Global recorded music revenues $23B in 2020; majors underperform; “unstoppable rise” of indies (MIDiA Research)

In a data-rich blog post, MIDiA Research has described its 2020 metrics for the global recorded music industry. (See the infographic below.)

Total revenues for recorded music were $23.1-billion in MIDiA’s reckoning. Eight billion dollars of that went to independent labels and “Artists Direct” payments — artis direct can be considered micro-labels belonging to creators who distribute their music as sole proprietorship ventures, and receive royalty payments via digital distribution companies.


“The recorded music business is changing, and it is changing fast.” –Mark Mulligan, Managing Director, MIDiA Research


The whole indie bundle “strongly outperformed in the market,” according to Mark Mulligan, Managing Director of UK-based MIDiA Research. Conversely the three major labels as a group underperformed the market; Sony Music Entertainment was in line, while UMG (Universal Music Group) slightly underperformed and Warner Music Group led the decline.

Indie labels and artists took 31.5% of the total global market in 2020, a 27% lift from 2019. At the same time, major-label market share dropped 65.5% in 2020.

Even within the large and complex indie group, variations were revealed through MIDiA’s custom research. The trend of large vx. small held true for indies as a whole: “Within the sector there was a massive diversity of growth rates, with smaller, newer indies tending to grow faster than the market (some dramatically so) and larger, more established indies growing below the market rate.”

MIDiA has been tracking the indie-label and indie-artist growth curve for some time. This latest report characterizes the situation as “The unstoppable rise of independent artists.” It’s a two-year trend at least; Mark Mulligan says that indies were the stand-out story in 2019, and the trend accelerated in 2020. Last year artist-direct earnings broke the $1-billion threshold for the first time.

Brad Hill