Independents Command a Combined 27.1% Share of the Global Publishing Market, Report Shows — More Than Sony Music Publishing

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Bologna, Italy, where Musixmatch, the sponsor of a newly released IMPF music publishing study, is based. Photo Credit: Felix M. Dorn

Independent companies now command a combined 27.1 percent share of the global publishing market – or a larger piece of the pie than Sony Music Publishing, according to a new report.

This and other noteworthy stats came to light in an analysis from the Independent Music Publishers International Forum (IMPF), which receives funding from the EU’s Creative Europe. The nearly 30-page-long report itself was sponsored by Italy’s Musixmatch, and owing to publishing’s inherent collection and distribution delays, the breakdown covers the market as of 2021.

According to the document, which cites Music & Copyright data, the Big Three labels’ publishing units had an estimated total market share of 59.9 percent at 2021’s end. Behind the figure, Sony Music Publishing is said to have remained the market leader with a 24.9 percent share, a year-over-year (YoY) improvement of 0.4 percent.

Universal Music Publishing Group followed closely with a 23.2 percent share (up 0.2 percent YoY), per the resource, whereas Warner Chappell placed third with its 11.8 percent share (a YoY increase of 0.6 percent).

Meanwhile, Kobalt (with a 6.8 percent share, down 0.2 percent YoY) and BMG (which had a 6.2 percent share, also down 0.2 percent YoY) were deemed too large for inclusion in the indie category, which was limited to entities that in 2021 had a market share of five percent or less.

And as mentioned at the outset, indie publishers accounted for 27.1 percent of the market during 2021 – a figure that actually reflects a 0.8 percent dip from 2020.

Elsewhere in the report, the IMPF touched upon a forecasted “full recovery” for the publishing space in 2023 following improvements from COVID-related downturns during 2021 and 2022. Additionally, citing studies from former PRS for Music and Spotify chief economist Will Page, the analysis shows that the publishing sector generated approximately $13.5 billion during 2021 – up from around $12 billion during 2020.

The sum encompasses $3.5 billion in publisher-direct revenue (up about $700 million YoY) and $10 billion channeled through collective management organizations, according to the breakdown. Factoring for the latter category’s usual 50/50 songwriter-publisher split, the IMPF estimated that “the global music publishing market was worth €7.68 billion [$8.43 billion at the present exchange rate] in 2021, against €6.51 billion [$7.15 billion] in 2020.”

Worth highlighting in conclusion is that the $3.5 billion in publisher-direct revenue was generated “mostly through” sync licensing, per the analysis – an especially interesting stat given that the IFPI attributed just $630 million or so to sync on the comparatively high-earning recorded side for 2022. Employing its own unique definition of synchronization, the RIAA pointed to only $382.5 million in stateside recorded sync income for 2022.