Spotify’s latest financial filing is being picked over for interesting trends, and one of those is the combined share of streams for the catalogues of the three major labels, plus the independent catalogue licensed by Merlin.

“For the year ended December 31, 2020, this content accounted for approximately 78% of music streams,” revealed Spotify’s latest quarterly filing. That’s down from 82% in 2019, and 85% in 2018. A drop of seven percentage points in two years, which feels significant, and others agree.

“The recorded music market is one in which label market shares typically move at a near glacial pace. In comparison, this shift is nothing short of tectonic,” was Midia Research’s verdict. “What we are witnessing is not just the emergence of a new pattern of growth in the recorded music business but also the emergence of a new breed of record label.”

The company has been crunching the numbers to try to break them down further. “The Spotify figures would suggest that majors grew by 14%, Merlin was down by 3%, artists direct were up by 28% and non-Merlin independents were up by 49%,” it claimed. “As in 2019, artists direct and non-Merlin independents were the big winners. These two segments represent the new vanguard of streaming-era music strategy.”

There are some fairly hefty caveats here, including Spotify’s launch in markets including Japan and India, and (before its launch in South Korea this year, which the figures predate) the growth of K-Pop on its platform. Those are countries where ‘super-indies’ – labels that aren’t part of the global majors, but which within their own markets are huge players – complicate the traditional categories.

In other words, there is a trend in this data, but it’s not just about one set of labels or artists winning or losing, but also about Spotify’s expansion and how that’s affecting the share of streams on its platform. There may be a knock-on impact of these figures being publicly discussed though: a boost to the funding-raising ambitions of companies serving the artists direct sector, for example. And perhaps for some independent music firms too.

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