Merlin has announced its billionth dollar in distributions to the independent label sector.
The global digital rights agency for the indies has hit the 10-figure total nine years after it was established with a remit to add global efficiencies to the licensing of new generation streaming services. It recently revealed that it was paying almost $1 million (£776,000) a day to members.
Merlin acts on behalf of more than 20,000 independent record labels and distributors from 53 countries, across five continents. The agency enables digital services to license - via a single global deal - the largest basket of rights outside of the major labels and to access music from leading independent artists.
Since agreeing its first commercial partnership in September 2008 as launch partner to Spotify, Merlin has now licensed more than 20 digital music services, including Deezer, Google Play, SoundCloud, YouTube Red, Pandora and Vevo.
In April, 2017 it renewed a multi-year global licence with Spotify that allows Merlin member labels to participate in the streaming service’s recently announced ‘flexible release’ or 'windowing' policy.
Over the past five years, Merlin said annual revenues paid to members have increased eightfold, while administration fees have dropped almost 80%. The agency said its combined membership commands over 12% of the digital recorded music market, including Beggars Group, Secretly Group, Domino, Sub Pop, Epitaph, Kobalt Music Recordings and PIAS.
Merlin members’ repertoire performs particularly strongly on premium subscriptions, the digital agency added. In June 2017, 64% of Merlin members reported that streaming services accounted for over half their digital revenues – up from 46% in 2016, and 34% in 2015.
Streaming has also opened up global markets: 42% of Merlin members report that overseas useage accounts for a majority of their digital revenue, while Merlin’s revenues from Brazil have now overtaken those from France.
In the summer, Merlin announced 2015-2016 distributions to members of $353m (£274m), an increase of 52% on 2014-2015.
Charles Caldas, CEO Merlin, said: “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 centre stage in the streaming market, while enabling digital music services to capitalise on the immense consumer demand for independent music.
“Even more inspiring is that this 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.”
Darius Van Arman, co-owner of the Secretly Label Group, commented: “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.”