Independent labels’ share of the global recorded-music market grew from 39.6% in 2016 to 39.9% in 2017, according to trade body WIN’s latest Wintel report. WIN says that indie labels’ revenues grew by 10.9% year-on-year to $6.9bn, comparing this to the 10.2% growth for the overall market and – unsurprisingly this is a point of celebration for WIN – to the 9.7% growth of major labels in that period.
This year’s Wintel report also returns to a past theme: the question of whether market share should be measured by distribution or by copyright ownership. The controversial point here is the status of independent artists’ and labels’ music which goes through major label-owned distributors like Caroline, ADA and The Orchard. WIN says this accounted for 8.6% of the total market in 2017, and 22.2% of the independents’ share of the market by copyright ownership.
“Distribution is interchangeable and involves only a modicum of risk, whereas investing in the creation of a copyright in the first place is the biggest risk that any artist or music entrepreneur can take. Getting it to market is thereafter a question of choice for the artist,” wrote WIN boss Alison Wenham in her introduction to the report. Yet WIN’s fear remains that major labels count the independent music they distribute as part of their market shares when negotiating with digital music services.
Other stats worth noting in the report: independent streaming revenues grew by 46% in 2017 to $3.1bn, and now account for just under 44% of the indie sector’s overall income – compared to 33% in 2016. It’s quite possible that streaming will tip over 50% of revenues for independents in 2018.
There is also a new number for revenues generated by ‘artists direct’ – those who are not signed to a label at all, but who make their music available through distributors. Wintel, using new calculations from Midia Research, estimates that artist-direct revenues grew from $94m in 2016 to $101m in 2017.
That’s a lot less than the $472m of artist-direct revenues that Midia estimated for 2017 back in April. The figure has since been refocused purely on D2C sites like Bandcamp and PledgeMusic, as well as physical music sold at concerts. Disclosure: Music Ally authored the report for WIN, working with data provided by Midia Research.