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Digital distributor TuneCore's revenues rose 5 percent to $36 million in the first quarter, mirroring the slowed growth in the digital music markets of the United States and other large markets. The U.S. digital recorded music market climbed 6 percent last year while the U.K. market rose just 0.5 percent, according to IFPI figures released last week.

Rather than focus attention on the middling performance of most digital markets, TuneCore's earnings release highlighted growth in emerging markets. TuneCore says its artist earnings from Turkey and Chile rose 180 percent and 134 percent in the period, respectively. Earnings from Guatemala, Poland and Hong Kong increased 70 percent, 68 percent and 48 percent, respectively, compared to the prior-year period.

Of course, the relative size of these fast-growing markets should be taken into account. Turkey's entire recorded music market was $47.6 million in 2014, according to the IFPI -- less than 1 percent of the United States'. Chile's entire digital music market was just $8.8 million. Hong Kong represented just 1 percent of Asia's recorded music revenues.

But there is a beauty in small numbers. One of the great promises of digital music is the ability to reach new markets that would barely exist if not for new streaming and download platforms. So while the Russia's recorded music business might not impress -- $14.4 million of download revenue and $10.5 million of streaming revenue in 2014 -- its digital numbers have, at least, grown from almost nothing in just a few years.  

TuneCore's first-quarter numbers do not reflect the acquisition by U.K.-based Believe Digital announced on April 16th. TuneCore says the two companies will remain operationally separate and plan to leverage the combined company's larger size to negotiate better deals with digital service providers.