A glimpse at piracy in the UK and beyond

Ed Sheeran performing at V Festival Ed Sheeran topped the list of most pirated UK artist for the first half of 2012

Related Stories

Manchester has been named the piracy capital of the UK, according to a new study seen exclusively by the BBC.

The research said there were more illegal downloads per person in the city than any other in the country, followed by Nottingham and Southampton.

The statistics, from monitoring service Musicmetric, conclude that in the first half of 2012, UK users illegally shared over 40 million albums and singles.

Industry group, the BPI said it showed piracy "remains a significant problem".

The data, collected independently by Musicmetric and seen exclusively by the BBC, is believed to be the biggest analysis of its kind to be conducted.

It monitored the global activity of BitTorrent files - a method of obtaining files by downloading from many users at the same time.

The data's release came as measures to attempt to curb illegal downloading began to take hold, such as the blocking of popular piracy websites and the relegation and removal of search results from Google.

Musicmetric's findings said that singer Ed Sheeran was the most pirated act in the UK for the first half of 2012, followed by hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks and Barbadian megastar Rihanna.

The data suggested that Ed Sheeran's 2011 album + (Plus) was illegally downloaded an average of 55,512 times every month, and was the most popular download in over 460 towns and cities in the UK.

Legal UK sales of his album in the first half of 2012 hit the 448,000 mark - making it the fourth most popular album behind releases from Adele, Emeli Sande and Lana Del Rey.

Download nation

Globally, the research suggested that the UK is a significant player on the world stage as a country of illegal music downloaders.

The country was placed second in the world in terms of pure volume of illegal activity, with Musicmetric logging 43,263,582 downloads in the first six months of this year.

The US topped the list, with 96,681,133 downloads tracked in the same period.

Italy (33,158,943), Canada (23,959,924) and Brazil (19,724,522) made up the remainder of the top five.

Rihanna's latest album - Talk That Talk - was found to be the world's most pirated release - Musicmetric tracked 1,228,313 downloads for the title in the first half of 2012.

In its analysis of the UK's data, Musicmetric has estimated that 345 million individual tracks made up the torrent files downloaded by British music fans.

According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the UK's music industry body, the figures were having a "significant effect on investment in new music".

Start Quote

It's adapt or die in the music industry”

End Quote Rizzle Kicks

"According to their data, there are more illegal downloads in the UK still than there are legal purchases," the BPI's chief executive Geoff Taylor told the BBC.

"[It] compares to about 240 million tracks that were sold legally. A lot of people are getting very rich from stealing other people's things.

"That's wrong, and we think that musicians deserve to be paid for what they do, just like everyone else."

However, Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party UK - who will be attempting to become Manchester's next MP in the next election - said the complaints of record labels is "protectionism".

"We need to remove the barriers for actual artists to connect with their business and their fans," he told the BBC.

"The truth is, why [music industry figures] are complaining so much is that with a properly functioning internet, and a properly functioning economy, the big players are no longer necessary."


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    The music industry needs radical change and to accept that the internet isnt going to go away. Personally i think a "donate to artist" button in youtube or something would be a great idea, but of course the labels wouldnt like it much

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    Illegal downloads as a driver of live ticket sales are OK for the artist, but they don't help studio engineers, session musicians, producers and the many other people whose talent and energy help to create a recording. Maybe they should be given a cut of ticket sales - but I doubt they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    Thinking about it, thinking about how tastes in music have changed from a few mainstream type/genre to a much wider spectrum of music.

    I think downloading (legal or otherwise) has allowed people to break free from social pressure, to go ahead and sample music that their friends or peer groups might not approve of.... As a result I think we have much more musical diversity and choice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    I once was at a gig and really liked one of the support acts. They didn't sell CD's at the gig but as I couldn't get the gig out of my head, I downloaded it. I loved it and they became one of my favourite bands. I never bought the CD - I sent them a tenner instead, which I hope went straight into their pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    You're looking at the death or mutilation of the music industry. The agreement should be that you earn your wages or pocket money then go out & buy what you're into. The internet broke all agreements. I don't listen to music & no, I wouldn't download it illegally either. Give these musicians the break they're trying to earn.


Comments 5 of 14


More Technology stories


Features & Analysis

BBC Future

(US Navy)

The world’s noisiest spy plane

The Soviet giant that still soldiers on


  • A bicycle with a Copenhagen WheelClick Watch

    The wheel giving push bikes an extra boost by turning them into smart electric hybrids

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.