Sony Music appears to be in pole position to acquire independent digital distributor Believe Digital.

Japanese site Nikkei Asian Review reported over the weekend that the deal could be worth between $355m and $444m if it goes through, as expected, by the end of this year.

Any such acquisition would bring 150,000 artists and annual revenues of around $250m into Sony Music’s business, which already includes The Orchard – newly-merged with Sony’s own Red distributor, while having also recently acquired independents Finetunes and Phonofile.

Meanwhile, Believe merged with another indie distributor, TuneCore, two years ago. All of this adds up to a significant (if long-term) digital-distributor rollup for Sony Music.

Not everyone will be happy: the acquisition / ownership of independent distributors by major labels continues to be a sore point for indie licensing agency Merlin, which has regularly claimed that the majors use those distributors’ businesses to inflate their recorded-music market share when negotiating with streaming services.

That’s no slur on the way those major-owned distributors operate – The Orchard for one has steadfastly maintained its independent culture – but rather on how their figures are wielded at the licensing table.

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