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Indie labels renew Spotify licensing deal with ‘parity of access’


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Spotify recently agreed a new licensing deal with Universal Music, although it remains locked in negotiations with rivals Sony Music and Warner Music.

But what about the ‘fourth major’ – independent labels, as represented by licensing agency Merlin? This afternoon, it has announced that it has signed a new multi-year deal with the streaming service.

“The agreement is structured to reflect and promote the value of Merlin’s collective offering of its members’ repertoire, while offering improved marketing and advertising opportunities and enhanced access to data,” explained Merlin.

“Merlin member labels can also participate in Spotify’s recently announced flexible release policy.”

That’s a reference to Spotify’s agreement with Universal that its artists can window their albums to its premium tier for up to two weeks after release, keeping them for paying subscribers only. Independent artists will now have the same right.

Merlin CEO Charles Caldas hailed the deal, and praised Spotify. “Merlin was a launch partner to Spotify back in 2008, and our partnership has thrived ever since,” he said in a statement.

“This new agreement lays the path to future sustainable growth for us both, and we look forward to remaining an integral part in the service’s continued success.”

Merlin chairman Martin Mills, of Beggars Group, said he was “delighted” by the new agreement.

“We’ve been great partners for each other, and this updated arrangement allows independents in the Merlin community the comfort of knowing they have a highly competitive deal and parity of access to the service, whilst creating a commercial environment in which Spotify can grow to the benefit of all of us,” he said.

Parity of access is a key point here: Spotify’s in-house playlists continue to grow in clout, with their ability to break new songs and artists. But that in turn has brought concerns for independent labels, who are monitoring the prominent playlists carefully to gauge whether majors are hogging more of the top slots.

That issue isn’t likely to be dealt with in the details of Merlin’s licensing deal, but it will be to the fore in the way Merlin’s members work with Spotify in the months and years to come. For now, though, Spotify has two of its four key label agreements in the bag. Next stop: Sony and Warner?

Stuart Dredge

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