'This is an exciting new chapter': Merlin signs first deals in China

'This is an exciting new chapter': Merlin signs first deals in China

Merlin passed the landmark of a billion dollars in payments to members last year. Now it’s reached another milestone: a potentially lucrative series of deals with digital partners in China.

The global digital rights agency for the independent label sector has announced its first participation in the fast-evolving Chinese music market. Merlin has struck a series of strategic non-exclusive licensing partnerships with the country’s five leading digital music services: NetEase Cloud Music (NetEase Cloud Music), Xiami (Ali Music Group), QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo (all Tencent Music Entertainment).  

The announcement comes as Merlin reveals the scale of global streaming consumption that is benefiting indies.

Now in addition to booming markets in Latin America, the Chinese deals will enable independent music companies to access the huge market of half a billion people (the 90% of all digital music users in China accessible under this deal).

The Chinese platforms will offer high-fidelity repertoire to paying service subscribers, and low-fidelity versions to users of free-to-access ad-supported tiers.

It means music from established independent artists will be legally available in China for the first time. 

Merlin partnered with music industry services company Outdustry to implement and manage the deals on an ongoing basis from their Beijing and Shanghai offices. It will also employ its own on-the-ground resources to maximise the effectiveness of the deals. 

For the first time, repertoire from the world’s leading independent record labels will be legitimately available across China’s five most prominent music services

Charles Caldas

Charles Caldas, Merlin CEO, said: “This is an exciting new chapter for Merlin. For the first time, repertoire from the world’s leading independent record labels will be legitimately available across China’s five most prominent music services. I am delighted that NetEase Cloud Music, Ali Music Group and Tencent Music Entertainment share Merlin’s confidence and aspirations to develop a new market narrative, and to lay the foundations and infrastructures of a more open, transparent and equitable future. Above all, Merlin members are now uniquely positioned to benefit from a set of truly transformative partnerships that will accelerate growth in one of the world’s most exciting and fast-evolving markets.”

Mathew Daniel, VP international, NetEase Cloud Music, said: “This is a significant step forward for music licensing in China – we are pleased to be working with Merlin as it leads the independent music community to better navigate, promote and monetize their music in China. With the largest consumption of international music in China being via NetEase Cloud Music, this will open up a new audience base to these artists whilst introducing more great music to our users.”

A spokesperson for Ali Music’s copyright division said: “Ali Music has been focused on the development of independent music for many years, having launched pioneering initiatives such as the 'Searchlight Project' to support music creators. 

“Now, through a strong partnership with Merlin, Ali Music will provide a new development opportunity for independent music from around the globe. This deep, multi-faceted partnership between Merlin and Ali Music, covering copyright monetisation, promotion of content, supporting and development of independent musicians and much more, will provide a better platform and experience for independent musicians and fans of independent music.”

Merlin acts collectively on behalf of more than 20,000 independent record labels and distributors from 53 countries. 

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