Independents seek MySpace music deal

MySpace's new music service managed to bring major record labels together. But a group that licenses song rights for thousands of independent labels feels left out and angry, partly because indie musicians were a big reason the social networking site rose to prominence in the first place.

News Corp.-owned MySpace opened the much-anticipated MySpace Music on Thursday, giving its roughly 120 million users free access to hundreds of thousands of songs from the biggest recording labels.

Revenue for MySpace Music will come mainly from on-site ads and the sale of songs through Inc.'s MP3 downloading service. All four major record labels – Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group Inc., Universal Music Group and EMI Music – brought their catalogs to the service, a joint venture between them and MySpace.

Sony ATV/Music Publishing and The Orchard, a large independent music distributor, were also on board for the launch, though neither have equity stakes in the service.

Other independent labels were excluded from the initial rollout.

“We're extremely disappointed that they seem to misread their constituents so badly that they've ignored what we think is their core, their sweet spot, when they launched,” said Charles Caldas, chief executive of London-based Merlin, a music rights licensing agency that represents more than 12,000 independent labels.

MySpace co-founder and president Tom Anderson said MySpace is trying to make deals with every independent music aggregator, even those voicing complaints.

“There's definitely no one on this side that wants this to be a major-label only service,” he said. “We've already got indie content and we want more indie content.”

Anderson said Merlin wasn't included at launch time because the parties had not reached a deal yet.