Internet radio service Pandora has announced its first ever deal with record labels and recording artists.The Californian-based music streaming service unveiled a partnership with independent rights group Merlin that means that labels and artists in the Merlin group, which collectively represents about 10% of the US music market, will have more direct access to Pandora’s listenership.

Tim Westergren
Tim Westergren said independent musicians deserve to be heard [Getty/Larry Busacca]

Under the US-only deal, the Merlin group will be able to access data pertaining to subscribers’ listening habit and recommend new music to them. In return, Pandora will no longer have to pay statutory royalty rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board, instead getting the right to negotiate those rates with the Merlin group itself.

Pandora has 77 million monthly users of its service, and Merlin chief Charles Caldas called the deal “a huge opportunity to provide our members previously unavailable and unparalleled access” to a huge number of listeners in a statement to Billboard.

There are non-financial aspects to the deal that will also suit Pandora, such as gaining the Merlin group’s expertise to improve its ability to pick songs for listeners as part of its ongoing Music Genome Project. 

MORE: Billy Joel and Rihanna criticise Pandora over artist royalties

The Merlin group represents a plethora of independent artists and labels collectively, including The National and Bon Iver. As a result of this deal, they will be better placed to make decisions that will benefit their members, such as in which cities to schedule tours, which bands to select to support them, and selecting set lists.

Pandora’s founder Tim Westergren highlighted this aspect of the deal, saying “Independent music has always held a special place at Pandora. These are hardworking artists – many of whom have never received promotion or airtime on terrestrial radio – and their music deserves to be heard.”