A number of independent labels–including the Beggars Group, Epitaph, and Tommy Boy–have started a collective licensing agency called Merlin, which will allow them to negotiate deals with digital distributors and track copyright violations on sites like YouTube. While it’d be nice if the announcement of the group was timed in conjunction with a Web site launch (ahem), teaming up is a smart move, because it allows the labels to draw on their combined power in the marketplace without sapping their individual resources. As the AP article on Merlin notes:
Indie labels account for some 80 percent of new music releases in major markets but only about 30 percent of total revenues, according to industry data for 2005, partly because the majors spend more on marketing and have — until recently — maintained tight control over distribution channels.
Merlin’s first deal is a partnership with Snocap, the company that will power MySpace’s digital-music stores; songs by Merlin-affiliated artists will be sold as MP3s, although, as Coolfer notes, the lack of digital rights management isn’t too big of a stretch, as most of Merlin’s member labels already distribute MP3s through eMusic. Will these moves have a ripple effect of making majors embrace DRM-free downloads faster? And do you like how we avoided posting a picture of the wizard up there?
Indies Aim to Grab Share of Online Sales [AP via Newsday]