Merlin sets a new path in China
Landmark non-exclusive partnerships with NetEase, Alibaba and Tencent lay long-term foundations for the world’s most important independent record labels
Merlin, the global digital rights agency for the independent label sector has today announced its first participation in the fast-evolving Chinese music market - agreeing a series of strategic non-exclusive licensing partnerships with the country’s five leading digital music services: NetEase Cloud Music (NetEase Cloud Music), Xiami (Ali Music Group), QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo (all Tencent Music Entertainment).
The deals change the licensing narrative, creating a new path for independent music businesses looking to enter the Chinese market.
Aligned with Merlin’s mission to develop a long-term, sustainable and truly global digital recorded music business, 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 groundbreaking set of deals will enable Merlin’s global membership to directly reach an estimated new audience of half-a-billion people - representing 90% of all digital music users in China - offering high-fidelity repertoire to paying service subscribers, and delivering low-fidelity versions to users of free-to-access ad-supported tiers.
They will also greatly expand the range and diversity of music legitimately offered in the Chinese market, and make music from the most successful and unique independent artists available legally in China for the first time. Merlin’s members include leading independent companies from around the world. Collectively they represent the most valuable set of rights outside of the three major labels in the global recorded digital music market.
Merlin has partnered with market-leading music industry services company Outdustry to implement and manage these landmark deals on an ongoing basis from their Beijing and Shanghai offices, and will also employ its own on-the-ground resources to maximise the effectiveness of the deals.
Charles Caldas, Merlin CEO, 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. 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.”
Mathew Daniel, VP International, NetEase Cloud Music, said:
“This is a significant step forward for music licensing in China – we are pleased to be working with Merlin as it leads the independent music community to better nav-igate, promote and monetize their music in China. With the largest consumption of international music in China being via NetEase Cloud Music, this will open up a new audience base to these artists whilst introducing more great music to our users.”
A spokesperson for Ali Music’s copyright division said:
“Ali Music has been focused on the development of independent music for many years, having launched pioneering initiatives such as the 'Searchlight Project' to support music creators.
“Now, through a strong partnership with Merlin, Ali Music will provide a new development opportunity for independent music from around the globe.
“This deep, multi-faceted partnership between Merlin and Ali Music, covering copyright monetisation, promotion of content, supporting and development of independent musicians and much more, will provide a better platform and experience for independent musicians and fans of independent music.”