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Nigerian to represent Africa on Merlin Network board first time

Merlin Network, Europe-based digital rights agency for independent record labels which has distributed over $2 billion record labels in the last 10 years, has for the first time appointed a Nigerian, Michael Ugwu, into its board to represent Africa.

This makes it the first time a Nigerian will be appointed to the board as the seat has always been previously occupied by South Africa.

Merlin has membership of over 20,000 independent record labels and distributors from approximately 62 countries with offices in London, Tokyo and New York.

Ugwu, former general manager of Sony Music West Africa, who is the founder/CEO of Nigeria’s online digital music distributor, Freeme Digital, was one of eight new executives, according to a statement announced last week to represent Africa on Merlin’s 15-member board.

Other new executives that joined the board are from Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, North America and South Korea.

Ugwu, according to the statement described the appointment into the board as an important milestone in the evolution of Nigeria’s music industry and its growing acceptance and expanding footprint in the global music scene.

He said: “I am humbled by this appointment. It is another testament that the Nigerian music industry is making the expected progress. The talent, hard work and investment in the industry continue to gain deserved recognition.

“As far as the Nigerian music industry is concerned, Freeme Digital remains committed to the rights and opportunities of Independents and their artists. And we will continue to expand the scope of opportunities and the frontiers of digital music for the emerging generation of independents and artists in Nigeria and across Africa.”

Prior to exiting Sony Music Entertainment West Africa in August 2019 to fully focus on Freeme Digital, Ugwu led Sony’s expansion in West Africa as the General Manager for five years, spearheading unprecedented historic deals for Africa’s biggest talents including Davido and Wizkid.

Ugwu believes that joining the board of Merlin, which has distributed more than $2 billion to its almost 900 members since launching in 2008 and often considered as the 4th major label representing 15% of global music rights, will draw more attention to the growing opportunities of the Nigerian digital music distribution ecosystem.

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