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Members of Merlin Report Digital Gains in Annual Survey

In a survey of more than 700 global members, Merlin, the UK-based the indie digital rights licensing agency and advocacy agent, found that its constituency commands about 12 percent of the global…

In a survey of more than 700 global members, Merlin, the UK-based the indie digital rights licensing agency and advocacy agent, found that its constituency commands about 12 percent of the global digital recorded music market.

It also reported that 65 percent of its membership said that their overall revenue had grown in 2015 from the prior year, and within overall revenue, 73.5 percent said they had experienced an increase in digital revenue.

Overall, Merlin said it processed and paid $232 million to its members in the year ended March 2016, representing a 73 percent increase from an implied $135 million payout in the prior year. Of its revenue, $30 million came in the door through advances from some services, he added.

Merlin said its members’ music received 4 billion streams in the month of March 2016, versus 2.5 billion streams over the same month in the prior year.

A majority, 62 percent, of Merlin’s members say that digital income now accounts for over half of their revenue. That’s up from 55 percent who said the same last year. Moreover, the survey found that the digital format is improving its membership’s global reach; 39 percent of respondents reported that half of their digital revenue came from outside their home territory. In contrast, only 16 percent of respondents said that over half of their physical revenue came from outside their home market.

Within digital, 46 percent of respondents said audio streaming and subscription was their dominant revenue stream while only 28 percent of respondents said downloads were.

Within 11.5 billion streams recorded by Merlin members in the first three months of 2015, the survey found that its members enjoyed 27 percent more streams on paid streaming tiers versus ad-supported tiers. That implies that the organization’s members racked up 6.435 million streams on paid tiers versus 5.065 million streams on ad-supported tiers during that period.

During his presentation, he pointed out that Merlin only spends 2% of revenue on administration. In 2013, that was 4% and in 2014 it was 2.5%. Moreover, he said that the organization will pay out $1.9 million in membership dues rebates from 2013 and 2014. It is quite possibly the lowest overhead of any rights administration organization.

Still, Caldas notes there are still challenges in the digital space. He noted that while Spotify has 10% of the audience as YouTube’s music effort, Spotify generates 10 times the revenue to Merlin that YouTube does. 

UPDATE 6/21: An earlier version of this article listed the number of streams recorded by Merlin members in early 2015 as 11.5 million. It was actually 11.5 billion streams.