Survey: The Number of People Consuming Music Illegally Is Almost Equal to the Number Paying for Downloads…

A new report published by UK communications regulator Ofcom, covering online copyright infringement during the third quarter (Aug-Oct) of 2012, may make some in the music industry ponder how well the transition from the physical to the digital market is really going.

The study reveals that 10% of 12+ year-old internet users consumed at least some music illegally – yet only 11% of respondents had paid for downloads, while 6% paid for online music subscriptions.  Focusing on increasing subscription uptake appears to be a good idea, as total spend on subscriptions across this age group was almost double that of digital purchases.  It may be an uphill struggle, however, as the numbers indicate that a vast majority of people still prefer to consume music for free online, either legally or illegally.

While 35% of illegal downloaders said they used P2P services, 13% said they used cyberlockers.  And why do they infringe? As the number of legal services increase, some of the answers may seem less relevant than others:

50% of the infringers said they do it because it’s free

46% because it’s convenient

43% because it’s quick

26% said they do it to try before buying.

Interestingly, when asked what would make them stop infringing, the answers didn’t necessarily correspond with the reasons they do it in the first place. While 30% said cheaper legal services would be a factor, a quarter said more clarity on what is legal and what isn’t would do it – and 24% said they’d consider it if everything they wanted was available legally.

Yes, there still appears to be significant confusion regarding legality on the internet. The large-scale survey of 5,500 people showed that 41% of users aged 12+ still claim that they are either “not particularly confident” or “not at all confident” in terms of what is legal and what isn’t online. That’s a drop of 3% from the previous quarter, when 44% agreed with either of those statements, and shows educating users is moving at a snails pace – but at least it’s moving in the right direction.

Worryingly, 4% of respondents assumed that if they were being charged for a service it had to be legal.

Now, if we could only increase the awareness of legal online music services. The majority of respondents knew about YouTube (79%) but, surprisingly, only 60% were aware of iTunes.  Of the streaming services, Spotify came on top, with 40% of internet users recognizing what it was.

Funnily enough, some of the reasons people gave for choosing to pay for online content (as well as music the survey covered other content areas, including film, TV and e-books) were the same as those illegal downloaders used as arguments for infringing: the top reason, given by 45% of those surveyed, was that it’s easier and more convenient, and 40% said it’s quicker. And artists and music companies may be comforted by the thought that almost a third (33%) of those who choose to spend money on content on legal sites do so because they consider it morally wrong to use illegal sites.

The full report is here.

9 Responses

  1. Visitor

    “41% of users aged 12+ still claim that they are either “not particularly confident” or “not at all confident” in terms of what is legal and what isn’t online.”

    Awesome results! They clearly show that EDUCATION IS THE KEY!

  2. Visitor

    8% have heard of zune?!?

    Maybe as a punchline to a joke.

  3. Visitor

    Thanks Helienne, Paul would have forgotten the link. Much appreciated.

  4. Faza (TCM)

    I have to wonder about one thing vis a vis the question of legality: I wonder how much of that is to do with not knowing which service is licensed (understandable in the case of something like YouTube, which features both licensed and unlicensed music, with little way of distinguishing between them, other than the uploader telling you he don’t own what he’s uploaded) and how much is to do with all sorts of more or less questionable “legal theories” that one reads on the ‘net.

    In other words, you might be aware that something like the Pirate Bay is unlicensed, illegal and has been successfully prosecuted, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that by downloading something you, personally, are breaking the law. Depending on where you live, it might be perfectly okay (granted, TPB and torrent-like technology in general isn’t the best example here, since you start distributing as soon as you start downloading – substitute cyberlockers, if you will).

    Part of the confusion on legal issues may be to do with the fact that the law itself is confused.

  5. Music fan

    You left off one choice from the survey.

    “Because there isn’t enough money to buy all the music I want to gave in my music library.” ( and pay my rent and put food on my table.)

  6. mdti

    there should be an answer: why do you illegally download “because that’s how the big players do it, so it is not illegal”.

    In a world of youtube, google etc, the big players do not care about copyrights, and they act against them. In such a world, how can you blame the youth to follow the examples set forth by the “grown up” succesful like youtube, google, and probably many others ?

    The example are given from music industry, governments, artists themselves, web networks and search engines, directories etc…

    The youth is looking for models and examples.

    They follow the examples set forth for them, and for the youth who did not exeperience anything else, it is the norm. You can’t get them to act against the norm.

    • Helienne

      Just to clarify, the illegal downloaders in the survey were not necessarily “youth” – they were all ages, above 12 years old.

      • mdti

        ok then, my conclusion on the article is biased by my wrong assumptions 🙂

        it would be interesting to verify my statement though :-). To see if “education” (ion the broad term of acquiring information, through examples applied by society in general) is a viable solution in changing behaviors.

  7. M101

    I own a full-line retail music store with teaching facility. You would not BELIEVE the number of students and customers that I have ask me on a daily basis “how to” burn music from the internet, or otherwise download it illegally. I try to politely inform them that there are LAWS concerning illegal downloads, ASCAP laws and that they should pay for Mp3 downloads – sending them to OUR WEBSITE in order to review how to do so. Are they actually asking ME the store owner how to “rip-off” the very industry that I make my livlihood from? Yes. Then I realize the truth about this – be it child or adult – so MANY PEOPLE appear to be “doing it” that others apparently do not know there are any laws against it. So, in order to make it very clear to my customers I suggest to them (after telling them it is illegal – hearing them argue that everyone does it and they don’t think I am right…) that it would be so wonderful if everything in the world were FREE – free house, free car, (whatever thier job is – perhaps food services should be free – free legal – free electricians and what not), but that isn’t the way the world is. Musicians who made that the music, I remind them, can only earn livings when people pay for the product – which is why it is illegal to steal it from the internet. I then remind them that getting caught can result in very harsh situations for them – and finally I disclose to them that I used to be a headhunter for ASCAP violations….(that usually stills the conversation).

    My father is an officer with the local musicians union – and there is no easy answer. It appears to be our duty as people in the industry to educate those we come across, one-by-one. Do your part where you stand.