Global indie-label collective Merlin reported record distributions in its 2019 membership report, paying $845 million to label and distributor members between April 2018 and March of this year. That figure, a 63% year-over-year increase, includes more than $130 million paid out this year from non-royalty income — and included in that figure is the estimated $125 million in proceeds from Merlin’s sale of Spotify shares last year, all distributed back to its members.
As part of the report, the company notes that it has paid more than $2 billion to more than 20,000 independent labels and distributors worldwide since it opened in 2008 — and adds that while it took nine years to distribute its first billion dollars, it has taken only 18 months to distribute its second.
Merlin collectively represent thousands of independent labels and distributors, and has licensed more than 25 digital service providers on a global basis. The report notes that over the past 12 months Merlin has added the biggest influx of new members since its launch, with another 141 companies becoming members, growing its global reach to 63 countries.
The report is filled with optimism — 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%. Audio streaming continues to dominate overall business revenues, with some 54% of Merlin members reporting that digital income currently accounts for more than 75% of their overall business revenues. In 2018, only 39% reported that was the case.
However, the percentage of digital income from video streaming remains static — 79% of respondents said that video accounts for less than 25% of their digital income, a percentage that is practically unchanged from member surveys stretching back to 2014. This provides further evidence of the “value gap,” largely derived from YouTube’s payment policies — which the music industry has long said are far too low.
That said, the report notes that income increases from video streaming are at least keeping pace with audio streaming. Respondents who said video accounts for less than 10% of their digital income dropped from 63% (2018) to 55% in 2019.
Merlin CEO Charles Caldas (pictured above) said, “I am delighted to report another record-breaking increase in payments to our global membership. What’s particularly gratifying is the inclusion of more than $130m in monies that members would not have captured were it not for Merlin’s formation. These are significant revenues that underline the incremental value Merlin brings to our global membership.”
CFO Helen Alexander added, “It’s an absolute priority for Merlin that our reporting is transparent and fully attributable, and especially so given the increases in non-royalty income. This is no small undertaking, but it ensures our members can understand what they’re being paid – and why. For instance, every cent that Merlin received from the sale of Spotify shares was paid out quickly, pro-rated on a track-by-track basis, and with 100% transparency.”