‘Fifth Major’ Label Merlin Finally Bears Down On Subscription Music Services

What exactly has Merlin, the much-promised “fifth major” for indie labels, been doing since its launch at last year’s Midem? After spending months getting its fledgling board in order and starting only six weeks ago, the umbrella is now finally working on deals with the likes of Last.fm and MySpace, Variety reports. And CEO Charles Caldas’ focus is on the emerging crop of subscription and all-you-can-eat music services: “The straight download model is stagnant in growth. Subscription models, legitimate peer-to-peer services and ad-funded sites will all have roles to play.”

Merlin was set up to represent some 12,000 indie labels large and small, primarily because the digital arena has opened up a vista of new services all keen to license their music. It negotiates bloc deals on their behalf and, with the fast rise of free-to-the-consumer music offerings like SpiralFrog, We7 and imeem, it’s no surprise this is where the focus lays. Caldas: “The challenge for indies has been, how do you participate in these ventures? It has been difficult to get a level of participation equal to the majors.”