Easier streaming services put dent in illegal downloading

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

  • Published
Beyonce and Jay-ZImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Beyonce and Jay-Z's new album was illegally downloaded by many fans after being released exclusively on Tidal

Music piracy is falling out of favour as streaming services become more widespread, new figures show.

One in 10 people in the UK use illegal downloads, down from 18% in 2013, according to YouGov's Music Report.

The trend looks set to continue - with 22% of those who get their music illegitimately saying they do not expect to be doing so in five years.

"It is now easier to stream music than to pirate it," said one survey participant.

Another respondent said: "Spotify has everything from new releases to old songs, it filled the vacuum, there was no longer a need for using unverified sources."

The news will be encouraging to the music industry, which is returning to growth after piracy brought it to its knees in the 2000s.

It has campaigned heavily to shut down sites that offer pirated music - from Napster and allofmp3 to Pirate Bay and Megaupload.

Among those surveyed by YouGov, 36% said it was becoming more difficult to find unauthorised sources to verify music.

However, record labels remain concerned by the rise of "stream ripping" services.

Image source, YouTube
Image caption,
Converting and downloading YouTube videos is a violation of the site's terms and conditions

Such apps allow users to "grab" music from streaming services like YouTube and Spotify and store the file on their phone or computer, which prevents artists and record labels getting revenue from future streams.

YouGov noted that some illegal downloading may be the result of streaming exclusives - with 44% of respondents saying they only download songs illegally when they can't access them elsewhere.

One of this year's most-pirated albums is Beyonce and Jay-Z's Everything Is Love, which was initially released as an exclusive on Tidal.

Justin Marshall, associate director of YouGov, said: "While illegal downloads still present a significant challenge to the music industry, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

"Whether or not streaming is what finally banishes illegal downloads remains to be seen, but there are encouraging signs."

YouGov surveyed 4,009 UK adults between 6-13 March this year.

However, its findings may have been skewed by respondents who were reluctant to admit accessing music illegally.

A separate report by piracy-tracking company MUSO, published in March, said there had been 300 billion visits to piracy sites in 2017, up 1.6%.

Music piracy rose 14.7%, it said, with the UK ranked 10th in the world for accessing illegal sites.

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