Streaming Services Make Inroads Into Piracy Down Under, Spotify’s Will Page Tells Bigsound

Australian consumers' seemingly insatiable appetite for BitTorrent files is showing signs of abating. And streaming music services -- Spotify in particular -- are taking some of the credit. 

Piracy is trending down both in terms of volume and population, Will Page, director of economics at Spotify, told delegates on the opening morning of the 2014 Bigsound conference in Brisbane.

The Scottish analyst drilled into the results of a study which found the volume of BitTorrent files downloaded by Australians in the year from Dec. 2012 fell by more than 20%. Casual piracy was on the decline, Page noted, but a “hardcore minority” remains.  

Page also shared some numbers behind the Australian Spotify service since it launched here on May 21, 2012. One in six Australians have tried Spotify (that’s about 3.8 million), and three-quarters of its users in this market are under-34. Spotify, Page says, is driving the majority of growth in streaming.  

Page worked with independent analytics company MusicMetric on the Bigsound presentation, which was three months in the making.  It couldn’t have been better timed. 

Australia is crawling toward a “graduated response” system and reforms to the country’s Copyright Act are on the agenda. Page also presented his findings Monday at Australia’s Copyright Infringement Forum, which was chaired by federal communications minister Malcolm Turnbull and involved reps from various industries affected by online piracy.

Wednesday's mini-keynote had the feel of a Spotify promotional-pitch, but the big take-away from it -- that streaming services are having a positive impact on piracy -- will come as a beam-of-sunshine for the domestic music biz. Australia’s recorded music market suffered a double-digit slump in the “transitional” year 2013 as digital finally replaced the CD as the top format, trade body ARIA reported earlier in the year. 

“It’s exciting to see that we are making inroads into reducing the music piracy problem within such a short space of time in this market. It shows the scope for superior legal services (offered at an accessible price point) to help improve the climate for copyright online,” Page says. “Let’s be clear, Australia still faces a massive challenge in turning around its much talked about media piracy challenge, and it always has, and always will, take a combination of public policy and superior legal offerings.”

Piracy and the digital economy in general are heated topics Down Under right now. Last year a Federal Parliamentary Committee launched an investigation into the high prices of digital music and software and the responsibility for copyright infringments was tested in a high profile case which pitted movie studios and TV broadcasters (as AFACT) against the domestic broadband company iiNet. Also, a multi-billion dollar National Broadband Network is currently being rolled-out across the market. “Hopefully this makes a meaningful addition to that debate,” he said of the new report. 

Page also answered a question many have been pondering, but until now haven’t had an answer to. Spotify, in his words, is the “leading music subscription service” in the market. Page’s data also revealed that demand for both TV and film on BitTorrent is four times greater than that for music.

The Bigsound conference and showcase event concludes Friday.