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Music piracy is booming thanks to streaming

By | Published on Thursday 22 March 2018

Digital Music

Piracy tracking company MUSO has published its annual report on the current state of people getting stuff off the internet illegitimately. Figures show that, just like on the licensed side of the music industry, streaming and mobile are ensuring renewed growth.

The company logged 300 billion visits to piracy sites in 2017, up 1.6% overall on the previous year. However, music – the second most pirated type of content after TV – saw a 14.7% surge.

Interestingly, the music industry’s biggest piracy bugbear of 2017, stream-ripping sites, saw a dramatic drop in usage in the second half of last year. MUSO attributes a 33.9% drop to the shutdown of YouTube-mp3 in September, the result of successful legal action by the record industry, and which was followed by several other smaller sites also going offline.

While everyone stopped to pat themselves on the back though, stream-ripping was nevertheless the third most popular type of music piracy last year, beaten by illegal download sites. In first place, and significantly more popular, were unlicensed streaming sites. For the most part, these were accessed through mobile phones and tablets, with 87.1% of all music piracy carried out on handheld devices.

The leading countries for piracy were the USA and Russia, with 27.9 billion and 20.1 billion visits respectively. The UK came in tenth with nine billion visits, which shows that, despite a rigorous programme of web-blocking, we’re still punching above our weight in the piracy stakes compared to countries with bigger populations and no web-blocking whatsoever. Well done us.

“There is a belief that the rise in popularity of on-demand services – such as Netflix and Spotify – have solved piracy, but that theory simply doesn’t stack up”, says MUSO CEO Andy Chatterley. “Our data suggests that piracy is more popular than ever. With the data showing us that 53% of all piracy happens on unlicensed streaming platforms, it has become clear that streaming is the most popular way for consumers to access content, whether it be via legitimate channels, or illegitimate ones”.

He continues: “The piracy audience is huge and yet for the most part, it’s an opportunity that’s completely ignored. It’s important that the content industries embrace the trends emerging from this data, not only in strategic content protection, but also in understanding the profile of the piracy ‘consumer’ for better business insight and monetising these audiences”.

You can purchase the full MUSO report here.

Chatterley previously warned of the boom in illegal streaming sites when he spoke to CMU’s Chris Cooke at the Slush Music conference in Finland last year. You can read more about what he said – plus more on the past, present and future of music piracy – in this CMU Trends article.