Merlin not involved in the indies’ iTunes Radio talks, but cautiously optimistic fair deal can be done

By | Published on Wednesday 26 June 2013

Charles Caldas

The boss of digital rights group Merlin, which represents a sizable slice of the indie label sector in digital licensing negotiations, has confirmed that he is not currently involved in talks regards Apple’s in-development streaming music service, iTunes Radio.

As previously reported, earlier this month Apple confirmed it would launch its Pandora-style streaming service later this year. All three majors were already on board before the announcement, but talks are ongoing with indie labels and publishers. However, Merlin is not currently involved in those talks, because labels affiliated with the group already have relationships with Apple via the iTunes store, which predate the creation of the combined digital rights organisation.

Speaking to, Merlin chief Charles Caldas said: “Regarding [iTunes Radio], the licensing of the iTunes Music Store predated the formation of Merlin by some years and therefore our members all had existing deals with Apple long before our formation. As a result Merlin is not involved with iTunes licensing, including the iRadio product”.

Merlin was launched five years ago, mainly because certain big digital music services – including Apple’s iTunes in the very early days – treated the indie labels poorly compared to the majors, either offering inferior terms (certainly when it came to advances and equity sweeteners), or sometimes just pretty much ignoring the independents completely. Some key players in the indie label community decided that by negotiating collectively via a central global body, many of those issues could be overcome.

Since iTunes Radio was confirmed there have been mixed rumours regards the deals being offered to indies compared to the majors. Some say that the independents are being presented with fait accompli deals that don’t match the generous arrangements the majors managed to secure, but others say Apple is so far being fair in its talks regards the new streaming venture. On the publishing side, in the US it’s believed collecting society BMI was offered the same terms as those bigger music publishers doing deals directly.

On Apple’s dealings with the indies, Caldas said he is cautiously optimistic a fair deal can be achieved, adding: “Given the maturity of Apple’s business with our labels, and the general feedback amongst our members that in recent years Apple has treated them equitably and fairly, I would be very surprised – and the labels no doubt very disappointed – if they chose to discriminate against the independents at this juncture. We will wait and see what the outcome is”.