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Pandora Signs First Direct Label Deal

Partners with Merlin to increase exposure for indie labels, artists

Pandora and Merlin, a rights agency for independent music labels, have crafted a partnership they say will help those labels and their artists grow both their audience and royalties. The deal applies to Pandora’s business in the U.S.

While the financials are confidential, the agreement is structured to protect the current collective music license. Both companies predict as the partnership grows, so too, will the royalties of artists and their labels.

Merlin CEO Charles Caldas says Internet radio is an increasingly important part of the digital market for the independent sector. The agreement, he says, is the best of both worlds: “a hugely important opportunity to increase our members’ revenues and access unparalleled opportunities for exposure, whilst continuing to support a collective licensing framework.”

Merlin represents 20,000 independent music labels and distributors and says its companies comprise some 10% of the combined global and U.S. streaming music market.

Under the agreement, Pandora will combine Merlin’s label expertise with Pandora data to identify specific tracks for additional exposure on Pandora’s playlists targeted to certain listeners. Merlin labels and artists will have access to customized metadata, using Pandora’s listener “thumb” feedback.

Pandora says its data can help support Merlin artists select tour cities, build concert set lists and choose tour partners. The Internet audio service will offer customized communications channels for Merlin artists to engage their fans.

Pandora Founder Tim Westergren said the Internet audio company is committed “to help musicians of all career stages build their audiences.” Many of the independent artists haven’t received airtime or promotion on terrestrial radio, he noted “and their music deserves to be heard.”