The 20 Most Pirated Artists of The Year: A Drop in The Ocean?

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Despite the growing availability of legal music services, piracy is still seen as a major threat to the industry. Today we take a look at the most pirated artists on BitTorrent in 2013, with Bruno Mars, Rihanna and Daft Punk topping the chart. Interestingly, the number of pirated downloads are a drop in the ocean compared to the plays on other free services such as YouTube, which generate millions in revenue.

casThe music industry has witnessed some dramatic changes in recent years, even when piracy is left out of the equation. In little more than a decade the Internet has redefined people’s music consumption habits.

First there was a shift from CDs to MP3s, soon to be followed by a massive increase in paid and free streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube.

Despite the legal offerings the major record labels are still concerned about online piracy. Every day millions of people access music through unauthorized sources, with torrent sites being one of the largest platforms.

Today we take a look at the most pirated artists of 2013, with Bruno Mars leading the chart with more than 5.7 million downloads. Rihanna and Daft Punk come in second and third place, with over 5.4 and 4.2 million downloads respectively.

As can be seen below, over the past year Bruno Mars was most downloaded in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Italy, Brazil and Australia. If we look at the number of downloads per Internet users, Portugal would come out top.

Bruno Mars top download locations in recent years


The data presented here is provided by music analytics company MusicMetric, which helps artists to get insight into who’s listening to their music. The company was kind enough to share the top 20 most downloaded artists with TorrentFreak, as well as the 20 most played artists on free streaming platforms such as YouTube and Vevo.

Looking at both lists, which are included at the bottom of this article, there’s an interesting observation to make.

For years the top record label executives have been claiming that it’s impossible to compete with free, but YouTube and others appear to be proving them wrong. Compared to these legal plays, the pirated downloads via BitTorrent are a mere drop in the ocean.

For example, Bruno Mars was played nearly 2 billion times in 2013, which comes down to 5.5 million views per day, roughly the same as all pirated downloads in the entire year.

Of course this comparison is not really fair, as pirated downloads include albums, and those who download it may play it many times. But still, it’s quite obvious that the music industry can compete with piracy, through a medium that didn’t exist a decade ago.

Even better, revenue-wise YouTube and Vevo have become a serious source of income. The major labels haven’t been very open about their revenue sharing deal, but EMI Music chief financial officer Paul Kahn said during the LimeWire trial that his label gets half a penny for each YouTube play.

Half a penny may not sound much, but with billions of views it quickly adds up. For example, with 2 billion ad-supported views Bruno Mars would rake in $10 million.

That’s not too shabby, right?

Below is the list of MusicMetric’s estimated BitTorrent downloads in 2013 from January until the last week of December. Other sources of unauthorized music consumption are not included.

Most pirated artists on BitTorrent, 2013
rank artists est. downloads
1 Bruno Mars 5,783,556
2 Rihanna 5,414,166
3 Daft Punk 4,212,361
4 Justin Timberlake 3,930,185
5 Flo Rida 3,470,825
6 Kanye West 3,199,969
7 Eminem 3,176,122
8 Jay Z 3,171,358
9 Drake 3,139,408
10 Pitbull 3,138,308
11 One Direction 2,920,445
12 Maroon 5 2,857,652
13 Zed 2,828,764
14 Nicki Minaj 2,681,177
15 Adele 2,594,275
16 Avicii 2,562,151
17 David Guetta 2,441,235
18 Linkin Park 2,352,385
19 Pharrell Williams 2,336,996
20 Katy Perry 2,318,740

The table below shows the most track and video plays on “social media”, as defined by Music Metric. This includes YouTube and Vevo plays, which account for the most plays by far.

Most played artists on Vevo, YouTube etc, 2013
rank artists est. plays
1 PSY 2,211,525,973
2 Bruno Mars 1,998,568,878
3 Rihanna 1,562,276,049
4 One Direction 1,543,221,692
5 Justin Bieber 1,226,750,959
6 Gummibär 1,130,446,514
7 Miley Cyrus 1,078,063,309
8 Nicki Minaj 1,058,762,304
9 Eminem 921,595,163
10 Ryan Lewis 876,041,240
11 Super Junior-M 875,604,056
12 Pitbull 851,054,277
13 Katy Perry 805,537,588
14 David Guetta 798,744,318
15 746,419,305
16 Skrillex 679,730,499
17 Avicii 652,465,634
18 Ne-Yo 642,956,631
19 Chris Brown 634,537,325
20 Drake 601,346,518


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