Beyoncé's new album, which has zoomed to the top of the Billboard sales charts, appears to also be popular on the file sharing charts as well -- with nearly a quarter million copies pirated within the first week of its Dec. 13 debut, according to Musicmetric.
Had those copies been purchased, the album would have grossed another $3.8 million in sales at $15.99 per album. While it's certain that piracy eats into music revenue, it's difficult, if not impossible, to know what percentage of those illegal downloads would have displaced purchases, since not everyone who pirated a free copy would have bought the album if it weren't available via file sharing sites.
Nevertheless, the singer's self-titled album has been a red hot performer, having sold 991,000 copies in its first 10 days, placing it on top of the Billboard 200 chart for two straight weeks.
As of Dec. 18, Beyoncé’s entire music catalog was shared more than 2 million times over file sharing sites that leverage the BitTorrent download protocol during 2013 -- 239,131 of those were shares of her new self-titled album, according to music data analyst Musicmetric.
In addition, the December album release on iTunes spurred file sharers' interest in Beyoncé’s earlier repertoire, resulting in a spike in downloads of her other albums as well. Downloads of previous releases peaked on Dec. 15 at 11,588 downloads that day -- more than five times the number of downloads the day before the new album's release.
While these figures could be viewed as lost sales, they can also be seen as an opportunity to gather insight, said Musicmetric's Chief Executive Gregory Mead.
"The usefulness of BitTorrent data is that it allows record labels to have an incredibly detailed insight into where their artists are popular – right down to the town," Mead said. "Although the file-sharing numbers may be high, it will be possible to translate many of these into buyers."