Apple’s decision to reverse course and pay royalties to artists during the three-month free trial of Apple Music appears to have persuaded indie labels to sign up to the service. Billboard reports that Beggars Group – which owns 4AD, XL, Matador and Rough Trade – has signed, and Merlin, which represents 20,000 indie labels and distributors, has recommended the deal to its members.

Apple Music, the hardware giant’s soon-to-launch streaming service, has landed an eleventh-hour coup, striking deals with the independents’ digital rights organization Merlin and with Martin Mills’ indie powerhouse Beggars Group, sources tell Billboard.

The biggest name represented by Merlin is Adele. While most of Merlin’s members are likely to sign following the company’s endorsement, Adele of course has the clout to make her own decision, so it’s not yet certain that she will come on board … 

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Beggars had previous joined Taylor SwiftAnton Newcombe and others in opposing Apple’s original plan to pay artists nothing during the free trial in return for higher royalties afterwards, saying that Apple was “taking the ‘mium’ out of freemium.”

While Apple appears not to be paying full royalties during the trial period, Merlin CEO Charles Caldas said that with the revised terms offered to labels, it was “happy to support the deal.”

Billboard obtained the full text of a letter sent by Merlin to its members, reproduced below.

Dear Merlin Member

I am pleased to say that Apple has made a decision to pay for all usage of Apple Music under the free trials on a per-play basis, as well as to modify a number of other terms that members had been communicating directly with Apple about. With these changes, we are happy to support the deal.

As you know Merlin has not historically had a direct contract with Apple. Apple has direct deals with our members, and that continues to be the case. Therefore, the amendments referred to above will apply to your existing direct agreements, and the amended contract will shortly appear on iTunes Connect. However, Apple has indicated that in the future they are open to engaging with Merlin as a central point of communication and negotiation for our membership.

Apple has a long standing, deep rooted relationship with the music community and has always helped ensure artists get paid for their work. We think Apple Music provides artists with a business model that’s good for the long term and we look forward to its launch on June 30.

We would remind you as ever that each member must make its own independent decisions in relation to Apple Music and its business in general.

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