Independent labels reach digital tipping point – driven by streaming

Merlin, the global digital rights agency representing 20,000 independent labels including the likes of Beggars Group, Cooking Vinyl, Domino, Epitaph, Kobalt Label Services, Merge, Ninja Tune, [PIAS], Secretly Group and Warp Records, has released its annual report.

The document, a selection of slides from which you can see below, highlights four clear trends from Merlin members – who make up around 10% of the global market:

  • Independent labels have crossed a digital tipping point. For the first time, more than half of respondents report that income from digital services accounts for over 50% of their overall business revenues. For one in three, digital income accounts for over 75% of their overall revenues.
  • Streaming/subscription income is driving digital growth. One in three respondents report that income from audio streaming & subscription services now accounts for over 50% of their digital revenue – up from one in five in 2014.
  • Total digital revenues increased in 2014 for almost 75% of respondents. 17% reported their overall digital revenues increased by over 50%.
  • The majority of Merlin members report overall business growth. Despite a fall in download sales, 65% of respondents reported an increase in overall business revenues in 2014 (compared to 62% in 2013). Only 16% of respondents reported a decrease in overall 2014 business revenues, compared to 18% the previous year.

Merlin also reveals that it saw a 43% increase in year-on-year revenues (April 2014-March 2015) to $137.8m.

In March 2015 alone, audio tracks by Merlin members were streamed more than 2.5bn times – an increase of over 1bn from the same period last year. 

Significantly, analysing over 9 billion audio streams (January-April 2015) usage of Merlin members repertoire on audio streaming and subscription services was 35% higher on paid tiers compared to free ad-funded tiers.

86.6% of respondents stated that Merlin membership was important to their business.

Charles Caldas, CEO of Merlin (pictured), said: The Merlin membership survey again shows how strongly the worlds leading independent labels are faring in the global digital market. This years results highlight the speed at which music fans are transitioning towards streaming and subscription services, and how independent labels are leading that change, and growing their audience in the process – with the vast majority growing their digital revenues and expanding their business overall.

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