Musicmetric released their first ever Digital Music Index earlier this week, a report which it claims is the most comprehensive study on the digital music universe ever conducted. The index looks at how licensed services like iTunes, Pandora and relative newcomer Spotify are reaching listeners. The study also measured the effectiveness of artists connecting with fans using social media like Twitter and Facebook.
The most interesting aspect of the index, of course, is the piles of data the researchers collected surrounding torrents and other methods of illegal music file sharing. According to the study, illegal sharing is very much mainstream.
Researchers kept track of 750,000 artists and bands during a six-month timeframe that ended in June of this year. They recorded 405 million illegal downloads, with almost a quarter (97 million) coming from the United States. While the U.S. definitely leads the world in musically inclined scofflaws, the UK had a hefty 43 million illegal downloads and Italians downloaded 33.1 million. Canada counted almost 24 million, and Brazil rounded out the top five with almost 20 million.
won the honor of most robbed artist in the world, with her “Talk that Talk” being the most popular downloaded album. Drake, however, beat her at home, with his “The Motto” being the most illegally downloaded album in the U.S.
What does this mean? The Guardian’s Lanre Bakare puts it best:
“The data shows just how mainstream filesharing is now. It isn't just members of Anonymous sitting behind their Macbooks downloading the obscure doom metal of Sunn O)))). The culprits are your next door neighbors, your relatives, your own kids and perhaps (probably) even you. That's the problem for the record labels who, along with the government, have tried to stigmatize the practice as much as possible. But those who have grown up getting whatever music they want for free are not suddenly going to become nostalgic vinyl-heads who are willing to pay £11.99 for a CD—to them it makes no sense and the rose-tinted memories of buying a physical record from an actual person don't exist. And the message that filesharing is stealing and equal with nicking a car doesn't hold much water when so many people are busy doing it.”
If you’re reaching for the tissues on account of the gigantic record companies, though, stop. Profit from legal digital music downloads rose by 8 percent last year, hitting $5.2 billion.
Considering neither Rihanna nor Drake have to move back in with their parents, it seems widespread piracy is having much of less of a dent in the industry than initially feared.