Merlin Network strikes streaming deals for independent music in China

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Diplo of Major Lazer performs at the Surf Stage during 2017 Hangout Music Festival on May 20, 2017 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Merlin Network has struck licensing deals for its members, such as Diplo’s Mad Decent record label, to enter the Chinese market

Digital rights agency Merlin Network has said it has signed agreements for its members to distribute music on China’s major streaming platforms.

The firm announced deals with NetEase Cloud Music, Xiami Music, and Tencent Music Entertainment Group, which includes QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo.

Merlin said the firms cater for about 90% of China’s digital music listeners.

Merlin’s members work with artists such as Diplo, Death Cab for Cutie and Papa Roach.

Merlin Network, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, negotiates digital rights for independent record labels.

It said the licensing deals would “expand the range and diversity of music legitimately offered in the Chinese market, and make music from the most successful and unique independent artists available legally in China for the first time”.

Terms were not disclosed.

China is a growing market for the music industry, with revenues from recorded music increasing by more than 20% in 2016, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Last year, Universal Music Group announced a deal with Tencent, which gave Tencent the exclusive right to sublicense content to other providers in China. Tencent has also signed an agreement with Warner.

Merlin’s approach differs because it has not granted exclusive rights to one service.

Merlin chief executive Charles Caldas said the firm wanted to have its own relationships with distributors, without ceding control to another company.

“Putting an entire market in the hands of one of the customers… just felt inherently inefficient to us,” he said.

He added that he expects the agreements to be “lucrative in the context of the market”.

Merlin works with about 20,000 record labels and distributors in more than 50 countries. The firm says it represents about 12% of the world’s digital recorded music market.

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