'What we have achieved is remarkable': Merlin CEO Charles Caldas to step down after 12 years

Charles Caldas

The independent sector is going to need a new digital champion, with Merlin CEO Charles Caldas announcing he will step down at the end of this year.

Caldas has led the digital rights agency since its inception in 2007 and launch in 2008, and has overseen phenomenal growth in that time. He guided the indies out of an era when they were often overlooked or marginalised by digital services to strike deals with the likes of Spotify, YouTube, Deezer, SoundCloud, Pandora and Facebook. Merlin has distributed over $2 billion to its members on his watch.

Merlin now represents over 850 members from 63 countries around the globe, who collectively command over 12% of the world’s digital music market. It has offices in Amsterdam, London, New York and Tokyo. Caldas also oversaw a series of strategic non-exclusive licensing partnerships in China with NetEase Cloud Music, Ali Music Group and Tencent Music Entertainment. Merlin members have reaped the rewards of several successful copyright infringement actions, the Warner Music/Parlophone divestment agreement and the sale of Merlin’s shares in Spotify, as exclusively revealed by Music Week in 2018.  

“Having the chance to contribute to taking Merlin from a raw idea hatched by a few indie visionaries to the fast-growing global enterprise it is today has truly been a privilege,” said Caldas. “What we have all achieved over the past 12 years is remarkable, and the revenues we are now generating were unthinkable back in 2007. This has easily been the most rewarding work of my life, and for that opportunity I thank our members, our board, and especially my incredible team for their support. I am extremely proud to have represented them and am confident that Merlin’s dynamic, market-leading membership of true independents face a very bright future.”

Earlier today, Merlin revealed a 63% year-on-year increase in distributions to members. It brought in $845m between April 2018 and March 2019.

Merlin chairman Dave Hansen paid tribute to the outgoing exec, saying Caldas had “changed everything for independents”. “His vision, leadership and hard work helped Merlin forge a path towards true independence for all of our members. Charles has built a great foundation with an amazing team and Merlin will continue to be strong in the future. We wish Charles great success and happiness as he moves onto his next chapter at the end of this year.”

“Merlin and the whole independent community owe Charles a huge debt of thanks for what he has achieved for and with us, without which we’d have a slippery slope instead of a level playing field,” said Beggars Group boss Martin Mills, who served as Merlin chairman from 2010-2017. “We wish him all the very best in his next venture, which we trust will be musical, and within our universe. Merlin will continue to go from strength to strength, thanks largely to the structure and team that Charles has put in place.”

Caldas will continue his current duties until the end of the year and work with the Merlin board to ensure a smooth transition.

* To read Music Week's full analysis of Merlin's latest figures, click here. To read Charles Caldas’ 2018 interview with Music Week, click here. To read our investigation into the Parlophone Label Group divestment, click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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