Merlin CEO Charles Caldas Vows Never to Speak to Digital Music News Again…

The decision to blacklist Digital Music News comes at a ‘moment of impotence’ for indie label consortium Merlin.  So let’s shoot the messenger, shall we?

Last week, Digital Music News confirmed that not only was Apple mailing pre-determined, non-negotiable iTunes Radio contracts to indie labels, but that Merlin wasn’t even at the negotiation table.  Which means your indie-strong ‘fourth major’ was exercising zero collective power, and essentially accepting far-inferior licensing terms than majors Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group.

merlinstepsondmn

It gets worse: while indies were clarifying and confirming the details on those ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ contracts Digital Music News, Merlin’s chief Charles Caldas declined to offer any information.  One step further, Merlin press representative Sam Shemtob left little hope of any communication moving forward (in that polite, ‘f-you’ way).

“I have to, regretfully, point one thing out.  Charles’ refusal not to speak to you regarding iTunes Radio is not as a result of his refusal to speak on that subject, but rather, unfortunately, he has become unwilling to engage with DMN.  I believe this is rooted in past frustrations Charles has encountered.”

The earlier ‘frustrations’ are easy to list, though the question is whether Digital Music News is really the problem here.  Ahead of massive litigation by the major labels against Grooveshark, we abruptly published a list of over 850 labels still licensing the platform (supplied by Grooveshark itself).  Caldas immediately demanded a tear-down of the article based on complaints from members, though Merlin still appears to be tacitly endorsing the company at present.

Other sore spots aren’t hard to identify.  Politically, Caldas has firmly aligned himself with Spotify and streaming services, despite considerable issues tied to inferior indie payouts and cozy major label relationships.  Indeed, we’ve heard that indies are routinely getting diminished payments from the likes of Spotify, while majors enjoy stronger percentages, big advances and sweet perks like ownership shares.

And what about Caldas’ routine blow-ups against launching platforms, like the rebirthed MySpace Music?  On that note, the question is whether all that indignation is actually proving effective: according to one label head with a rather lukewarm relationship with Merlin, the end results are typically only adequate.  “Our label joined to get the collective bargaining power [of Merlin], which is great because it gave us two deal terms to consider,” the source relayed.  “In the end, with [Merlin] dues and the rest, [the result] ends up being about the same.”

And now for a response from your friends at Billboard…

 

Image by Mark Anderson, adapted under a generic Creative Commons 2.0 license.  Written while listening to Benga. 

17 Responses

    • adambeas

      Couldn’t agree more. This publication is almost solely self gloating at this point. I have never read a publication that covers its own adventures just as much, if not more, than the actual news it touts itself as covering. “So and so won’t talk to me anymore” is not a news story in any sense of the word. WE DON’T CARE!!

      Reply
  1. Muckraker

    Wonder how long the snark brigade will wait to turn the cannons on Paul. I bet there’s a post right above mine.

    Many of us on the Pub side have been screaming about this lack of a true collective, lack of negotiated rights for indies. The deals are bordering illegal with pricing collusion, and the only thing that ratifies it is when one of these “collectives” (supposedly acting on behlaf of members) sign and give it all away, just to be a part of it.

    What so many indpendents don’t understand is that this is where it becomes solidified. This is the .99 track rule. Nobody asked for that, not one fan, not one media outlet, not one band, but when a major gets a kickback and promotion and then agree to .99 then EVERONE has to sell it at that, and you (The Artist/Label/Pub) did not get a say.

    Once a bad deal is done for indies, there is a baseline by which all others are measured, and it does not go up significantly, if at all.

    Good for you DMN. Good for you Paul.

    Reply
  2. Disco Dave

    The problem with Merlin has always been this “we’re the fifth / fourth / third virtual major” nonsense they’ve been spouting for years. They’ve been unable to get ANY deals done any sooner or at any better rates than any other Indies and when they haven’t been able to get a deal they’ve gone crying to the press saying it’s all a conspiracy.If I was at a digital store and they did that I’d refuse to ever speak to them again.

    Reply
  3. Mr Truthy

    Ha, Merlin cant browbeat Apple in the press like it does Myspace so Caldas quietly stews, knowing that the “membership” would rather license Apple directly. With Myspace, hes been trying to extract fees for Merlin which arent justified by the amount of music licensed through the agency, but that hasnt worked so well either, since the numbers are what they are. Any indie label which cares about maximizing revenue will always license a service directly, and the number of indie labels which see significant usage on any interactive DSP at least is a limited set, making it easy for the DSPs to find those labels and do direct deals. But Caldas of course would have you believe thats not the reality. He wants you to buy his “insurance policy”, and if you dont, he’ll try and crucify you in the press, if he can get away with that. He’s in the shake-down business.

    Reply
    • merlin

      @mistertruthy/im new here

      Merlin didnt exist when all Merlin’s members negotiated direct iTunes deals or had itunes through exisiting channels so not much for merlin to do, for now.

      Reply
  4. hippydog

    Making friends where ever you go.. 🙂

    Just did a quick search on your site.. and it does look a bit like you enjoy bashing the guy.. 🙂 Whether its warranted or not I cant say.

    http://dmnrocks.wpengine.com/stories/011011merlingoogle

    I would think he may also be a tad angry at the self realization that being the “5th” label is kinda like being the ‘5th Beatle’, no one really cares..

    Or could it be that Merlin has a stake in spotify, thereby earning an offshoot of your spotify hatred? LOL 😉

    Reply
  5. X man

    Does this constitute an anti-trust lawsuit?– Hmmm. Someone may take that case up.

    “Which means your indie-strong ‘fourth major’ was exercising zero collective power, and essentially accepting far-inferior licensing terms than majors Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group.”

    Reply
  6. Adam

    Perhaps you should rename your site “Digital Music Commentary”

    Seems to be more apropos.

    Reply
  7. Disco Dave

    “Caldas immediately demanded a tear-down of the article based on complaints from members, though Merlin still appears to be tacitly endorsing the company at present.”Merlin had a deal with Grooveshark until February 2013 – funnily enough Publicity Charles doesn’t seem to mention that too often If you are stupid enough to let Merlin do your licensing deal they you deserve everything you get

    Reply

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