Jun 6, 2024 2 min read

Merlin Connect hopes to make it easier for emerging technology platforms to use music

Merlin launches Merlin Connect to make it easier for emerging technology platforms to access music. The digital rights agency says that licensing music for new platforms can be challenging and expensive

Merlin Connect hopes to make it easier for emerging technology platforms to use music

Indie label digital rights agency Merlin has announced a new initiative called Merlin Connect which aims to make it easier for “emerging technology platforms” to access music released by Merlin-member labels. 

“The majority of technology companies that attempt to license quality music find the process challenging, time consuming and expensive”, says Merlin in a statement. “That means very few platforms have the opportunity to experiment and learn how quality music can have a positive impact on their users and change the trajectory of their growth”. 

It’s no secret that music licensing can be a challenge, especially if you are developing an innovative business model where it’s not immediately clear how any licensing agreement will be structured and future revenues shared. How much time should record labels and music publishers invest in figuring these things out if it’s not clear if the business model will succeed in the long-term?

Those challenges can stop what could be successful business models from getting to market, resulting in a small number of usually very well funded platforms dominating the market. That’s not ideal for the industry at large, and especially for indie labels whose artists and catalogues might particularly benefit from more alternative and niche platforms and technologies. 

Merlin hopes that its Connect initiative will help overcome these challenges and open up opportunities for its member labels. Horst Weidenmüller, founder of one of those labels, !K7, says “Merlin has always been dedicated to empowering independence, ensuring that its members receive the access and opportunities they deserve”. 

“With the launch of Merlin Connect”, he adds, “we are taking a significant step forward in this mission. This initiative underscores Merlin's ongoing dedication to fostering innovation in the independent music sector”. 

Interested platforms will have to go through an application process to access Connect. “Every application will be reviewed”, Merlin’s statement explains, “and then the Merlin team will selectively engage with the most promising platforms”. 

One other big challenge with music licensing is that both recording rights and song rights need to be licensed, and licensing the song rights can be especially challenging, for various reasons. 

A platform doesn’t necessarily know what specific songs are contained in any recordings provided by a record label or music distributor, nor who owns the copyright in those songs. Many songs are also co-owned by multiple music publishers and - depending on how the music is used - it might be the publisher or a collecting society that does the deal. 

That said, new services operating in a single territory during a pilot phase can often get a blanket licence on the songs side through the collective licensing system. Which can make things simpler, at least initially, if recordings can be accessed via something like Merlin Connect.

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