Charles Caldas of MERLIN: Independent Labels’ Minus $15 Million Dollar Man

Indie Music’s Minus 15 Million Dolllar Man


MERLIN is theoretically an organization that looks after the rights of independent labels and independent artists. Charles Caldas is the CEO.  Last month they made a high profile deal with Pandora.   We knew what would happen at the time. We knew that Pandora would use the deal as evidence in Copyright Royalty Board hearings to lower ALL OF OUR RATES.  And yesterday they did just that.  According to the Radio and Internet News these new lower rates that Pandora has asked the Copyright Royalty Board to impose on ALL performers and labels are about half the proposed SoundExchange rates.   Thanks MERLIN!  Thanks Charles Caldas!

We conservatively estimate that  this will save Pandora approximately $150 million a year starting in 2016. And of course this is $150 million dollars out of the pockets of rightsholders.    If the 20,000 independent labels that MERLIN claims to represent are 10% of Pandora spins, this means that MERLIN just cost it’s own labels $15 million dollars a year!

Henceforth Charles Caldas will be known as “The Minus $15 Million Dollar Man”

And you have to ask why did they have to do this now?
What was the hurry?
Were labels really telling Caldas “Quick let’s cut a deal with Pandora?”

I highly doubt it.

If I were forced to bet on it, I’d say its more likely that Pandora was urging the deal.  It coincides nicely with the line they’ve been privately feeding stock analysts that they’ve “made up” with the music industry.

The only company that clearly benefitted from this deal was Pandora.  This is classic ego-driven music business nonsense. Put your name on a deal. No matter how bad.

Or is it even worse?  This deal already looks like it’s Payola.  Is money changing hands somehow?   No, that would never happen between labels and broadcasters, cause that is illegal. And no label or label group  would ever do anything illegal like that.


2 thoughts on “Charles Caldas of MERLIN: Independent Labels’ Minus $15 Million Dollar Man

  1. My cynical take on all of this is that MERLIN got what it wanted. They were obviously prepared to accept less money for guaranteed airplay (whatever that may mean in this context) and they decided to throw everyone else under the bus to get it. This, I find, is depressingly typical of our industry: artists and labels sell one another out on a regular basis, it seems.

    One has to wonder whether this world is worth saving.

    At the same time, I can’t help but wonder whether MERLIN will actually get anything valuable out of the deal. How will they know if Pandora is holding up their end of the bargain? For that matter, what do they intend to do if Pandora tells them to take a hike, ‘coz the agreement is illegal (payola) and thus unenforceable?

    The wonderful thing about Pandora’s situation here is that once they manage to secure the lower rates in the CRB, they can eat their cake and have it, too. They likely won’t have to make good on their agreement with MERLIN (payola, unenforceable) and still get the lower rate, from everybody.

    1. “One has to wonder whether this world is worth saving”. of course you mean the music industry. And I completely agree with your sentiment. I think that there are only a handful of people at the labels that understand their own interests anymore. For instance the fact that NO ONE understand that a $4.99 a month streaming model that gets the same penetration as cable (100 million-extremeley unlikely) means the music business in the US will be almost half it’s current size. It is really scary that no one apparently did the math. It’s like the folks at the tops of the companies and organizations don’t want to even believe in math. A faith-based music business. Streaming is the new mediaeval religious belief. The one silver lining I see in all of this is that maybe idiots will shortly be out of a job. Fuck em.

      But seriously I wonder. What was MERLIN/CALDAS hurry to cut a deal? it’s unfathomable. The thing looks like it violates our payola laws. When I’m really cynical I figure it’s because they MERLIN were somehow getting a kickback. Or maybe it’s like the record executive I met who was convinced he was one of the chosen ones and he’d shortly be working in Silicon Valley. Refusing to believe in the math or fundamental logic, essentially made him more religious, more devout and therefore most likely to get off the sinking music ship and into a holy silicon valley lifeboat. good luck with that.

      The music business was always run by people who got B- in college. Now the only people left are much much stupider. So our best option now is to burn it all down. We need a metaphorical “change of venue.” We need some serious fucking monkey wrenching, mass artists civil disobedience. Innundate the fuckers with audits, cease and desist letters, demand they demonstrate where they have the authority to pimp our catalogues to dtreaming services, challenge the validity of contracts. find nit picky things to take them to small claims courts. Audit them again. Ask for back up records. Ignore the terms of the contracts. It doesn’t even have to be on a large scale. A dozen artists at each label would tie them in knots. Fuck these people.

Comments are closed.