Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota on how indies can profit from social music boom

Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota on how indies can profit from social music boom

Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota has told Music Week that the independent sector is ready to maximise social media’s increasing importance in the music industry. 

What with Instagram launching Reels, Snap’s recent licensing deal and Facebook’s move into music videos, it’s a busy time for social platforms and music, and former Facebook exec Sirota told us he’s planning to make sure the indies can benefit.

Dialling in from New York for our Indie Takeover issue, which stars AIM Awards winners Arlo Parks and Moses Boyd on the cover, Sirota reflected positively on his seventh months in charge. He replaced founding CEO Charles Caldas in January.

“I’m thrilled to be here finding ways to add value for independents,” said Sirota. “I’ve always been in what I would call service-oriented roles and this to me is the ultimate service within the music industry, creating a better opportunity for independents to be independent.”

Read on for an exclusive extract from our Q&A with Sirota.

Do the independents have more to gain from streaming than major companies?

“Yes. We did a survey of the DIY landscape and when I looked at services such as CD Baby Fuga and others, virtually every single one is a Merlin member. DIY is a huge part of the independent sector and also of Merlin. Merlin is founded on record companies, recording groups, distributor members and then DIY and artist management and services. I focus on the best deals and best value for members, driving new and incremental revenue for them, now more than ever. How they do it is what keeps me excited, how they drive their traffic, driving streaming by doing different activities, I love seeing that and learning about that. One of my first calls to members is asking, ‘What are you doing and what’s new?’ and there’s always an exciting story. There’s a lot happening in this social space with Reels launching into new territories, Snap entering the space, Facebook now getting into music videos, it’s an exciting time, albeit a challenging time, to be in music.”

DIY is a huge part of the independent sector

Jeremy Sirota, Merlin

As a former Facebook employee, how significant do you believe their videos deal is?

“Any time a partner wants to explore or expand their role in music, in particular a premium product like music videos, that’s obviously exciting and good news. Merlin is a participant in that and we’re very excited to see it launch, participate and see where it goes. It’s unique from anything out there with music videos, so that’s interesting. I anticipate we may not see the same types of uses as on other platforms. And just generally, it’s an interesting time, Facebook has so many artists. Let’s be honest, I have friends there and was on the other side of it at Facebook doing the Merlin deal and now I’ve come over here and Facebook is not the only one. They appreciate and value the role of Merlin and our members, so building those long term relationships is critical to ensure that we can continue to provide more value, that’s with Facebook, Spotify, YouTube and across the board.”

There’s a lot going on at Tencent too, how could deals such the one it has with Universal, for example, affect the indies? 

“Merlin has three deals out of China, Tencent, Alibaba and NetEase. I hope they [Universal and Tencent] maintain the barriers between the companies, this is not the first example of this happening, but I hope they maintain barriers so that they’re making their own independent decisions. In the meantime, we have a fantastic relationship with Tencent, we’re multiple years into that and it takes a while, it’s a very different marketplace. But it’s really starting to drive more value than we anticipated for our members opening up in a place like China where it can be very difficult to do so individually. Not only do we give value, but the services get value back from us.” 

I hope Universal and Tencent maintain the barriers between the companies

Jeremy Sirota, Merlin

What are Merlin’s priorities for the rest of 2020?

“We’re busier than ever, which is great, whatever we can do to help drive revenues for members is good news. Firstly, there’s growth and deals, continuing to drive new opportunities. Social music is a particular strength, we’re strong in streaming and other areas, but social music is turning out to be even more so and that has a lot to do with the diversity of our membership, the breadth of their catalogue and the variety of genres. We are naturally seeing a growth in membership coming from all around the world, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America… We’ve been quietly expanding the team to better support that growth. We’ve had growth from countries we’ve never had members from before, the latest was in Ghana. When people are approaching us direct to join from places around the world where we may not have people on the ground but they’re learning about how Merlin can help maintain their independence, that means the community is doing what it should be, spreading the word. We’re also focusing on technology and keeping up with Covid.”

Read the full story from Sirota and the other key players in the indie world in our current issue. Subscribers can read it online here. To subscribe and never miss a music biz story, click here. Make sure you can access vital music biz information wherever you are by signing up for our digital edition here

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