The world of music has long been a prime target for piracy, but that seems to be changing in the UK. Only 15% of Britons illegally downloaded songs and albums in 2021, according to a report from the Intellectual Property Office.
The organization surveyed 5,000 people in the UK about their music consumption habits between March and April 2021. Most of them listened to music during this period, either by downloading it, listening to it on streaming platforms or buying physical media.
Streaming, however, remains the most popular way of listening for many Britons. More than 40% of those surveyed by the Intellectual Property Office used services like Spotify and Apple Music to listen to their favorite artists' songs. Only a quarter of those surveyed downloaded music, and even fewer bought vinyl or CDs.
The pandemic, a vehicle for change in music piracy
Illegal downloading persists, even if it is down by 3% in 2021. The most unscrupulous music lovers download songs and albums to create pirate copies. But this remains a minority phenomenon: most music lovers prefer legal downloading and streaming to enjoy their favorite pastime.
The Intellectual Property Office explains this decline in piracy by the key role played by music and other forms of entertainment during the pandemic. "Most participants said that access to entertainment during the past year of lockdowns helped their mental health by distracting them from the daily reality of the pandemic," the organization explains in its annual report.
One question remains, however: at a time when streaming services offer access to catalogs of millions of tracks, why still resort to music piracy? Because of convenience... and a lack of knowledge about some of the features of Spotify and its competitors. Russ Crupnick, a specialist analyst from MusicWatch, explained in April that most music lovers who pirate do so to be able to listen to their favorite songs without having an internet connection. However, this option is offered by all streaming services.