Music Piracy Remains a Widespread Problem, Particularly in Emerging Countries

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Music industry group IFPI has released its latest music consumption report, revealing that people are listening to more music in more ways than ever before. The report also stresses that piracy remains a threat. The problem is most pronounced in emerging countries, where well over half of the online population pirates music.

cassette tape pirate musicThe International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) presents itself as the voice of the global recording industry.

The group represents roughly 8,000 members globally, ranging from smaller independent labels to the largest labels on the planet.

Part of its mandate is to keep an eye on how the music industry evolves. This includes legal consumption as well as unauthorized offerings, more commonly known as music piracy.

Music piracy exists in various forms but in recent years stream-ripping has emerged as the most significant. Several years ago IFPI reported that the phenomenon had become a bigger threat than any other form of music piracy.

According to IFPI’s Engaging with Music 2023 report released this week, online piracy remains a problem worldwide, stream-ripping and illegal music apps in particular.

“Music piracy is still very much an issue, with stream ripping and the use of illegal mobile apps among the leading causes for concern,” IFPI’s Chief Executive Frances Moore says.

“This illegal activity has a severe and direct impact on royalties which should be returning to those investing in and creating music. We will continue to work with governments and the wider music industry to ensure the most secure digital environment possible for music creators and fans alike.”

One in Three Are Music Pirates

The report shares the results of an extensive survey, which polled over 43,000 Internet users worldwide. The overall conclusion is that legal consumption is flourishing, but the survey also found that plenty of people are still using stream-rippers and piracy tools.

In the countries that formed the basis for these reports historically, almost one in ten people (29%) admit to using illegal means to listen to or download music. With 26%, stream-ripping remains dominant, with unlicensed apps not far behind (20%).

ifpi stats

Piracy is most prevalent among the younger demographic (16-24), where 43% of respondents are self-confessed pirates. When asked about their reasons for pirating, more than half of all respondents (55%) said that they do it to avoid paying for licensed music streaming subscriptions.

Piracy rates have stabilized somewhat over the years but the problem persists. That said, it’s not the complete picture. The polled countries for these ‘global’ statistics exclude India, China, Nigeria, and other emerging countries where piracy is rampant.

Piracy is Rampant in Developing Countries

IFPI reports the numbers for these countries separately, making it possible to compare global data over time. If they were included, however, global piracy rates would be much higher.

In India, for example, 74% of respondents admit to using illegal methods to listen to music. In other emerging countries such as China (75%), Indonesia (66%) and Nigeria (76%), we see similarly high piracy rates.

india ifpi

This is an entirely different picture than mostly developed Western countries, which have been part of IFPI’s long-term polling sample. A complete overview of the polled countries in the global dataset is available below.

Finally, it is worth highlighting a somewhat unusual statistic. While piracy is rampant in countries such as China and India, legal consumption is very high in these countries too.

In China, 96% of the respondents say they use licensed audio streaming platforms and in India, 94% do the same. This is much higher than the global average of 73% and suggests that music consumers in emerging countries use a combination of legal and illegal sources to fulfill their music demands.

TorrentFreak asked IFPI to explain this combined use of legal and illegal music streaming, zooming in on India. IFPI’s Director of Insight & Analysis, David Price, notes that the legal music consumption largely relies on free tiers there.

“India has a range of domestic and international audio streaming services, and most of the engagement with these is through the free tier. Take-up of premium streaming is hampered by the continued use of piracy services,” Price says.

All in all the report offers a valuable snapshot of how the use of various piracy tools and services changes over time. It will be interesting to see how these trends develop in the future.

This article was updated with a comment from Dr. David Price, IFPI’s Director of Insight & Analysis, which came in shortly after publication.

– The global sample includes respondents from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA.

– Details on consumers from China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and UAE are reported separately.


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