MySpace treats indies as second class citizens

UK independent music sector hits back

UK Independent music labels hit out at MySpace Music deal with majors

Much consternation across the UK's music industry today following the announcement of the MySpace Music service over in the US, with a number of UK independent labels up in arms over News Corporations' music strategy.

"MySpace music will launch its service without any significant independent artists, across the world. This after [MySpace] CEO Chris de Wolfe has stated on the record that 'indies are at the heart of MySpace'," says music PR John Power, press officer for independent labels global rights agency Merlin.

For those that don't know, Merlin is the organisation that represents the global independent record sector (which collectively accounts for 80 per cent of the world's new releases and a 27.5 per cent share of the global music market).

Top bands not on MySpace

"So at launch, repertoire from top independents such as Koch, Beggars Group, PIAS, Domino, Warp will not be included on this service," Power adds.

"Artists signed to such labels include Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, White Stripes, Adele, Basement Jaxx, Arcade Fire, Anthony & The Johnsons, Vampire Weekend, Tom Waits, Battles, Coner Oberst, Bjork, Mogwai, Soulwax, Morcheeba, Jose Gonzalez and Nouvelle Vague."

Merlin's UK members accounted for over 75 per cent of the market share of the top 75 independent artist albums sold in 2007. Its US members command a 9 per cent share of the US digital recorded music market (approximately the equivalent to EMI). The organisation is still currently in negotiations to license the world's leading independent labels and artists to MySpace.

Merlin extremely disappointed

Charles Caldas, CEO of Merlin, adds that "It is incredibly disappointing that MySpace will launch their new service without having finalised a deal with the world's most important independent labels and artists. It certainly makes Chris DeWolfe's public statements, that the "indie bands are really the heart of MySpace", ring extremely hollow.

"What is absolutely clear, however, is that any independent deal struck without an equity component (as was done with the majors), will see independent labels face a situation whereby their major competitors will profit from the use of their repertoire without an appropriate upside opportunity being extended to them by MySpace Music and its Major Label equity partners.

"Whilst Merlin continues our negotiations, we remain extremely concerned that with MySpace Music the major record labels are acting not only as competitors, but through their equity stakes in the venture, as the clients/end user as well," adds Caldas.

"Without an equitable participation by independents, that creates a situation that is both unhealthy and dangerous."

Beggars cannot be choosers

Martin Mills, Chairman of the Beggars Group says of MySpace Music: "It is both disappointing and astonishing that MySpace, built on the music of independent artists and labels, should, now it has the majors as partners, choose to launch without those that have been at its heart, and whilst treating independents as second class citizens.

"The service's independent content, sadly, appears to constitute only the independent distribution arms of the majors by virtue of their deals with their parents, and the Orchard.

"We, however, believe that independent music and artists are worth every cent as much as that of the majors, and will not be supporting this potentially exciting new service until we see fair play."