Charles Caldas is stepping down as CEO of Merlin at the end of the year.

Caldas has been flying the flag for Australians abroad since he relocated from Melbourne to London 12 years ago to launch and guide the independents’ digital rights agency.

The former Shock Entertainment Group CEO, Caldas leaves Merlin in great shape. Since it opened for business in 2008, the rights body has distributed well over $2 billion to members since launch, and today Merlin counts 850 members from 63 countries.

Its membership account for more than 12% of the world’s digital music market and Merlin has expanded as business grows. The organisation is currently headquartered in Amsterdam and has offices in London, New York and Tokyo.

“Having the chance to contribute to taking Merlin from a raw idea hatched by a few indie visionaries to the fast-growing global enterprise it is today has truly been a privilege,” Caldas says in a statement.

Merlin
Merlin

“What we have all achieved over the past 12 years is remarkable, and the revenues we are now generating were unthinkable back in 2007. This has easily been the most rewarding work of my life, and for that opportunity I thank our members, our board, and especially my incredible team for their support. I am extremely proud to have represented them and am confident that Merlin’s dynamic, market-leading membership of true independents face a very bright future.”

Martin Mills, a giant of the independent music community who founded Beggars Group and served as Merlin chairman from 2010-2017, paid tribute to Caldas. “Merlin and the whole independent community owe Charles a huge debt of thanks for what he has achieved for and with us, without which we’d have a slippery slope instead of a level playing field,” he said.

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The not-for-profit Merlin was presented to the industry as the “virtual fifth major” in January 2007 and launched for business in May 2008. In those years, says Merlin Chairman Dave Hansen, Caldas’ “vision, leadership and hard work helped Merlin forge a path towards true independence for all of our members. Charles has built a great foundation with an amazing team and Merlin will continue to be strong in the future.”

In his role as the CEO of Merlin, adds Hansen, Caldas “changed everything for independents.”

Charles Caldas
Charles Caldas

With Caldas in the drivers’ seat, Merlin forged landmark deals with the likes of Spotify, YouTube, Deezer, SoundCloud, Pandora and Facebook, and inked strategic non-exclusive licensing partnerships in China with NetEase Cloud Music, Ali Music Group and Tencent Music Entertainment.

And its members benefited to the tune of US$125-$140 million, when Merlin sold its share in Spotify.

In March 2013, Charles was the recipient of IMPALA’s annual outstanding contribution award, and the following year he was included for the first time in Billboard’s International Power List, recognising executives who push business forward with their artistic and business vision.

It’s unclear what Caldas’ next move will be. Watch this space.