This week has seen several reports claiming that MySpace Music has so far been a bit of a damp squib. Why? According to boss of independent music licensing company or “the virtual fifth major” Merlin, it’s because there’s scant few indies on the service.

Merlin represents labels which represent artists including Arctic Monkeys, Adele, Anthony & The Johnsons, Basement Jaxx, Bjork, Franz Ferdinand, Infadels, Jose Gonzalez, Vampire Weekend and The White Stripes. The organisation has been vocal about what it sees as an unfair position taken by MySpace from day one, when MySpace Music reportedly gave equity to the majors but not to the indies. So we spoke to Merlin boss Charles Caldas to get his view.

What’s going on with MySpace Music?
The general word on the street is that downloadphpthey’re not setting the world on fire. It’s hard for me to comment because don’t see the numbers, but if it had been such a raging success they’d be shouting it from the rooftops .

And you blame this lack of success on the lack of indie content?
Given the history and demographics of its users and the fact that its value has been built on diversity and independent artists…to ignore all of that and only launch with a small offering of the 4 majors and a few independents doesn’t make sense.

It seems that the service was quite rushed to the market and there wasn’t enough effort put into paying attention to really satisfying the customer

Without the full range of content it’s not surprising that it’s not been huge success.  If you look at any successful music service, the thing they have in common is a comprehensive offering.

What about eMusic?
They’re comprehensive within their niche.

Ok. So maybe MySpace music is just a mainstream music brand then. That could work…
Mainstream? No. It’s not its brand. The value of their brand and what it means on the web, and how it’s been built, it’s all about the broad and the deep content. MySpace has always been a place where you could find anything. It’s a destination for music geeks more than people into Britney. I find it hard to swallow that MySpace was a top 40 brand.

But not all of the indies are losing out. [Digital distributors] The Orchard and IODA have agreed a deal
They’re the long tail. We represent the labels that are the leading indies in the world. Look at the chart success our labels have had and it’s a different thing to what those companies do. It’s a different kind of label that’s represented by those channels.

So what kind of deal are you looking for?
Nothing’s changed since we released our initial statement. Our competitors [the major labels] directly benefit from the use of our repertoire; and without a reciprocal opportunity made available to the people we represent.

It feels like something that was rushed to market without a sense of who their customers were going to be

We’re still negotiating. It’s not like there’s this irreconcilable gulf between what we want to achieve and what we think we can achieve. But we have a major issue around any service which allows our competitors to directly benefit from the use of our repertoire. It’s unhealthy.

You mean benefit by having equity in MySpace music?
By having some form of benefit flowing back. There are hundreds and thousands of ways of cutting a deal.

Ok last question then. What kinds of service do you like? What looks good?
Spotify is a good example. It launched with an expansive collection of labels and included everything that it felt the consumer would want, and in turn the consumers responded well to that.



Posted by: Annechien Hardenberg