'We're getting real value coming out of Latin America and Asia': Charles Caldas on Merlin's membership boom

Charles Caldas

Digital rights agency Merlin added more members in 2017 than in any year since its launch, CEO Charles Caldas has told Music Week.

The independent digital rights agency has been fighting the good fight for a decade now – launched at MIDEM in 2007, it had its first year in operation in 2008. And yet 2017 saw it add 104 new members, from 18 countries, a record outside of its launch year. The US provided the most new members, followed by the UK, Japan, Netherlands, Canada, Egypt, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Colombia.

“There are two factors influencing that growth,” said Caldas, speaking in the new print edition of Music Week. “One is the market; there are more people restructuring their businesses to be more hands-on in terms of how they deal with the digital market, and Merlin can become a great ally in that.

“The more exciting part of the growth, in terms of the future, is that – as the revenues start to spread out and you become more of a global business – you’re getting real value coming out of markets like Latin America and South East Asia. We’re starting to see members emerge from those markets. That’s a very positive sign that the market’s heading to a much healthier position, not just in the key music markets, but in a truly global way.”

Caldas said the international streaming boom was empowering the independents who – pre-Merlin launch – were often ignored or offered worse terms than the majors in digital service providers’ licensing deals.

“If you combine the globalisation of the streaming market with all the data that comes out of it, you can really start running a much more global business,” he said. “You can find opportunities to get artists into markets, you can find new fanbases, you can find new revenue streams. We’re just at the start of that era and it’s going to be really exciting to see what happens, not only with the business and revenues, but in terms of collaboration, cross-pollination of artists and music moving across borders.”

Caldas said that Merlin’s recent sale of its Spotify equity stake and the distribution of the proceeds to members – a story broken around the world by Music Week – showed the value of his non-profit organisation.

“It’s a very tangible example of the reason the organisation was set up, to make sure that the labels participate [in the digital market],” he said. “It’s good to get the money in the hands of the labels.”

To read the full interview with Caldas, including his views on Spotify, Facebook and playlisting, grab a copy of the new print edition of Music Week or click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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