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Freelance reporter Cook and Merge cofounders McCaughan and Ballance trace the history of the North Carolina-based record label that started in a bedroom and now releases some of indie rock's biggest names. The story is composed as a book-long conversation between McCaughan and Ballance (also founding members of Superchunk, hailed as the next Nirvana in the 1990s and one of Merge's first major hits) and myriad other voices from the music industry. Started in 1989 in Chapel Hill, Merge always put music and musicians first, with McCaughan and Ballance hand-stuffing the label's first seven-inch releases and eschewing contracts in an effort to keep things friendly. In a prime example of its dedication to artistic vision over pure profit, Merge took a gamble on Stephin Merritt and Magnetic Fields's ambitious three-disc opus, 69 Love Songs, when any major label would have balked. That record made numerous top 10 lists in 1999 and has sold more than 150,000 copies. While some of the label's artists may be beyond the scope of the casual music fan, bands like Magnetic Fields, Spoon and Arcade Fire demonstrate how vital Merge is to the indie rock landscape. (Sept. 15)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.