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Independent music publishers accounted for 27.1% of the global publishing market in 2021 according to the latest report from the Independent Music Publishers International Forum (IMPF).

Its calculations start with figures from Music & Copyright, which estimated that the three major-owned publishing companies had a market share of 59.9% that year.

IMPF defines ‘independent’ publishers as those with 5% or below of the market, which means Kobalt (6.8%) and BMG (6.2%) aren’t included. If they were included, the ‘independent’ publishing sector would have a market share of 40.1%, but even so 27.1% is bigger than the largest major, Sony Music Publishing, which had a 24.9% share that year.

What are the trends over time here? Looking at past IMPF reports, with Kobalt and BMG included, the non-major publishers’ market share grew from 41.2% in 2017 to 41.4% in 2018, then 42.3% in 2019. However, that was a peak: it then fell to 41.3% in 2020, and now 40.1% in 2021. Publishing being what it is, we won’t have the 2022 figures for a while yet.

Still, with BMG and Kobalt stripped out, IMPF estimates that the independent publishing market was worth €2.08bn in 2021, up from €1.95bn in 2020.

“What this report shows is that music publishing is a multi-billion-dollar industry and independent music publishers play a central role in this economy,” said Downtown Music Holdings CMO Molly Neuman, who is quoted in the report.

The analysis also outlines some of the key challenges for independent music publishers. They include the ongoing (but not yet complete) recovery from the impact of Covid-19, and the debates around the way songs (compositions) are valued compared to recordings in the streaming economy.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight

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