Latest Study Says Music Piracy and Stream-Ripping Are on the Rise, Contradicting Muso’s Findings

According to a new study, music piracy rose 13% in the United States last year.

That’s according to MusicWatch, a marketing research company.

In a blog post slamming stream-ripping as a “scourge,” MusicWatch tracked 17 million users downloading their music on websites from video platforms, including YouTube.  That’s up from 15 million in 2017.

The top 30% of stream-rippers also downloaded an average of 112 music files, the equivalent of 10 full music albums.

The company writes,

That may not seem a lot in a world where streaming services hold millions of songs, but ask any rights holder how they feel about someone copying their works.  For a more vivid picture, imagine someone shoplifting 11 albums from Walmart or Best Buy!

So, why do music fans in the U.S. continue to use stream-ripping websites?  Similar to the IFPI’s findings last year, MusicWatch noted that stream-ripping serves as a substitute for subscription music streaming services.  This includes the ability to load music files onto devices, with offline listening offered free-of-cost.

Last year, the IFPI reported that a substantial number of music fans around the world use YouTube to stream their favorite songs to avoid paying.

35% say a main reason for not using a paid audio subscription is that anything they want to listen to is on YouTube.

Calling the move “absurd,” MusicWatch lambasted search and app platforms (i.e., Google) for not doing enough to promote music streaming services.  25% of respondents claimed that search engines and app stores helped them find stream-ripping websites and apps.

In addition, MusicWatch’s study revealed that stream-rippers are also more likely to participate in other forms of unsanctioned music sharing.  These include downloading songs from unlicensed music apps and sharing songs on digital lockers or file-sharing sites.

Surprisingly, the majority of stream-rippers are also better educated and come from higher income households.

They’re more likely to go to the movies, play video games, and subscribe to video streaming platforms, like Hulu and Netflix.  This, says the marketing research company, amplifies the risk of piracy in each category (without providing any proof for this argument).

68% of stream-rippers in the U.S. are aged between 13 and 34, according to MusicWatch.  A slightly higher number of males pirate when compared to women, 56% to 44%.  The average household income of stream-rippers is between $75,000 and $199,000.  Only 34% are full or part-time students, strongly suggesting that professionals are also downloading music for free.

But, wait a minute.  Hasn’t music piracy actually gone down?

MusicWatch’s report clearly contradicts another report first published last year.

Last September, global piracy platform Muso found a marked decrease in stream-ripping.  In addition, Muso estimated that music piracy only comprised 16% of all piracy around the world.  Other categories included TV, film, publishing, and software piracy, respectively.

In fact, stream-ripping only accounted for 4% of all piracy around the world.  Track and album downloads have also declined.

In an effort to demonize stream-ripping, MusicWatch clearly overlooked these figures — and probably committed a serious research blunder.

Yet, both studies remain consistent on one fact.  People in the United States pirate music and use stream-rippers more than users in any other country.

In the United States, Muso tracked 17 billion visits to all forms of piracy websites.  Russia came in second with 14.5 billion, followed by Brazil, India, and France with 10.3 billion, 9.6 billion, and 7.4 billion visits, respectively.

In good news for the music industry – and a fact strangely omitted by MusicWatch – music saw the largest overall decline of piracy around the world – 34%.  Why?  One simple explanation is that people actually prefer to pay for streaming rather than illegally download and share tracks and albums.

MusicWatch emphatically concludes,

If [stream-rippers] pirate music, they’ll likely also take movies, TV shows, and other forms of intellectual property.  Discouraging stream-ripping isn’t just good for music; it’s good for the entire entertainment ecosystem.”

One word comes to mind after reading this – Duh?


Featured image by Alex E. Proimos (CC by 2.0).

3 Responses

  1. ESQ

    A scourge? It is an individual right to record a stream for later use.

    Isn’t that what the Sony Betamax case was all about? Recording audio/video streams is legal fair use. DirecTV and the cable companies are happy to sell you a box pre-programmed to do it.

    The answer: Of course it is legal fair use. This is the music industry once again out of control, lacking leadership, flailing at its audience in spite of record revenues. It is a grotesque miscarriage of justice to claim stream “ripping” is or should be illegal.

  2. Anonymous

    Sounds like another industry approved and funded study that’s designed to reach maximum profit for those who funded it
    Did I say that out loud? Lol

  3. Damien Bizeau

    This piracy increase in the US during 2018 is similar as what has been going on in Europe unfortunately. In France my homeland, we have been seeing an extremely small progress on online legal music downloading sales. I hired a US lawyer to fight back in a dispute I have been having with an Internet pirate in the US since 2003, he indicated to me that for this person I was not happy with to get caught and prosecuted, the investigation of the case should have started before the content piracy occurred, which wasn’t done actually in my particular matter (it was a peer to peer pseudonymous file sharing and bootlegging case). This lawyer I paid for with my own money actually also informed me that the computer hardware of the person I was complaining about should have been ceased for inspection, which didn’t happen either…The worse thing with this case was that I know for a fact that “my” digital pirate used his NASA US Federal Government’s contractor e-mail account within the scope of his piracy, what a nightmare I think! Damien Bizeau.