Proof, yet again, there is strength in numbers. A new report commissioned by the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) found independent labels generated more than $6 billion in 2016, up 6.9% from the prior year, and accounted for a 38.4% share of the global recorded music market, up slightly on 2015.

The WINTEL 2017 report is the second of its kind and was compiled by British analyst Mark Mulligan of MIDiA Research using data from 660 respondents, from labels and distributors in 26 countries.

The results, according to WIN, represent “the most comprehensive assessment of the global independent record label sector ever compiled.”

What sets this apart from other studies is that its findings are based on rights ownership rather than distribution, which forms the basis of the IFPI’s annual statistics feast, the Global Music Report (which replaced the Recording Industry In Numbers). According to WIN, around $1.2 billion of independent label revenue was distributed by majors or major-owned distributors in 2016, which WIN says should be attributed to the independent sector and “distorts the true picture of market value.”

This is particular important in the digital age because market share is used by the likes of Apple, Google and Spotify in negotiations with the independent sector and often determines the levels of remuneration paid out to right holders.

“It is important when making sense of the global market for independent music that we continue to use ownership rather than distribution as the method of calculation,” explains Alison Wenham, CEO of WIN, an umbrella organisation for indie trade bodies around the world. “The claiming of market share through distribution by major labels distorts the true value of the independent market and creates a false picture of the amazing growth and vitality of our sector.”

Among its key findings, the study rams-home the golden opportunities and rewards from digital, and in particular streaming. In almost every market, indies register higher market share in streaming than they do in physical formats, according to the research, and, with streaming figures studied in isolation, the sector grew by 60.4% in 2016. Streaming now accounts for 59% of all digital revenues, and digital makes up 50% of the total market.

Australia’s indies sector is a vibrant one, accounting for 35% of market share, outperforming the indies’ share in a string of European markets and Canada.

“The WINTEL 2017 report tells the story of another strong year for the independent sector. It has seen solid growth overall and an astonishing increase in streaming revenues. Both are trends we are confident will continue,” notes Wenham.

Martin Mills, founder of the Beggars Group and Vice President of WIN, adds: “It speaks volumes for the tenacity, passion and entrepreneurship of independent labels, and the public’s desire for musical diversity, that even in these times of global dominance by major corporations, almost 4 out of every 10 dollars spent on music goes to the independent sector.”

Download the 64-page document here.