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MySpace Music launches without Merlin

Independent music labels that represent top-selling acts including Radiohead and the Arctic Monkeys have hit out at MySpace after the social networking site launched its online music service without including them.

MySpace Music began on Wednesday with the aim of becoming the biggest music site on the web. Most of the content is being supplied by the four largest music labels: EMI, Universal Music, Sony BMG and Warner Music.

However, MySpace, which is owned by News Corporation, has yet to agree a deal with Merlin, which represents independent labels and 9 per cent of the US digital-recorded music market. The group says that, collectively, its members have more market share than EMI.

"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," said Charles Caldas, chief executive of Merlin.

He added that MySpace had "built its brand" on independent music, saying the big four labels were not "culturally aligned" with the site. Not doing a deal with the independents excluded "a large part of its core constituency".

MySpace has done a deal with one independent music distributor - The Orchard - and said it had "offered a relationship with Merlin that provides equal opportunities to Merlin's labels and artists that we have provided to all labels and artists". But talks between the two sides have, so far, proved fruitless.

Merlin is made up of 12,000 labels including Beggars Group, Rough Trade, Domino, Warp Records and Koch, which represent bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Cat Power, and Anthony and the Johnsons.

Simon Wheeler, head of digital at Beggars Group, said the exclusion had been a "kick in the teeth".

"The majority of independents aren't going to be on the service," he said, adding that independent music was "obviously not that important" to MySpace.

MySpace Music has been launched as a separate company, with the four main labels taking equity stakes with MySpace. The site will allow users to listen to music for free with the option of buying tracks through

By Matthew Garrahan

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