London, 25th June 2015

  • Merlin membership survey 2015: surge in music streams delivers digital growth for independent labels.
  • Merlin’s independent label members cross a digital tipping point – 55% report income from digital services is now their main source of business revenue.
  • Total digital revenues increase for almost 75% of respondents – 1 in 3 report audio streaming & subscription services now represent their primary source of digital revenue.
  • Two-thirds of members report overall business growth in 2014.
  • Merlin’s year-on-year revenues increase 43%. When played on audio streaming services, usage of Merlin members’ music is 35% higher on paid-for tiers compared to free.

Merlin, the global digital rights agency for the independent label sector, has today published results of its 2015 member survey.

Representing the most valuable set of rights outside of those controlled by the three major labels, Merlin’s membership commands in excess of 10% of the global digital market across more than 20,000 labels – including the likes of Beggars Group, Cooking Vinyl, Domino, Epitaph, Kobalt Label Services, Merge, Ninja Tune, [PIAS], Secretly Group and Warp Records.

Drawing on anonymised responses from Merlin members across 26 countries, the survey highlights FOUR clear trends:

  • 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.

With 82% of respondents feeling “optimistic” about the future of their business, these findings correlate with analysis of Merlin’s own internal data – which reveals 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, said: “The Merlin membership survey again shows how strongly the world’s leading independent labels are faring in the global digital market. This year’s 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.”    

About Merlin

Merlin is the global rights agency for the independent label sector. The organisation’s members command around a 10% share of the US and global recorded music markets and embody more than 20,000 independent record labels and distributors worldwide, representing some of the world’s most important artists, including:

  • Beggars Group – Bon Iver, Jack White, The National, Queens of the Stone Age
  • Cooking Vinyl – Billy Bragg, Marilyn Manson, The Prodigy
  • Domino – Animal Collective, Anna Calvi, Arctic Monkeys
  • Epitaph – Bad Religion, Tom Waits, Wilco
  • !K7 – Tricky, Fat Freddy’s Drop
  • Kobalt Label Services – Lenny Kravitz, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • Merge – Arcade Fire, Caribou
  • [PIAS] – Editors, Enter Shikari, Soulwax
  • Warp – Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, Grizzly Bear

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 YouTube Music Key, Spotify, Pandora, Beats Music, Google Play, Rdio and Deezer and reached a number of high value copyright infringement settlements on behalf of its members with, amongst others, Limewire, XM Satellite Radio and Grooveshark.

Merlin has offices in London, with a head office in Amsterdam.

IMPALA – Independent Music Companies Association

Rue des Deux Eglises 37-39, 1000, Brussels, BELGIUM

+32 2 503 31 38