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Independent Sector Creates World's First Global Licensing Agency
By Mi2N
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The world's independent record sector, responsible for artists including The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Tom Waits, Pixies, De La Soul and Cat Power, launched Merlin, the world's first global music new media licensing agency, with the message:

"Equitable deals for ALL independents"

A one-stop licensing shop, Merlin will leverage the sector's 30% world share* for licensing Web 2.0 and emerging media. The most important development yet seen within the independent sector, with no obvious corollary in other industries, Merlin will make it easy to license up to 80%* of the world's new releases through a single point of contact - potentially replacing the need to negotiate thousands of individual deals.

Merlin will improve access and level the playing field with new and emerging media, rectifying the 'poor cousin' status of deals previously offered to independents, where they have been tabled at all. Neither an aggregator nor a distributor, Merlin's remit is to seek and negotiate new media deals that can't be easily negotiated locally or individually. Operating outside the space occupied by Collecting Societies, Merlin will redress the growing assumption that, for emerging media, only the four majors need to be licensed, with the rest free to air.

Newly appointed CEO Charles Caldas, former CEO, Shock Entertainment Group (Australia's largest independent music and entertainment distributor), has already begun talks with new media companies whose very existence was difficult to envisage just 18 months ago.

Said Charles, "The form of copyright apartheid currently being applied to the value of independent rights is unacceptable. Merlin will enable independents around the world to participate in new licensing and revenue models on competitive terms and give new services more direct access to their repertoire. Together we are bigger than the largest major."

Commented Martin Mills, chairman of the Merlin Steering Group, IMPALA and The Beggars Group, "Merlin will license collectively the individually unlicensable, and aggregate our collective volume as the virtual fifth major. Magic!"

Alison Wenham, president World Independent Network, said, "Merlin is the culmination of several years' work, and will be a unique global vehicle for licensors and licensees alike. Independents will now achieve parity with each other and with the majors in getting a fair share of the revenues now being generated by new business models. "Without Merlin, the sector ran a huge risk of being cut out of the revenue chain. No more. And in Charles, we know we have secured the services of a highly dedicated music professional, who will steer Merlin to be recognized as the global home of the independents for new media licensing."

A multi-national initiative in the truest sense, Merlin has already been ratified by the World Independent Network (WIN), a global trade body with trade association members from around the world, IMPALA (European Independent Music Companies Association), UK (AIM), France (UPFI), Canada (CIRPA) Germany (VUT), Norway, Japan, (ILCJ) Sweden (SOM), Brazil, (Visom) Spain (UFI), New Zealand (IMNZ ) and Australia (AIR) as well as marquee labels including The Beggars Group, Edel, Ministry of Sound, !K7, PIAS and members of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) including Koch, Epitaph, Matador, Tommy Boy, as well as a string of distributors and aggregators around the globe.

Merlin is a sister organization to WIN, and has been incubated by WIN as it's first major global project. Merlin will operate as a stand- alone non-profit company owned by its members and based in The Netherlands and London.

CEO Charles will report to a board of rights owners from around the globe to be elected and ratified over the coming days. Merlin will welcome input and participation from all independent labels from around the world.

* Independent sector global market share 2005 is 29.0%, source Music & Copyright, Sep 13 2006. 80% of releases stat based on an amalgamation of Nielsen Soundscan figures (2005: 81.65% of total US releases were independent) and BPI figures (2005: 83% of total UK releases were independent).

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