The spectre of music piracy is much less threatening in 2016 than it was a decade ago.

It’s not that piracy has disappeared, but rather that the industry now spends more time and energy focusing on growing legal music services than on railing at pirates.

It’s true that Google still fields criticism over the position of piracy sites in its search-engine results, but nowadays it’s common to attend a multi-day industry conference without hearing a single mention of piracy. A positive development.

Still, hardcore pirates are still pirating, and every so often research explores the phenomenon. For example, this week’s latest ‘wave’ report from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), based on research carried out by Kantar Media between March and May 2016. It offers a useful snapshot of online piracy in the UK across all entertainment sectors, including music.

Key findings: 59% of UK internet users aged 12+ consumed at least one item of online content legally OR illegally during the three-month period covered by the study. 39% downloaded content and 52% streamed it. Of the 59% of people who consumed content online, 57% said they had paid for at least some of it.

What about piracy? Kantar estimates that 15% of UK internet users aged 12+ consumed at least one item of content illegally between March and May – around 6.7 million people – while 5% ONLY got their content illegally. That 15% is down from 17% in 2013, suggesting that we’ve reached the hardcore rump of infringers, which isn’t really diminishing much any more.

That said, music infringement in terms of volume is down from 96m tracks accessed illegally in the corresponding period in 2015 to 78m tracks now. Likely relevant: a rise in the percentage of Brits using Spotify from 16% to 19% over the last year. Apple Music had a 9% penetration rate, while Amazon Music – although this may include its download store as well as the Prime Music streaming service – was on 7%.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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