A quarter of all digital tracks acquired in the U.K. in 2010 are acquired legally, according to figures in the BPI's 39-page Digital Music Nation 2010 report released Thursday. That ratio of legal-to-illegal tracks implies a far better situation than the frequently cited 95/5 ratio, which says that 95% of all tracks are acquired illegally, while 5% are acquired through legal means (one legal track for every 20 tracks acquired).
The 95/5 ratio originated in the IFPI's Digital Music Report 2009, released in January 2009.
This BPI estimate is derived from two numbers. First is the number of tracks expected to be legally acquired in 2010. The BPI forecasts 160 million single tracks and 21 million albums will be downloaded this year. Assuming 11 tracks per album, that's a total of 391 million tracks. The second number is 1.2 billion tracks acquired illegally though P2P and other sources. That figure came from market research firm Harris Interactive.
Is this the end of the 95/5 ratio? Probably not. On one hand, the BPI's 75/25 ratio implies progress in reaching digital music users and developing new business models. On the other hand, the 95/5 ratio could be a more useful talking point when arguing for ISP involvement and legislation in digital piracy matters. At this point, the 95/5 ratio has become fairly ingrained in the music industry's consciousness.
The report includes some other interesting piracy numbers, all of which come from a September 2010 survey Harris Interactive (so keep in mind that these are self-reported numbers and not actual measurements of consumer activity):
-- The U.K. has experienced a 7% increase in P2P use during the last 6 months.
-- The U.K. has seen a 15% increase in the cyberlocker use in the last six months.
-- 7.7 million U.K. Internet users engage in some kind of illegal downloading. The U.K. had 38.8 million Internet users as of July 2010, according to the UK Online Measurements Company. That works out to 19.8% of all U.K. Internet users engage in some kind of illegal downloading.
-- 23% of U.K. teens use "P2P sites and software" to obtain unauthorized music. "P2P sites and software" was not defined. Taken literally it refers only to piracy.
These illegal activities exist in spite of high awareness of legal alternatives. Harris found a 94% awareness rate for legal download stores, 92% for music videos on YouTube, 85% for radio station websites and 65% for Spotify. Actual usage of these legal alternatives has been much lower than their awareness rates. Only 41% of respondents reported using legal download stores, 18% reported using Spotify, and 8% claimed to have used We7.
But it's important to keep in mind that more than 80% of U.K. Internet users did not report engaging in illegal downloading. And going by the BPI's numbers, 77% of teens do not use P2P sites and software. So while piracy is a serious problem, it's not as rampant as people are often led to believe.