Where to go to find the music pirates

The UK was second only to the US in the number of BitTorrent downloads
The UK was second only to the US in the number of BitTorrent downloads

Musicmetrics has published its first annual Digital Music Index (DMI). It “reveals the preferences and uncovers the social media trends of millions of music fans from every country on the planet,” and includes a detailed analysis of US and UK downloading habits.

It has to be said that ‘BitTorrent’ does not automatically mean ‘illegal’. The report itself points out that “The Cardigan EP by Billy Van is the No 1 torrent being downloaded in 5 of the top 20 countries by downloads. This is noteworthy because ‘The Cardigan’ has the rare distinction of being licensed for distribution via the BitTorrent network. It has become hugely popular in place of other illegal content in a quarter of the top 20 countries for downloads.”

Nevertheless, it would be fair to assume that a fair proportion of BitTorrent is illegal file sharing; and it would also be a fair assumption that ISP blocks – such as that in the UK against The Pirate Bay – are not working. According to Musicmetrics, the UK is second only to the US in the total number of downloads (96,681,133 in the US; 43,263,582 in the UK). It is also interesting to note that despite the massive use of BitTorrent, and despite the state of the global economy, digital music revenues of record companies grew by 8% globally in 2011 to an estimated US $5.2 billion.

A more detailed analysis of UK downloading habits shows that, unsurprisingly, London uses torrents more than any other city (4,565,502 downloads). On a per capita basis, however, London ranks only at #20. Manchester (1,317,012), Nottingham (598,621) and Southampton (480,151) occupy the top three slots.

ISPreview notes that the report “could be used by Rights Holders to fuel calls for an even more aggressive crackdown on internet access and personal privacy.” However, the report states that the music industry needs to look beyond its historical structures. “SoundCloud,” it notes (streaming rather than torrent) “is emerging strongly as a means of identifying early interest in a band. The data identifies SoundCloud as a platform upon which a lot of new bands are gaining plays, well before they are picked up or gaining fans anywhere else. It is likely this is due to the ease with which SoundCloud allows content to be shared around the Web.”

Gregory Mead, chief executive of Musicmetric, commented, “Clarity on the drivers between social media, file sharing and gig activity is what can deliver the industry,” adding that “in our report these are being put under the microscope for the first time.” He believes that the industry should seek ways to legally monetize torrents. “The potential for converting revenue lost through file trading is not entirely a fairy tale,” but this will only be achieved by engaging with torrents rather than ignoring and blocking them.

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