The not-for-profit, global licensing and rights organization, Merlin, recently surveyed its membership and has issued a press release pointing to many successes and further demonstrating that the music marketed and released by independent labels should be treated by commerce partners on a level equal to that which is released and marketed by major labels. Independents deliver chart toppers, GRAMMY winners, successful veteran artists and exciting music from new artists.
Key points in the release are as follows:
- 22 artists represented by Merlin members achieved number 1s in at least one major territory over 2010/2011
- More than 50 Merlin member artists achieved top 5 albums in 2010/2011
- These figures shatter the myth that the independent sector represents “long-tail”, specialist repertoire that is somehow of inferior value in the market
Digital Market Share
- The US Albums market share for independents is 57% greater for digital than physical sales (51.2% in the UK)
- Underlining the fact that in a market with limitless shelf space and freedom of choice, and free of the tightly controlled store fronts of physical retail, mainstream music consumers are increasingly discovering and purchasing independent music
The more digital consumers pay, the more independent music they demand
- The Paid tier usage of Merlin repertoire on streaming services outstrips usage on free/limited tiers by 20%
- This illustrates that users who pay for subscription services – serious music fans by definition – are even more likely to be found listening to independent music.
Overall Key point:
“Services that are serious about providing their customers a compelling product … would do well to take the time to understand the new dynamic for indies in the digital market”
By way of background (if required), this is what we have said before….
Merlin has in the past been vocal about services that launch with a few indies and expect their customers to be hoodwinked by a deal with an indie aggregator or two, or worse who expect independents to accept what in our judgment must be inferior terms to those agreed with the majors or, even worse, to believe that there is an “indie” value which is somehow automatically inferior to that attached to repertoire from the majors.
Clearly from Merlin’s perspective, we cannot support the notion that the price for the rights we represent is determined via this false construct, particularly given these figures. If that kind of retrograde thinking goes unchecked, we risk ending up in a market where the opportunities for consumers to legitimately access music online are inferior to piracy. So no one wins.
Commercial music services succeed by offering their customers a full choice of major and indie artists (as, less pleasingly, do illegal services). This is illustrated by the continued strength of iTunes and the massive uptake of users on Spotify, who worked to ensure that via Merlin, independents were included in their business from launch as both content providers and shareholders. Services who are serious about providing their customers a compelling product that encourages them to pay, and stick around, would do well to take the time to understand the new dynamic for indies in the digital market, and analyse carefully what their customers are demanding.