MERLIN MEMBER SURVEY 2017
A great leap forward, with one step back
Audio streaming growth outstrips video 3-to-1 as distributions to independent labels hit $353m
Merlin, the global digital rights agency for the independent label sector, has unveiled results of their 2017 member survey at A2IM’s annual meeting.
Now in its fifth year, the survey draws on responses from hundreds of independent record labels and distributors across 40 countries – tracking changes to their business over the past calendar year, as well as current trends and developments.
As with previous years, the results are complemented by an updated analysis of Merlin’s revenue distributions.
Representing the most valuable set of rights outside of those controlled by the three major labels, Merlin’s 700-strong membership commands in excess of 12% of the global digital recorded music market across more than 20,000 labels – including such globally-recognised label brands as Beggars Group, Domino, Epitaph/Anti, Kobalt Music Recordings, [PIAS], Secretly Group, Sub Pop and Warp Records.
MERLIN REVENUE DISTRIBUTIONS UP 52% TO $353m
– Boosted by a significant uptake in audio streaming, year-on-year revenue distributions (April 2016-March 2017) to Merlin’s independent record label members increased 52% to $353m. Within the space of four years, revenues paid out to Merlin members have increased more than eightfold. In addition to a new multi-year global license agreement with Spotify (announced in April 2017), Merlin now has partnerships in place with 20 new generation digital music services, including SoundCloud, YouTube Red, Pandora, Google Play, Deezer, Vevo and KKBOX.
A GREAT LEAP FORWARD: AUDIO STREAMING COMES OF AGE
– Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Merlin members report that audio streaming accounts for the majority of their digital revenues. This marks a significant leap from 2016, when less than half (46%) said this was the case.
BUT ONE STEP BACK: VIDEO STREAMING UNDERPERFORMS
– Merlin continues to see only negligible growth from video streaming. According to an analysis of several billion streams comparing the 12 months to March 2017 with the year before, revenue growth from audio streaming is outpacing that of video streaming at a rate of more than 3-to-1.
Concurrently, and similar to findings in 2016, 42% of members report that services such as YouTube account for less than 5% of their digital revenues. This equates to a significant market disparity, with video streaming services commanding ten times more users than audio streaming services – but returning less than a tenth of the revenues.
DIGITAL DOMINATES OVERALL BUSINESS REVENUES FOR TWO-THIRDS OF MERLIN MEMBERS
– In 2015, 55% of Merlin members stated that digital income accounted for over half their overall business revenues. Two years on, this is now the case for more than two-thirds (67%) of members. 39% state that digital income accounts for more than 75% of their overall business revenues.
CONSISTENT BUSINESS GROWTH FOR THREE YEARS IN SUCCESSION
– Despite a seismic shift from downloads to streaming, this is the 3rd calendar year in succession that two-thirds (66%) of Merlin members have reported growth of their overall business (year-end 2015 to year-end 2016). 83% say they are optimistic about the future of their business. 85% state that Merlin membership is important to their business.
MERLIN MEMBERS’ MUSIC THRIVES ON PAID-FOR SUBSCRIPTION TIERS
– On audio streaming services, Merlin members’ music is favoured predominantly by paying subscribers. Despite improved performance on free ad-funded tiers, plays were still 19% higher on paid streaming tiers. Significantly, this pattern is repeated globally and wherever Merlin members’ repertoire is streamed.
STREAMING OPENS INTERNATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
– Audio streaming’s global accessibility continues to present new international opportunities for independent music. 42% of Merlin members report that over half of their digital revenues came from outside their home territory. By comparison only 17% reported the same for physical revenues.
Charles Caldas, CEO, Merlin, said: “Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed a great leap forward. Audio streaming is now dominating Merlin members’ digital business, and we are continuing to see the vast majority of our independent labels thrive under what are very different market dynamics.
“As a global-facing agency, it is especially pleasing to see such consistent international growth, and the continuing over-performance of Merlin-licensed repertoire on paid subscription tiers. Clearly, the labels we represent and the artists they support hold a unique value to music fans the world over. The only relative step backwards is the industry-wide underperformance of video-streaming. If we can address this market anomaly, then the uplift across the business would be enormous.”
 Based on an analysis of several billion streams (Jan-March 2017)
Merlin is the global digital rights agency for the world’s independent label sector.
The organisation’s members command in excess of 12% of the digital recorded music market and embody more than 20,000 independent record labels and distributors from 51 countries and all continents.
These include Beggars Group, Secretly Group, Domino, Sub Pop, Epitaph, Anti Records, Entertainment One, Redeye Worldwide, !K7, Kobalt Music Recordings, [PIAS], Merge, Warp, INgrooves, Hopeless Records, Armada Music, Mad Decent, Eleven Seven Music, Naxos and Curb Records, representing some of the world’s most important and successful artists.
Merlin acts to ensure these companies have effective access to new and emerging revenue streams and that their rights are appropriately valued and protected.
Since commencing operations in May 2008, Merlin has licensed key digital services including SoundCloud, YouTube Red, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, Deezer, Vevo and KKBOX.
Merlin has reached a number of high value copyright infringement settlements on behalf of its members with, among others, Limewire, XM Satellite Radio and Grooveshark.
Merlin has been selected as the ‘Independent Champion’ at the A2IM Libera Awards for two years running.
Merlin has offices in London, New York and Tokyo, with a head office in Amsterdam.