Tencent Music Just Expanded Its Merlin Indie Licensing Deal

Tencent Music
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Tencent Music Entertainment has renewed its multi-year agreement with independent label rights agency Merlin.

The renewal will see both organizations deepen their longstanding strategic partnership. Both organizations will “drive the creation of music value and enhance the music experience for TME’s users.” Merlin will also license into TME’s new social music community, WeSing.

The renewed partnership between Tencent Music Entertainment and Merlin includes QQ Music, KuGuo, and Kuwo.

Merlin and TME first struck their strategic partnership in 2018. This renewal of the partnership expands the deal to include new products under TME’s suite of apps.

Merlin members account for more than 15% of the global digital music market. It represents hundreds of thousands of artists from nearly every country across the globe. It also has partnerships with several major digital players, including Pandora, Snap, TikTok, Spotify, Triller, and YouTube Music.

Merlin has signed multi-year agreements with both Snap Inc. and TikTok for its indie catalog.

Curiously, Merlin was absent from Twitch Soundtrack, the platform’s attempt to stave off the RIAA. Just yesterday, over a dozen groups wrote a letter to Twitch accusing it of failing to secure music licenses for its new Soundtrack feature.

The Soundtrack feature is a music-streaming service that includes a million songs from independent artists. Streamers can use these songs legally and free of charge, with all rights cleared. Partners for that deal include SoundCloud, CD Baby, EMPIRE, Create Music Group, UnitedMasters, DistroKid, Westwood Recordings, Dim Mak, Nuclear Blast, Chillhop Music, and mxmtoon.

Despite finding tons of support among independent artists, Twitch did not strike a deal with Merlin. Soundtrack appears to be Twitch’s effort to bypass the music industry as a whole. It continues to employ aggressive DMCA measures against streamers.

Twitch is now employing a one-strike rule in which streamers with content violations are banned outright. Many streamers are jumping ship to other platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube Gaming, where music licenses are already ironed out. Twitch didn’t come under heavy scrutiny by the RIAA until the COVID-19 pandemic caused a live music surge on the platform.