 12% of the digital recorded music market.
“It makes me immensely proud to reach this landmark.”
Charles Caldas, Merlin (pictured)
Charles Caldas said: “It makes me immensely proud to reach this landmark. 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 capitalise on the immense consumer demand for independent music.
“Even more inspiring is that this billion dollars in revenues comes only from the new-generation services that have launched since we did. In a market still in its early stages of evolution, the more significant growth is arguably yet to come.”
Darius Van Arman, co-owner of the Secretly Label Group (Bon Iver, Angel Olsen, ANOHNI, Damien Jurado, Mitski, Dinosaur Jr) commented:
“Thanks to Merlin, independent music companies can compete with the biggest recording companies. 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.”
Martin Mills, Chairman of Beggars Group, added: “Incredible – what a great tribute to everyone involved.”
And Michel Lambot, joint founder, [PIAS] commented: “When we dreamt about acting collectively in setting up Merlin almost 10 years ago we thought we were being really optimistic by setting a budget with an estimated best-scenario turnover of $10m, some said we were crazy and … now we have delivered a billion dollars to the independent community…wow… I am so pleased and so impressed.
“Thanks Charles, thank you Merlin. Let’s continue to dream together.”
“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.”
Darius Van Arman, Secretly Label Group
Merlin’s membership is represented via Merlin’s four offices (London, New York, Tokyo, and an HQ in Amsterdam) and by a team of only 17.
You can read some more very nice quotes about the org’s achievements by leading independent music execs below.
Dave Hansen, GM, Epitaph: “Amazing times when Merlin announces that they have sent out its first billion dollars to their independent label and distributor members while making deals with the digital services that provide us with a competitive edge. We are extremely proud to be part of it all.”
Glen Dicker, Co-owner, Redeye: “A big congrats and thanks to Merlin for making a huge difference to our business by helping us compete on a more level playing field whilst allowing us to concentrate on providing our core services to our partners. Merlin helps indies be indies and to be more self-reliant in making the best decisions for their individual businesses.”
Tom Silverman, Founder, Tommy Boy: “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!”
Ashley Whitfield, Owner, Evolution Ltd Hong Kong: “One billion dollars – not to mention the Warner divestment, and other key achievements! Merlin has been the essential key for thousands of independent labels, big and small, to thrive in the digital era.”
Justin West, Founder, Secret City Records: “A testament to the significance of Merlin and the independent labels of all shapes and sizes that it represents.”
Yoel Kenan, CEO, AFRICORI: “Merlin’s track record continues to show how important it is as an organisation to artists and labels from around the world. It supports the independent community on so many levels, even in challenging regions such as Africa. Congratulation to Merlin’s first billion dollar paid and looking forward to many more to come.”
Scott Muir, Strategic Director, Dunedinmusic.com: “It’s great to see Merlin mark another milestone in delivering value to the indie sector. One billion dollars paid out since humble beginnings in 2007 is proof positive that independence is possible in the global digital market.”Music Business Worldwide