Stream-Ripping Music Piracy Up 13% Annually, Says MusicWatch Report

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Seventeen million people illegally downloaded music licensed for streaming in the U.S. in 2018, according to the market research firm.

Seventeen million people illegally downloaded music licensed for streaming in the U.S. in 2018, according to the MusicWatch Annual Music Study published Thursday (May 30). That’s up from 15 million in 2017, an increase of 13%.

“Streaming, and easy, efficient access to music was supposed to have solved many of the issues around unsanctioned sharing and piracy,” MusicWatch, a marketing research and analysis service for the music and entertainment industry, wrote in a blog post announcing the study. “Unfortunately a segment of music fans continue to acquire music in unsanctioned forms. Legacy forms of piracy through P2P file sharing applications has faded, but the use of websites and apps that facilitate the downloading of music licensed only for streaming is thriving.”

MusicWatch notes that the top 30% of so-called “stream-rippers” copied 112 files on average, while its consumer research found that this kind of piracy displaced not just “traditional” music buying like purchasing a CD in a store but legal streaming methods as well. For example, 46% of stream-rippers surveyed by MusicWatch cited the ability to load files directly onto their devices for offline listening -- a feature offered by legal subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music -- as one of the main reasons for stream-ripping.

MusicWatch also specifically calls out legitimate search and app platforms for not doing more to discourage apps that “promote piracy," noting that 25% of stream-rippers surveyed said they found their stream-ripping app of choice via a simple internet search while 28% did so from an online app store.

“Certainly the app and search companies could do more to educate consumers about which uses potentially constitute copyright infringement,” said MusicWatch, which cited YouTube Downloader, Free YouTube to Mp3 Converter and Mp3 Video Converter as three of the most popular stream-ripping apps. 

MusicWatch further notes that stream-rippers are more likely to participate in other illegal forms of music sharing like “downloading songs from unlicensed mobile apps, or sharing on digital lockers,” and that they tend to be well educated and from high-income households, thereby “negating the excuse that piracy is driven by lack of financial resources.” Based on the company's research, 48% of stream-rippers boast an annual household income between $75,000 and $199,000, while 43% work "white collar" jobs.

You can check out a graphic with all the statistics below.

Courtesy of Music Watch