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Merlin announces deals with Chinese streaming firms

By | Published on Friday 16 March 2018


Indie-label repping digital rights agency Merlin has announced a series of deals with the Chinese streaming services.

The new licensing arrangements are with the three key players in digital music in China – NetEase, Alibaba and Tencent – and cover the five services those three companies collectively operate: NetEase Cloud Music, Xiami, QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo.

Unlike the major global music rights owners, Merlin has opted for non-exclusive alliances with each of the key players. Other licensing deals in China have seen rights owners enter into an exclusive partnership with one firm, which gets access to the global rights owner’s catalogue for their own services, and allows them to represent that catalogue in the Chinese digital market in general.

Which makes the digital firm both the digital service and the digital distributor, a somewhat odd arrangement from a Western perspective. This approach has been led by the majors and Tencent, though Kobalt allied with Netease and BMG has a partnership with Alibaba.

Of its new deals, Merlin said yesterday that “each partnership is uniquely structured, with incentives to build new infrastructures to promote future growth and provide accurate usage reporting, alongside substantial marketing opportunities for participating Merlin members”.

The rights agency says the deals will give its member labels access to an estimated new audience of half a billion people, while ensuring that a more diverse catalogue of music is legitimately available in the Chinese market.

Confirming the new deals, Merlin boss Charles Caldas said: “This is an exciting new chapter for Merlin. For the first time, repertoire from the world’s leading independent record labels will be legitimately available across China’s five most prominent music services”.

He went on: “I am delighted that NetEase Cloud Music, Ali Music Group and Tencent Music Entertainment share Merlin’s confidence and aspirations to develop a new market narrative, and to lay the foundations and infrastructures of a more open, transparent and equitable future. Above all, Merlin members are now uniquely positioned to benefit from a set of truly transformative partnerships that will accelerate growth in one of the world’s most exciting and fast-evolving markets”.

Merlin has worked with Chinese music market specialists Outdustry on the new licensing arrangements, and it will implement and manage the new partnerships as well as “employing its own on-the-ground resources to maximise the effectiveness of the deals”. Outdustry MD Ed Peto will be among the experts providing an overview of the Chinese music market as part of the CMU Insights China Conference at The Great Escape on Friday 18 May.