Music Piracy Grew 14.7 Percent in 2017, But Positive Signs Exist: Study

Visits to stream ripping piracy sites declined 33.86 percent in the last half of the year, compared to the six months prior.

Music piracy in 2017 grew 14.7 percent over the year prior, with 73.9 billion visits to music piracy sites worldwide, according to piracy data insight tracker MUSO’s 2017 Global Piracy Report. The study, which was first reported by TorrentFreak and takes into account piracy across music, TV, film, publishing and software sites, found that overall there were 300.2 billion visits to piracy sites last year, up 1.6 percent from 2016 when accounting for each sector.

Individually, music was the second-most-visited category, behind TV’s 106.9 billion site visits and ahead of film, at 53.2 billion visits. Across all categories, the U.S. led the way in pirate site visits with 27.9 billion, followed (in order) by Russia (20.6 billion), India (17 billion), Brazil (12.7 billion) and Turkey (11.9 billion).

Within the music category’s 73.9 billion visits, MUSO’s data separates sites into five different distinctions: web streaming sites (30.5 billion); web download sites (21.2 billion); streaming ripping sites (15.7 billion); public torrent sites (6 billion) and private torrent sites (500 million). Notably, music piracy is heavily skewed toward mobile users: 87.13 percent of those visits overall were accessed via mobile, compared to just 52 percent for TV piracy.

“There is a belief that the rise in popularity of on-demand services such as Netflix and Spotify have solved piracy, but that theory simply doesn’t stack up," MUSO co-founder/CEO Andy Chatterly said in a statement accompanying the report. "Our data suggests that piracy is more popular than ever."

Still, within music, there is room for optimism -- the data shows that some of the industry’s anti-piracy battles have been working, particularly against stream ripping sites, which the IFPI found were being used by 30 percent of internet users in the world’s leading music markets in a 2016 study. As part of that battle, a coalition made up of the major labels led to a settlement in September 2017 with hugely-popular stream ripping site YouTube.mp3 that led to the site -- which had seen as many as 60 million users a month and was accused of accounting for 40 percent of all stream ripping globally -- shutting down Sept. 1.

According to MUSO’s findings, that -- as well as subsequent successful shutdowns of other similar sites -- had a marked effect. In final six months of 2017, encompassing the four months following YouTube.mp3 shutting down, visits to stream ripping piracy sites declined 33.86 percent compared to the first six months of 2017. Put another way, in January 2017 MUSO tracked 1.43 billion visits to stream ripping sites; by December, that number had dropped to 647.83 million, or less than half.

Still, Chatterly said, the issue is a significant one, not just in music but across all content categories. "The piracy audience is huge and yet for the most part, it’s an opportunity that’s completely ignored," he said. "It’s important that the content industries embrace the trends emerging from this data, not only in strategic content protection, but also in understanding the profile of the piracy consumer for better business insight and monetizing these audiences."