The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents the recorded music industry worldwide, has issued a ‘music listening’ report for 2019.
The report points to a serious and ongoing piracy problem affecting the global industry. But buried in all the bad news about piracy is a lot of very good news — including a year-over-year plunge in piracy levels.
The report examines how music listeners aged 16-64 engage with music in more than 20 countries. Among the many interesting statistics in the report is that 27% of worldwide music consumers listened to or accessed unlicensed music in the last month.
The IFPI also reported that the leading method of music piracy today is stream-ripping, which refers to the conversion of a music stream into a download, which can then be played or shared without restriction (or payment). According to the report, 23% of music consumers engaged in this practice, in spite of the availability of low-cost and ad-supported free services that stream properly licensed music.
Frances Moore, chief executive of the IFPI, said that unlicensed music is “a real threat to the music ecosystem”. She added that her organization would continue to “coordinate worldwide action to address this”.
Strangely, however, a wonderfully positive statistic was left out of the report entirely.
27% sounds pretty big, but last year, the IFPI reported that 38% of the same demographic were accessing pirate platforms. The total number of stream-rippers dropped dramatically, as well: from 32% last year to 23% in 2019. Those are both double-digit declines, and strongly suggest that platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music are causing millions of music fans to ditch piracy for good.
And that wasn’t the only positive news for the music industry. The report also found that music listening is substantially up. Music consumers, on average, listen to songs 18 hours a week, which is up from 17.8 hours last year. Also, 54% of people indicated that they love music. Among those between 16-24, this number is 63%.
The report further found that older people are increasingly embracing music streaming services. For example, 54% of people between 35-64 accessed a music streaming service in the last month. Older demos have traditionally been harder to access, partly because so music music is specifically developed for younger audiences. But ubiquitous streaming collections and a roaring touring industry could be melting that issue.
As you might imagine, younger fans are also more apt to pirate. Looking a little deeper into the numbers, among music listeners between the ages of 16-24, 38% of them listened to or accessed unlicensed music in the past month. Also, 34% of music listeners in this age group committed stream-ripping in the last month.
The report further found that 62% of those listening to or buying unlicensed music would use a legitimate music streaming service if they could no longer get music illegally. But increasingly, it’s becoming obvious that attractive legal alternatives are working far better than enforcement crackdowns.
So why isn’t that point being mentioned, at all? Or even anything about the year-over-year drop in piracy?
Part of the reason may be that organizations like the IFPI are in charge of enforcement crackdowns, and paid handsomely for leading them. Indeed, US-based sister organization RIAA is notorious for doling out multi-million dollar salaries, hiring expensive law firms, and apportioning huge overheads, while bungling cases against the pirates that remain. All of which may dissuade these organizations from telling the real story of piracy’s rapid decline.
The IFPI’s full report can be found here.