Music labels target MySpace sales

Non-profit agency will allow independent labels to sell tracks through their MySpace pages and other sites

A group of independent record labels behind artists such as The White Stripes and The Arctic Monkeys have joined to form Merlin, an agency that will sell music on sites such as MySpace, YouTube and the new advertising-funded SpiralFrog.

The group announced in Cannes, at the MidemNet music industry conference, that Merlin would allow independent labels to sell tracks through their MySpace pages and other sites.

As the independent music sector makes up nearly 30 percent of industry revenues, London-based, nonprofit agency Merlin is predicted to become the fifth major organization in the industry. The world's four biggest labels are Vivendi, Universal Music, Sony's BMG, EMI Group and Warner Music.

Merlin has agreed terms with digital music company SnoCap in a deal allowing music to be downloaded in MP3 format from websites using SnoCap's retail initiative, MyStore. The agreement is the first of its kind and will be available to all Merlin independent members. This will also provide competition for Apple's iTunes as it will enable songs to be played on any portable media device instead of just an iPod.

Trade bodies in Europe, Brazil, New Zealand, Canada and Australia have already backed the licensing agency. Merlin chief executive, Charles Caldas, said that Merlin will enable independents to "participate in new licensing and revenue models on competitive terms."

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