When talking about trends, developments, and deals in the music industry, the tendency is to focus on how they will affect Sony BMG, Universal, EMI, and Warner. Though eighty percent of all music released comes from independent record labels, until recently they have been too small and scattered to have much of a voice when it comes to industry policy. Indies also often faced problems when trying to place their artists on Apple’s iTunes store or webcasters like Last.fm, as the websites couldn’t find time to deal with each label. To combat this problem, independent record labels agreed last year to form Merlin, a “virtual” major that gives independent labels the same clout as the big guys.
As with many great ideas, Merlin sounded great in theory, but what remained to be seen was whether independent labels would buy into the service. As Merlin now includes some twelve thousand different labels, including Koch, Concord, Razor and Tie, Beggars Group, Rough Trade, Tommy Boy, and Epitaph and the virtual label is now looking to expand into the world of MySpace, the experiment seems like a success. After brokering deals with most major music outlets and taking a stand against websites such as YouTube, the collective seems to be doing its job. Though no specifics were released about the content of the talks, Merlin may be using its clout to add an indie presence to MySpace Music, a portal for streaming and downloading music. Three of the other major labels, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner already have stakes in the venture. [Arstechnica]