Who doesn’t love a nice round number?

Indie digital rights body Merlin has now paid out $1bn to its members since its inception in May 2008.

It now represents 20,000 indie labels and distributors across 53 markets – collectively accounting for 12% of the recorded music market in digital. Merlin has deals in place with 20 digital services around the world, including global heavy-hitters such as Spotify, Deezer, Google Play, Vevo and SoundCloud as well as regional giants such as Pandora and KKBOX.

The body says that in the past five years, revenues paid through to members has grown eightfold while at the same time Merlin’s admin fees have fallen by 80%.

As part of the announcement, it has also pulled out some key stats from its own figures and membership surveys.

– As of June this year, streaming accounts for over half of the digital revenue for almost two-thirds (64%) of its members – up from 34% in 2015.
– Merlin’s revenues from Brazil have now surpassed those from France, showing how important emerging markets are and the role that digital is playing here.

Charles Caldas, CEO Merlin, says, “It makes me immensely proud to reach this landmark. Like all the best independent labels, Merlin is run with passion, as a lean and efficient operation – albeit with an extensive and profound global responsibility. Our unique structure has empowered Merlin’s members to sit center stage in the streaming market, while enabling digital music services to capitalise on the immense consumer demand for independent music.”

He adds, “Even more inspiring is that these billion dollars in revenues comes only from the new-generation services that have launched since we did. In a market still in its early stages of evolution, the more significant growth is arguably yet to come.”

There were a multitude of effusive tributes from member labels following this landmark target being hit. Here are just a handful.

Darius Van Arman, co-owner of Secretly Label Group: “Thanks to Merlin, independent music companies can compete with the biggest recording companies. Now that Merlin has paid over a billion dollars to its members, we can proudly say that Merlin is an essential pillar of the music economy, supporting a fair, healthy and diverse marketplace for artists and companies of all sizes.”

Michel Lambot, joint founder of PIAS: “When we dreamt about acting collectively in setting up Merlin almost 10 years ago, we thought we were being really optimistic by setting a budget with an estimated best-scenario turnover of $10m, some said we were crazy and… Now we have delivered a billion dollars to the independent community… Wow… I am so pleased and so impressed. Thanks Charles, thank you Merlin. Let’s continue to dream together.”

Dave Hansen, GM of Epitaph: “Amazing times when Merlin announces that they have sent out its first billion dollars to their independent label and distributor members while making deals with the digital services that provide us with a competitive edge. We are extremely proud to be part of it all.”

Tom Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy: “When we dreamed up Merlin, we hoped to better compete with the then four major labels and to be able to negotiate competitive deals for our members and participate in industry settlement actions. We never dreamed that we would eventually distribute a billion dollars to our sector. And this is only the beginning!”

Ashley Whitfield, owner of Evolution Ltd Hong Kong: “One billion dollars – not to mention the Warner divestment, and other key achievements! Merlin has been the essential key for thousands of independent labels, big and small, to thrive in the digital era.”

Yoel Kenan, CEO of AFRICORI: “Merlin’s track record continues to show how important it is as an organisation to artists and labels from around the world. It supports the independent community on so many levels, even in challenging regions such as Africa. Congratulation to Merlin’s first billion dollar paid and looking forward to many more to come.”

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