Merlin Inks Licensing Deal With Tencent-Owned Streaming Service Joox

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Some five months after expanding its licensing deal with Tencent Music – and a week following the extension of its strategic partnership with NetEase – Merlin has officially inked a licensing agreement with Joox, another Tencent-owned streaming service.

Merlin and Joox, which operates in Asian markets including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, unveiled their licensing deal and strategic partnership in a formal release today. Under the deal, tracks from the indie-music mainstay Merlin will become available to users on Joox’s ad-supported and premium tiers, in addition to the platform’s karaoke option.

Joox’s library currently boasts north of 30 million songs, according to the announcement message, and the agreement will also afford Merlin’s members “access to marketing and promotional activities” on the six-year-old service. The contract’s financial terms weren’t disclosed in the release, though it bears mentioning here that Joox is continuing to expand throughout Asia and into different continents, having arrived in South Africa back in 2017.

Much of the remainder of the text highlights the considerable growth that Merlin enjoyed in 2020, when it added 81 members to its ranks, including first-time additions from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Peru, Singapore, Slovakia, and the United Arab Emirates. Plus, the London-headquartered company “nearly doubled its global team” on the year and now accounts for over 15 percent of the international digital-music market.

Addressing the licensing deal and partnership in a statement, Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota said in part: “Our agreement with JOOX is one that expands access for our members across new markets while also driving value back to JOOX. We’re truly pleased to explore new ideas and features with them in order to help Merlin members make the most of this exciting music platform.”

More than a few music-industry companies are taking steps to establish a presence in the fast-growing Chinese market; Live Nation last week announced that it would bring its artist-discovery platform, Ones to Watch, to fans and creators in the nation of about 1.4 billion residents.

But this Joox-Merlin deal serves as a reminder of the broader expansion that’s occurring throughout the continent – and of Tencent’s prominent market position, as the owner and operator of Joox as well as mainland China’s QQ Music, Kugou Music, and Kuwo Music streaming services.

The Asian music industry grew by 9.5 percent in 2020, up from 3.9 percent in 2019, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and its yearend report. What’s more is that the 2020 growth figure would have topped an astonishing 29.9 percent if not for a small year-over-year revenue decline in Japan, the largest music industry in Asia and the second-largest music market in the world.

South Korea claimed the sixth spot on the IFPI’s list of the biggest music industries, behind France and in front of seventh-ranked China.