Beats Music and Merlin yesterday announced a licensing agreement that includes a commitment on Beats part to pay all rights holders equal royalty rates. With Merlin cosigning Beats announcement, talk and action are matching up at a time when much is in flux. Now more than ever indie musicians need honest dealings with streaming music services. Since such services represent a growing revenue stream and source of discovery, this news is important for indies not only in dealing with Beats Music but in encouraging other services to follow suit.
The deal announcement
sums up the key news in one sentence:
The benchmark deal, active since Beats Music’s launch on January 21st, ensures that the 20,000+ leading independent labels and distributors represented by Merlin’s 600 members will enjoy parity with the world’s three major record labels, and builds upon the service’s stated commitment that it will pay the same royalty rate to all content owners."
Yet that one sentence connects to a much larger discussion about streaming music and royalty rates that has often centered around Spotify. Given that Spotify has introduced services for artists
, undermining some of Beats previously announced value proposition, this announcement appears to put Beats back in the lead in that particular pr struggle.
More importantly it's good for indie music.
As Beats Music CEO Ian Rogers stated:
We are thrilled to be working with Merlin, Beats Music is committed to treating all artists and labels fairly and equally...While other services may try to get away with paying independent labels and artists less, we’re paying all repertoire-owners equally because it’s the right thing to do."
And as Merlin CEO Charles Caldas pointed out:
Ian and the team at Beats have taken a refreshing, and enlightened approach to recognising the value of a Merlin deal, and we are excited to be in business with them. As a result of our deal, not only do the users of Beats Music have access to an extraordinary range of music from the world’s best independent labels and artists, but the labels we represent have an opportunity to benefit from the success of the service on a truly equal footing to our major label competitors."
Sure, they're canned quotes and everybody always says they're thrilled" or excited" but each such move puts Beats Music's money where its mouth is and that's a good thing to see.
Plus it helps push other services in a similar direction which is a win win for indie music.