Global independent digital rights agency Merlin announced the findings of its 2019 Membership Report & Survey at A2IM Indie Week on Tuesday, The report revealed 63% year-on-year increase in member payments to $845 million.
The total includes over $130 million in revenues generated from one time settlements and other non-royalty income such as proceeds from the sale of Spotify shares.
Since launching in 2008, Merlin has paid in excess of $2 billion to its independent members. "To put that in context, it took us 9 years to pay independents the first $1 billion," said Caldas speaking Tuesday afternoon at Indie Week, "and just 18 months to pay them the second $1 billion."
"Over the past 12 months, Merlin has welcomed its biggest influx of new members since launch," said Caldas, "adding another 141 companies to its membership - and now represents independent music businesses across 63 countries."
More Merlin members are growing their overall business.
An unprecedented 81% of respondents stated their overall business revenues had increased in 2018 - with 30% stating that overall business was up by more than 50%. This marks a significant increase on previous member surveys, where an average of 67% of respondents said their total business revenues had increased the previous year.
Unsurprisingly, Merlin’s “optimism index” also hit an all-time high in 2019. 85% of respondents say they are optimistic about the future of their business - compared to 78% in 2018.
Audio streaming continues to drive digital income. Digital income dominates overall business revenues.
More than half (54%) of Merlin members report that digital income currently accounts for more than 75% of their overall business revenues. In our 2018 survey, only 39% reported this was the case.
This growth continues to be primarily driven by audio streaming. Half of respondents (49%) state that audio streaming is responsible for over 75% of their digital income - up from 37% in 2018.
Percentage of digital income from video streaming remains static (with potential green shoots)
By comparison, the dynamics around video streaming appear static - with 79% of respondents saying that video accounts for less than 25% of their digital income. A percentage that is practically unchanged from member surveys stretching back to 2014.
However, there are positive signs.
Income increases from video streaming are at least keeping pace with audio streaming - the money received is still going up. Meanwhile, respondents who said video accounts for less than 10% of their digital income dropped from 63% (2018) to 55% in 2019. Those who said video accounts for less than 5% of their digital income dropped from 37% (2018) to 31% (2019).
Merlin members look to China for global expansion
Outside their home territory, 32% of non-US members believe the USA offers the greatest potential for increased digital consumption of their repertoire.
15% of respondents believe that China offers the greatest potential, despite fewer than 0.5% of Merlin members having their primary business based in mainland China.
In 2018, Merlin agreed landmark non-exclusive partnerships with Chinese DSPs NetEase, Alibaba and Tencent. Meanwhile, the affinity for Merlin members’ repertoire across Latin America continues, with Brazil currently Merlin’s fifth most valuable territory and Mexico inside the Top 10.
The report can be downloaded here.