Is downloading a song for free that a musical artist made a crime? Some see music piracy as a victimless crime. Some musicians would love to see their music stolen so that they can begin to get their name out to the general market. The bottom line, however, is that the theft of music has a tremendous cost.
It is estimated that more than $12.5 billion in revenues to musical artists, producers, and songwriters is lost every year due to piracy.
For Americans especially, the cost is devastating. The estimated economic impact on wages and salaries is $2 billion because of music piracy. That’s not a $2 billion lost to artists like Katy Perry or the Rolling Stones. That’s $2 billion coming out of the average worker’s paychecks every year. That’s why finding ways to stop music piracy is a concern that everyone can share.
- Since file sharing was introduced in 1999, music sales in the United States have dropped by more than 50%.
- From 2004 through 2009 alone, approximately 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded on file-sharing networks.
- In one study, it was estimated that only 37% of the music that the average American consumer downloaded over the course of a year was legally purchased.
- About 24% of the internet bandwidth that is used around the world at any given moment is being used to illegally download music and other copyrighted materials.
- About 70,000 jobs per year in the US alone are lost because of the lost revenues that come from music piracy.
Prior to the music industry taking a stand against Napster and other file sharing websites, only 35% of people actually knew that P2P file sharing was actually illegal. In 2003-2004, the amount of music piracy doubled, even as the amount of people who knew it was illegal also doubled. From 2006-2009, with the advent of streaming music services and subscription apps like Pandora and Spotify that allowed for free music access, the illegal download rates went from 19% to 14%. Even so, with more than 400 licensed music services that exist worldwide and an extensive legal marketplace, music piracy is costing artists and local economies billions of dollars.
Everyone Is Doing It, Even If They Don’t Know It
- The average iPod contains $800 worth of music that was illegally downloaded.
- 95% of music downloads are illegal in nature.
- Two thirds of the digital piracy websites that currently existed are hosted either in North America or in Western Europe.
- Even with free apps, internet radio, and other subscription services, 70% of internet users find that there is nothing wrong with online piracy.
- Nearly 99% of the data that is transferred in P2P networks still today is copyrighted material.
- Only 1 item out of the 10,000 most popular content downloads on Open Bit Torrent tracker was not copyrighted.
- There are 100,000 visits every minute to online piracy websites, including music piracy.
With over 53 billion visits every year, even with just one song download being taken with each visit, there is a lot of money that is being lost in revenues and royalties. 3 out of 4 computers that are running right now either have pirated music on them or have at least 1 illegal application that was purposely downloaded. With shareware, freeware, and freemium products over the last decade filling user minds, it is understandable why some confusion may exist in certain components of online piracy. The problem is that because there is more value to the average user in getting a free song than paying for it, without little legal repercussions coming from the activity, nothing is going to stop the average illegal download from taking place.
How Does Music Piracy Compare To Other Forms of Online Piracy?
- Music piracy accounts for just 2.9% of the total amount of online piracy events that occur annually.
- The most commonly pirated item on the internet today is pornography [35.8%], which is closely followed by movies [35.2%].
- The most pirated music that is on the web today is “Watch the Throne” by Jay-Z and Kanye West.
- Adele’s album “21” is in the Top 3 most pirated compositions of music in the world today.
- P2P traffic is now below 10%, however, so all levels of piracy are lower than they were a decade ago.
- 64% of teens consume their music from YouTube streams, most of which are licensed to stream the content.
The one problem that the music industry has is that much of their online piracy data is 4-5 years old. In that time, many premium music management services have cropped up that are indeed legal when it comes to music streaming. Some might say that it is a crime to pay an artist $0.001 per song stream, but the fact remains that services like Spotify have purchased the rights to this music. With Netflix and YouTube taking up more than half of the bandwidth that is available today, there are definitely improvements being made in the world of online music piracy. Gone are the days when an HDD would have to be clogged up with numerous files so that some favorite songs could be heard.
Are The Music Pirates Also Music’s Best Customers?
- Those who consume the highest amounts of free music also tend to purchase about 30% more music than the average person, making them the biggest spenders in the music industry.
- U.S. and German 18-29 year olds are more likely than any other age group to engage in copying music “from family and friends” or downloading it for free.
- Most people still get a vast majority of their music from legal sources, including ripping files from their own CDs to listen to on their computers.
As with any illegal activity, music piracy is still going to exist. The difference is that music pirates tend to also pay for extra items, which means the love/hate relationship the industry has with this group will also continue to exist.