Merlin Appoints Global Rights Wizards

The naming of the board for the world’s first rights body for the global independent record sector has caused less fuss than its launch, which some indie companies criticised because the organisation was partly paid for with Warner Music money.

Ministry Of Sound and Gut Records both protested because Impala, the European independent music companies association, had agreed not to oppose any bid the U.S. company made for EMI – as long as it helped fund Merlin and made certain "behavioural undertakings" to reduce its market share in other areas.

As it is, Merlin looks to have acquired the money without having to fulfill its side of the deal as EMI has now been bought by Guy Hands’ Terra Firma investment group.

The other criticism was that the Impala board and the temporary Merlin board, which was set up to run the new rights organisation for six months, shared too many members.

The critics, mainly through anonymous interviews with some leading U.K. newspapers, said that setup cast suspicion on whether these board members acted out of self-interest when they agreed to make a deal with Warner. One unnamed "industry insider" told the U.K.’s Guardian that the Warner agreement was an "outrageous" bargain.

Martin Mills (chairman of the U.K.’s Beggars Group), Michel Lambot (co-president of Belgium’s Play It Again Sam) and Horst Weidenmüller (chief exec of Germany’s !K7 Records), who were all on the temporary board, were the main targets for criticism.

The fact that there’s no complaint about them staying on as members of the full board seems to suggest that Alison Wenham, who runs the U.K.’s indie organization, was right to say the complaints were coming from a handful of people among a membership of more than 1,000, hardly constituting a crisis.

Merlin, which also acts as an anti-piracy platform, has a remit to represent the global independent sector to ensure it has open and equal access to new and emerging revenue streams, particularly where independents are being discriminated against, or deals can’t be easily negotiated locally or individually.

Apart from Mills, Lamot and Weidenmüller, the other European board members are Hein Van der Ree, managing director of Holland’s Epitaph Europe, and Stephan Bourdoiseau, president of France’s Wagram Music.

The new board is split equally across Merlin’s three operational territories, with the other 10 members equally split been North America and the rest of the world.

The elected directors will join full-time board members Wenham and Merlin chief exec Charles Caldas, although the latter is a non-voting board member.

Three non-voting observers will be appointed shortly to represent each of the three geographical blocks.