The general attitude in the music industry is that digital music streaming services are helping to take a bite out of illegal downloading, but a new report shows that music piracy is still alive and well.
While independent and alternative music-makers have been worrying about the royalties schemes of streaming platforms (and Spotify in particular), they may take solace in noting that they are less affected by mass illegal downloading than pop stars and mainstream acts are, as a new list of the most pirated acts of the last 12 months demonstrates.
The likes of Daft Punk, Kanye West, Jay Z, and Linkin Park are among the Top 20 Most Pirated Acts of 2013, according to statistics from analytics company MusicMetric, based on downloading trends and figures from peer-to-peer downloading service BitTorrent.
MusicMetric estimates that artists in the new Top 20 hit list were downloaded over 64.5 million times from the torrenting website, as The Telegraph reports.
Soul-pop singer Bruno Mars was the biggest target of music pirates, whose music was downloaded via BitTorrent 5,783,556 times. At #2 was Barbados’ biggest export, Rihanna, who was downloaded 5,414,166 times.
Parisian robots Daft Punk were the third most pirated act of 2013, largely thanks to the storming success of their latest album Random Access Memories, with just over a million fewer downloads behind Rihanna.
MusicMetric, which makes money by selling its analytical data to musicians, managers, labels and broadcasters, also note that a typical breakdown of BitTorrent traffic is 70% to albums and 30% to individual tracks or singles, which accounts for the appearance of Justin Timberlake at #4, with 3,930,185 pirated downloads of his two 20/20 Experience albums released last year as well as his popular singles. [do action=”pullquote”]”Back in the day, people went into record shops to try records before they bought them – nowadays, they download or stream a track and then perhaps buy a download or a gig ticket.”[/do]
Bizarrely, Flo Rida comes at #5 on the list with 3,470,825 (imagine if the Fat As Butter organisers secretly instructed their patrons to steal his music online after being unable to burn an effigy of ‘prime dickhead’), followed by a string of world-famous hip hop acts to round out the Top 10, including (in order) Kanye West, Eminem, Jay Z, Drake, and Pitbull – all averaging illegal downloads around the 3 million mark.
Interestingly the list also includes a number of artists that remained popular with music pirates despite not releasing new music in 2013. That includes pop rockers Maroon 5 (at #12 with 2,857,652 d/ls), British singer Adele (at #15 with 2,594,275 d/ls), and Linkin Park (at #18 with 2,352,385 d/ls) though the five-piece did release a remix album last year.
Though its difficult to accurately track the effect illegal download activity has on legitimate paid downloads (eg. the ‘try before you buy’ method), Billboard does point out the gulf between the MusicMetric results and Neilsen SoundScan statistics.
Bruno Mars, the #1 most pirated artist on BitTorrent with over 5m hits, had 641,000 paid album downloads in the US through 22nd December, though the 11.4 million legal downloads of his individual tracks and singles exceeds illegal activity. But as already noted, individual songs only make up 30% of BitTorrent traffic while the album downloads accounts for just over eight times more than Mars’ legitimate digital sales.
“Of course we don’t condone piracy, but what is clear is that Bit Torrent data offers a granular insight into a band’s fan engagement,” says Gregory Mead, chief executive of Musicmetric’s owner Semetric, of the results.
Mead also notes that the methods of measuring artist popularity through digital means – both legal illegal – are increasingly useful as traditional physical sales continue to decline.
“You can see where people live and if you know where your fans are, you can plan a tour and engage with them,” he says. “Back in the day, people went into record shops to try records before they bought them – nowadays, they download or stream a track and then perhaps buy a download or a gig ticket.”
The Top 20 Most Pirated Acts Of 2013
According to MusicMetric
01. Bruno Mars – 5,783,556
02. Rihanna – 5,414,166
03. Daft Punk – 4,212,361
04. Justin Timberlake – 3,930,185
05. Flo Rida – 3,470,825
06. Kanye West – 3,199,969
07. Eminem – 3,176,122
08. Jay Z – 3,171,358
09. Drake – 3,139,408
10. Pitbull – 3,138,308
11. One Direction – 2,920,445
12. Maroon 5 – 2,857,652
13. Zedd – 2,828,764
14. Nicki Minaj – 2,681,177
15. Adele – 2,594,275
16. Avicii – 2,562,151
17. David Guetta – 2,441,235
18. Linkin Park – 2,352,385
19. Pharrell Williams – 2,336,996
20. Katy Perry – 2,318,740