In recent months, we’ve had the privilege to interview many of our members about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has impacted the music ecosystem and their businesses. Even as our resilience is being tested, our members have pivoted their businesses and found new ways to support their artists. It’s been genuinely inspiring to hear about many of their successes. This is the next installment in a series about the resiliency of our members.The Merlin Team
Member since 2014
- How are you responding to this global crisis?
As a company we are children of crises and grievances in the global economic structure. We started in 1995, understanding the opportunities that the arrival of the Internet could generate in the entire ecosystem, and it was just from those cracks in the economic structure that we were able to create a company with no more resources than a couple of computers and the work of a few people.
Twenty-five years later, we understand that we are once again facing a crisis that is redefining the economic structure of the world and we work from the hypothesis “as we think the world would have – if we had not had a pandemic – in 10 or 15 years.”
Of course, this is all on a macro level and coexists with what happens to us individually. The way of working has changed in such a way with artists, managers, distribution platforms, etc. – the personal space and the family are exposed. This allows a different dialogue and there is an exchange that happens to each of us that did not exist before. But I think it is too early to say if this will generate more empathy and solidarity between us.
I do observe a repetition within these types of conversations; the impression that nobody really knows how the world will be, and how we are simply working as hard as (so the stories say) the orchestra did on the deck of the movie Titanic. We are optimistic, and as a company we have a lot of work. We’ve maintained all employment positions and we are adding new people in different regions.
When it comes to artists, we have observed the impact that the cancellation of the shows has had on them. This generates greater availability of time, and surprisingly we see that they are more open to brainstorming together about alternatives. This is where we are investing a lot of our resources.
- What new methods have you employed to market your music?
It is important to define the goals of the actions we have taken, both as a company and in the advice we give to artists and partners. We saw at the beginning of the pandemic an unlimited amount of live broadcasts via social networks; it was a natural reaction to the bafflement of the new reality, but at the same time an unsustainable activity over time without commercial logic behind it. Our recommendation to the artists at the time was to stay calm; sometimes the best thing is “to do nothing.”
Meanwhile, we worked to create income alternatives, for example we are experimenting to produce “live performances without an audience” but with ticket sales. Our first one is on June 20 of two super popular Colombian artists, Jessi Uribe and Paola Jara. We are also coming up with health care protocols to livestream DJs and radio shows from our offices, allowing us to create a new way of business offering to brands.
- Name one big thing your company is doing this year.
Basically we focus on two aspects: The pandemic and the impossibility of traveling have generated greater availability of time at the management level. We are using this increased availability to review all of our procedures to improve the way we work, both internally and externally with our content partners, as well as distribution and social media platforms.
We are generating new vectors of business and ways to add value to our work. As mentioned in the previous point, there are live shows with various sources of income: ticket sales, sponsors, SuperChat on YouTube, Stars on Facebook, etc. We are also incorporating the “accounting service” to our content management platform, which allows labels, artists, managers and producers to have the same internal system that we have to manage their contracts, income, account expenses, etc. which will make it easier for them to carry out their accounting bureaucracy and give transparency when distributing the profits they generate.
- With the rise of social music, how are you evolving to engage fans and promote your artists?
It is interesting how social networks have redefined the concept of value creation. 40 years ago, a wealthy middle class person who was super skilled at soccer and who wanted to dedicate himself to sports was considered a family problem. 20 years ago a young man locked inside their room on PlayStation for 15 hours a day was also a family problem, and the same goes to those who 10 years ago, shared what clothes they had chosen for that day or what they ate for breakfast on Facebook. Today they are all “influencers” and their actions and decisions sometimes decisively determine the success of an artist or song. And not only with just new releases – Generation Z gets to know Frank Sinatra on TikTok, allowing the rethinking of record companies catalogs.
In regards to the question of how we have adopted our approach to interacting with fans and promoting the artists we work with, the answer is “100%.” It is impossible to think today without digital marketing, and it is impossible to do digital marketing outside of social networks. We have a marketing team distributed among Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and the US responding to a unified marketing management. In short, we think of distribution as a commodity, and it is through other areas such as marketing that we generate value and where we understand that we can be different in the market.
- How is Merlin meaningful to you?
Our relationship with Merlin began in 2014, and we saw it only as an option to distribute music on Spotify. At that time our efforts were almost entirely focused on the work we did on YouTube as an MCN; we were then one of the top 25 MCNs globally, the audience and the income was decidedly on YouTube in those years. We must recognize that it was our artists and labels who began requesting to have their music on audio platforms, but it was more related to marketing – “they wanted to be on Spotify” – than with the income generated on these platforms. Through these requests, and by Spotify’s direction, we got closer to Merlin and started working together.
Today of course we continue to see Merlin as what we believe is the best option to establish relationships with audio and video streaming platforms, but not only to distribute content. We now see Merlin as the 4th major record company and it is surprising that this position is occupied by an independent organization and that we, an independent Latin American company, can benefit from the results which they negotiated with giant entities on behalf of all the independents who are members of Merlin. This is of enormous value, but perhaps there are still other, more valuable things from Merlin that we haven’t learned about yet.
Merlin provides independents the means to own their future. Merlin is a member led, music focused organization providing digital music licensing for the leading independents across the globe. Members benefit from Merlin’s premium deals, but work directly with key digital partners. Our membership consists of independent labels, distributors, and other rights-holders, representing tens of thousands of labels and hundreds of thousands of artists from every country in the world. Merlin works collaboratively with our digital partners, delivers value back to those digital partners, and seeks to drive other incremental benefits to our members.
Merlin’s approach has enabled our membership to grow to represent 15% of the global market share. Merlin’s membership includes independents such as Armada Music, Better Noise, Cinq Music Group, Dim Mak, Entertainment One, Foundation Media, Kontor, Mad Decent, Mom & Pop, Mushroom Music, Ninja Tune, [PIAS], Republic of Music, Secret City, Secretly, state51, Stone Throw, Sub Pop, Symphonic Distribution, Tommy Boy, Warp, and hundreds more.
Merlin now has deals with over 30 digital services, including Apple, AWA, Boomplay, Deezer, Facebook/Instagram, JioSaavn, KKBox, Pandora, Snap, SoundCloud, Spotify, Tencent, TikTok, Triller, Yandex, and YouTube Music, and is in conversations with dozens more.
Merlin has offices in London, New York, and Tokyo.Find out more at www.merlinnetwork.org.
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