Merlin Confirms: Indies Were Not at the Negotiating Table for iTunes Radio…

The uncomfortable question is why Merlin, which bills itself as a powerful indie collective, wasn’t even negotiating one of the biggest releases of 2013.  And, why indies have reported receiving inferior, non-negotiable contract terms from Apple for inclusion in iTunes Radio.

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After initially refusing to speak to Digital Music News on the absence, Merlin CEO Charles Caldas has broken the silence.  “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,” Charles Caldas told over the weekend.

“As a result Merlin is not involved with iTunes licensing, including the iRadio product.”

Which brings us to the fairly stark difference between iTunes proper and iTunes Radio.  On iTunes, terms are fairly straightforward and (gasp) transparent: roughly 70 percent after Apple’s cut, for indies and majors alike.  On the iTunes Radio side, sizable disparities seem to exist between majors and indies (and everyone else), with terms largely sealed (and therefore, non-transparent).

Which also means indies probably could have used some help structuring those deals.

Digital Music News first reported the absence of Merlin at the negotiating table, and the subsequent delivery of non-negotiable Apple contracts.  Shortly after that report, Merlin informed Digital Music News that this publication was being blacklisted by the trade group, citing this circumstance and earlier reporting.

Written while listening to Heartless Bastards. Image by Jay Blyberg, adapted under Creative Commons licensing.

16 Responses

  1. Dry Roasted

    But Merlin kicked some ass on the new MySpace.

  2. NOLA

    The halo on Apple is still ridiculous and unfounded if you ask me.. Apple gets a free pass on almost everything and is considered “good” while Pandora and Spotify get broiled — even though both are paying MORE on radio.

    • anxious

      Fully agree with NOLA. The manner in which Apple favors the majors is reminiscent of the cozy relationship between the majors and terrestrial radio in the pre internet days. The industry is moving rapidly towards greater consolidation, with few legal indie players able to survive. Yet the press, particularly DMN, focuses exponentially more on Pandora then on Apple.

  3. Tony

    According to my label’s distributor (KOBALT/AWAL), from what they have managed to learn from Apple so far, it seems like you won’t be able to have releases in the iTunes Store if you don’t accept iRadio as well. It’s a bit early to get disappointed, though. Let’s wait until it’s official.

    • Sophisticate

      C’mon, really? So they yank your songs if you say no?

      • JTV Digital

        Keep in mind who rules digital music now: Apple, not the labels (big or small).

        Who said negotiations? It’s a fools’ game.

  4. Spoken X Digital Media Group

    Merlin is probably absent from the table because they realize that there is no real significance by way of attendence. I respect them for that. Why take a fist full of independents to the table when you know damn well the publishers and songwriters are going to inevitably wind up cashing a welfare check somewhere down the road and embracing medicare—: That’s the historical perspective !

  5. JTV Digital

    We processed the iTunes Radio deal.

    All content, send through JTV Digital to iTunes, will be made available in iTunes Radio when the service launches.

    JTV Digital | affordable digital music distribution

    • Sophisticate

      And if you’d refused terms, then you’d be off iTunes?

      • JTV Digital

        No it’s just that for small aggregators / labels terms were not negotiable, but that’s not surprising.

        Merlin would not take the risk for their labels to be taken off iTunes given the iTunes market share worldwide.

  6. Johnny Gagnon

    The fact Independents were not present at a negotiating table in the music-cultural industry proves beyond any doubt the parties involved were as meaningless to evolution as a bunch of cave men sitting high up in a tree , and throwing dried beans down onto the heads of monkeys , believing they will fetch and gather them babanas! Where were the creators of these International Sound Recordings and where were the future creators” representatives to participate in a world cultural negotiation on their very own future business insights? Nowhere , only bean counting dinosaurs still believing songwriters are monkeys only good for chasing up trees for bananas after they been hit by beans from cavelike business …..Wake up songwriters,tell them to go write their own music!

    • Chris

      let’s get one thing right – Merlin DOES NOT and NEVER WILL represent ‘Independents’ they represent a collective of Independent labels but are NOT the sole voice for Independents as they would like you to believe.They weren’t in the initial iTunes deals (as they weren’t formed) so have no place at subsiquent deals with the service. They haven’t been able to get ANY deal at a better rate than any other Indie. They were massively late in both the original Spotify and MySpace deals (over a year late after launch from memory?) and every time their nonsensicle deal terms have been denied they’ve gone screaming to the media crying foul play for all Indies.

  7. Jeff Robinson

    The real question should be who is skimming from Apple? And don’t fool yourself, someone or something is doing that.

    The other question is when will there be 100% transparency with Apple about it’s service?

    The ability to manage data clearly exists, Apple makes data management systems. From soup-to-nuts, cut the feet out from under and have Apple take it from there, to allowing artists/writers take total control of their music if it’s posted on the Apple website. If a band and respective writers takes ownership of their material, then the relationship becomes director from band to Apple. Treat it like car insurance- if you don’t maintain your account in good standing (i.e. contact information, etc.), then your account and material will be removed from Apple. And Apple should get serious about this. 125,000+ records come out a year.

    But again, I’d like to ask, “Does Apple REALLY report EVERY sale and stream? It would be too hard for them to resist the urge to do so.

    • JTV Digital

      “Does Apple REALLY report EVERY sale and stream?”

      Yes, and they are the most reliable digital retailer when it comes to sales report.

      They provide a real-time stats view to their partners via iTunes Connect, they share all the guidelines, requirements…etc.

      It’s not perfect though, there can be some issues with reports coming late…etc, but it’s nothing compared to the mess with most other retailers.

      JTV Digital | affordable digital music distribution

    • Musicxip

      Treat it like car insurance- if you don’t maintain your account in good standing (i.e. contact information, etc.), then your account and material will be removed from Apple¨.

      Apple is doing this right now with their quality policy.

      To preferred aggregators they send FTS reports which help you to keep you account & feed in good standing.

      They seem to get more serious about filtering who / which content gets in- which perhaps makes sense taking into account the cost of running a streaming service. But that would make the position of indies with direct contracts even more difficult.