With equity in Spotify and a willingness to speak out whenever it feels its membership is being disrespected by digital services, licensing agency Merlin is a long-time backer of streaming as a model that can benefit the independent music community.
That was reinforced last night as the company announced its latest financial data, other stats and predictions for the next year.
The big numbers: Merlin’s revenues doubled to $89m in the year from May 2013 to April 2014, while in the latter month, the 1.4bn streams of its members’ songs was more than double that of April 2013.
Merlin sees more sharp growth from streaming in the year ahead: it expects to pay out more than $160m to its members from streams of their catalogues in the next year.
It also says that a survey of those members has found that almost half of them now make more than 50% of their revenues from digital music, while for one in five, streaming accounts for more than half of that digital income.
CEO Charles Caldas revealed this in a talk at US indie body A2IM’s AGM in New York last night, where he also returned to an ongoing theme for Merlin: the claim that indies are punching above their traditional weight on streaming services: “eclipsing the independents’ market share of digital album sales by margins of between 12% and 20%, depending on label and territory” as Merlin’s announcement put it.
“Notably, this trend is even more even more pronounced on premium paid-for tiers. Drawing on an analysis of 5bn audio streams (Jan-April 2014) usage of Merlin members’ repertoire was almost 30% higher when accessed on paid streaming tiers compared to free ad-funded tiers.”
Did Caldas come out swinging against YouTube, amid its dispute with indie labels? Well, of course not: Merlin has stayed out of the row, likely still at the negotiating table, leaving trade body WIN to lead the protests.
That said, Merlin did make a point of saying that for 84% of its members, online video platforms still contribute less than 25% of their digital revenues – while noting that “monopolisation of the market by tech corporates” was one of the main challenges keeping indie labels awake at night, judging from their survey responses.
But the broader message was support for streaming: “It is now abundantly clear that the new dynamics offered by streaming platforms are well suited to the independent sector… The most successful services are those that have understood these dynamics and treat our sector with parity and respect.”