When indie licensing agency Merlin struck a direct deal with Pandora in August, the company said it was “a hugely important opportunity to increase our members’ revenues”. Yesterday, though, the deal was stirring up a hornet’s nest in the US after some of its terms were cited in Pandora’s latest filing to the Copyright Royalty Board. Two issues: first, Pandora’s use of the Merlin deal as evidence to support its desire for a statutory royalty rate between $0.00110 and $0.00129 per stream, compared to the $0.00130 it’s currently paying, and the $0.0025 to $0.0029 that SoundExchange demanded in its own CRB filing recently. Second, Pandora’s claim that the deal involves “steering” users towards songs from Merlin’s member labels, getting “a discount off the ‘headline’ per-play rate” in return. Cue anger from blogs like The Trichordist, which attacks Merlin for striking a deal that it sees Pandora using to impose lower rates on all rightsholders. We’re resisting jumping to conclusions, though, until we know how accurate a representation (or how inaccurately selective) Pandora’s CRB filing is of the Merlin deal terms; and also to hear from Merlin itself, whose history leads us to suspect there’s much more to this deal than has been revealed so far. At least, we hope so.

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