Merlin Launches New Initiative to Help Emerging Tech Platforms License Indie Music

Indie digital rights group Merlin is launching a new initiative today (June 5) called Merlin Connect, aimed at helping up-and-coming social and tech platforms license independent music. The new program, which will work on an application basis, is aimed at helping promising startups utilize music while also helping Merlin’s labels and distributors, and thus indie artists, get paid for their use.

For years, new digital startups have often adopted a policy of “asking for forgiveness not permission” — dating back to the old Facebook motto of “move fast and break things” — which often meant that music and other media would be used without licenses, and recompense, while an app or platform found its footing and users, due to the high expense of licensing media catalogs. That tended to result in contentious licensing negotiations when such apps or platforms became too big to ignore — and, on occasion, lawsuits if such companies continued to utilize music and media without agreeing to deals with rightsholders.


Merlin Connect is trying to smooth that process for both new startups and its members, offering flexible terms and licenses that also get rightsholders paid as a startup develops.

“Our overarching goal is to discover new opportunities for music monetization,” Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota told Billboard in an exclusive statement. “Many emerging technology platforms lack access to, or do not even realize, how quality music can help them build and retain new audiences, resonate with cultural movements and drive their growth. Our members are handpicking a curated catalog of music that is perfect for any platform’s evolution… By bringing independent music to new spaces, we’re delivering exclusive opportunities for our members, ensuring they are at the forefront of innovation.”

Merlin says the program will be aimed at creating fair value for music, as well as marketing opportunities and the development of relationships with the next generation of platforms early on in their existence. On the other side of that equation, it will allow the platforms to have access to a simplified process within which they can utilize fully-licensed independent music and explore collaborations with Merlin members, and find ways “to maximize the impact of music on their platform,” according to a press release.

“The industry has been in need of an easier way for new platforms to access high-quality music and, in turn, foster growth for quite some time,” Ninja Turn managing director North America Marie Clausen said in a statement. “I am excited to see the Merlin team taking such a visionary approach to exploring new business opportunities. It’s a crucial step to ensure that new commercial opportunities have the best chance to succeed and diversify and secure new income streams for Merlin’s members. From an independent point of view, this initiative is excellent news — especially given the current market challenges.”

Emerging platforms will be able to apply, after which their application will be reviewed and Merlin will “selectively engage with the most promising platforms,” the organization said. Merlin will prioritize a platform’s potential for innovation and evolution; its leadership and the resilience of its team; with the goal of a more sustainable and ethic industry.

“As one of the founders of Merlin, I’ve had the opportunity to support the incredible growth of our organization from its inception to now,” !K7 founder Horst Weidenmüller said in a statement. “Merlin has always been dedicated to empowering independence, ensuring that its members receive the access and opportunities they deserve. With the launch of Merlin Connect, we are taking a significant step forward in this mission.”

Added Hopeless Records founder Louis Posen, “Hopeless is a passionate and longtime supporter of Merlin and its mission to ensure the fair value of music for the independent music community. With Connect, Merlin can now expand the reach of members’ music into new areas where music fans interact with the music they love. We are excited to see Merlin Connect open new doors for our artists and bring their music to innovative platforms around the world.”

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