A glimpse at piracy in the UK and beyond

Ed Sheeran performing at V Festival Ed Sheeran topped the list of most pirated UK artist for the first half of 2012

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Manchester has been named the piracy capital of the UK, according to a new study seen exclusively by the BBC.

The research said there were more illegal downloads per person in the city than any other in the country, followed by Nottingham and Southampton.

The statistics, from monitoring service Musicmetric, conclude that in the first half of 2012, UK users illegally shared over 40 million albums and singles.

Industry group, the BPI said it showed piracy "remains a significant problem".

The data, collected independently by Musicmetric and seen exclusively by the BBC, is believed to be the biggest analysis of its kind to be conducted.

It monitored the global activity of BitTorrent files - a method of obtaining files by downloading from many users at the same time.

The data's release came as measures to attempt to curb illegal downloading began to take hold, such as the blocking of popular piracy websites and the relegation and removal of search results from Google.

Musicmetric's findings said that singer Ed Sheeran was the most pirated act in the UK for the first half of 2012, followed by hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks and Barbadian megastar Rihanna.

The data suggested that Ed Sheeran's 2011 album + (Plus) was illegally downloaded an average of 55,512 times every month, and was the most popular download in over 460 towns and cities in the UK.

Legal UK sales of his album in the first half of 2012 hit the 448,000 mark - making it the fourth most popular album behind releases from Adele, Emeli Sande and Lana Del Rey.

Download nation

Globally, the research suggested that the UK is a significant player on the world stage as a country of illegal music downloaders.

The country was placed second in the world in terms of pure volume of illegal activity, with Musicmetric logging 43,263,582 downloads in the first six months of this year.

The US topped the list, with 96,681,133 downloads tracked in the same period.

Italy (33,158,943), Canada (23,959,924) and Brazil (19,724,522) made up the remainder of the top five.

Rihanna's latest album - Talk That Talk - was found to be the world's most pirated release - Musicmetric tracked 1,228,313 downloads for the title in the first half of 2012.

In its analysis of the UK's data, Musicmetric has estimated that 345 million individual tracks made up the torrent files downloaded by British music fans.

According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the UK's music industry body, the figures were having a "significant effect on investment in new music".

Start Quote

It's adapt or die in the music industry”

End Quote Rizzle Kicks

"According to their data, there are more illegal downloads in the UK still than there are legal purchases," the BPI's chief executive Geoff Taylor told the BBC.

"[It] compares to about 240 million tracks that were sold legally. A lot of people are getting very rich from stealing other people's things.

"That's wrong, and we think that musicians deserve to be paid for what they do, just like everyone else."

However, Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party UK - who will be attempting to become Manchester's next MP in the next election - said the complaints of record labels is "protectionism".

"We need to remove the barriers for actual artists to connect with their business and their fans," he told the BBC.

"The truth is, why [music industry figures] are complaining so much is that with a properly functioning internet, and a properly functioning economy, the big players are no longer necessary."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    I must say, I’m certainly convinced by the argument that no one should make any money from anything that people can steal.

    I'm pleased to see theft is now the moral choice.

    But only if there's a low chance of being caught.

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    544.Franco Begbie
    If you don't like the music that Cowell produces then don't listen to or buy it.
    If you do like it, and you want the track on your IPOD/record ceollection then you should pay for it.
    What have you done that entitles you to something that you have not paid for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    An interesting experiment was done by Radiohead on the release of their album In Rainbows - allowing users to download the album at a price determined by the user themselves, ranging from £0.00 upwards. Cutting out the middle man, i.e. the music industry, this album grew the greatest profit for the band themselves to date. Interestingly, the album went on the sell 1.75 million physical copies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Metallica considered moving their 2013 world tour forward to cash in before everyone is too poor to buy tickets. How greedy and cynical is that? I don’t like Metallica, otherwise I’d download their music just to spite them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Simon Cowell has a £20 million yacht and Pete Waterman plays train sets with real steam trains. These guys' "boys' toys" would seem to suggest that the music business is doing OK!

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    Actually the Artist pays all of them....... so by going to performances to give the Artists money -> who then pay the Studios/Labels who in turn then charge large amounts which very little goes back to the artist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    548. Phil

    "You're badly missing the point of the debate in order to pick holes in insignificant points."

    No, I refuted your statement.

    "Also, quite inconsistent in your comment" - How so?

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    The music industry needs radical change and to accept that the internet isnt going to go away. Personally i think a "donate to artist" button in youtube or something would be a great idea, but of course the labels wouldnt like it much

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    This Ed Sheeran must have a very wide following among the petty criminals and recidivists of this country because no matter what you type into the little box, he is the most pirated bloke near you. Ether that or the study is a load of. . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    Illegal downloads as a driver of live ticket sales are OK for the artist, but they don't help studio engineers, session musicians, producers and the many other people whose talent and energy help to create a recording. Maybe they should be given a cut of ticket sales - but I doubt they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    @ 558.roller
    "all the people saying this is theft.i would ask have you ever paid cash in hand or accepted a passed on parking ticket in a carpark etc"

    Actually - I never have paid cash in hand or accepted a passed parking ticket. And "no" - I'm not in the habit of trying to justify theft by saying that everyone else does it so it must be okay...

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    @ Mark from Manchester

    Quoting un qualified revenue figures is nonsensical. What are the replication costs of a CD vs' a download?

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    Thinking about it, thinking about how tastes in music have changed from a few mainstream type/genre to a much wider spectrum of music.

    I think downloading (legal or otherwise) has allowed people to break free from social pressure, to go ahead and sample music that their friends or peer groups might not approve of.... As a result I think we have much more musical diversity and choice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Big Brother's watching you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    all the people saying this is theft.i would ask have you ever paid cash in hand or accepted a passed on parking ticket in a carpark etc.the music industry thinks nothing of ripping off the public.why should the public show them any respect.a fair price and profit are the way to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    552. Andy The Thinker 8 Minutes ago. Can I come into your house and steal some stuff you made or own? Is that alright? Can I? great! Thanks!

    By all means come in and copy what I have.

    Copying (piracy) IS NOT THEFT, no one has been deprived of anything.

    It IS copyright infringement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    So, your unreferenced assertion ("9/10 a music fan will get a few songs via file sharing then go and buy the album or even better go see the music live") is a fact, is it?

    You're just trying to justify theft.

    If that model worked, the music companies would be promoting bittorrent etc, not complaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    Illegal filesharing has been around for about 10 years now & look at the devastating effect it has had on the industry. Many major artists have resorted to busking and yesterday I walked by Lars Ulrich holding a sign reading, "Will drum for food". Very few people are getting rich out of the music industry anymore, and recently Ethiopia started a "Feed the Geldof" campaign.

    Oh, wait a minute...

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    551. Mark_from_Manchester
    Before digital, the global music industry sold $15bn of music per year.
    Now it sells $7.5bn
    So how exactly is this "free sampling" creating extra sales?

    Because it now costs practically nothing for them to distribute their products. No records or CDs to make, no album covers to print, no vans carrying piles of stock to high street shops, no counter sales staff etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.


    Then how come they made $15.9bn in 2010? The digital revolution hasn't happened in the past 18 months, it's been here for over a decade.


    Learn to Google.


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