Music piracy has plummeted in the past 5 years. But in 2021, it slowly started growing again.

MBW’s Stat Of The Week is a series in which we highlight a single data point that deserves the attention of the global music industry. Stat Of the Week is supported by Cinq Music Group, a technology-driven record label, distribution, and rights management company.

Music streaming has long been hailed as the killer of music piracy.

While there’s no that doubt that streaming has transformed the fortunes of the major labels, and that subscriptions to music streaming platforms are growing (reportedly up 26.4% to 523.9 million subs globally at the end of Q2 2021, as per Midia), piracy still appeared to make a comeback in 2021.

That’s according to new research published by data company MUSOwhich works with the likes of labels, publishers and rights-owners to protect their content from piracy,

MUSO‘s data, sourced from its Discover analytics platform, shows that music piracy declined consistently year-on-year from January 2017 until the second half of 2020 – but it gradually started to increase across 2021.

As you can see in the graph below, according to MUSO’s data, there was a 65% decrease in music-related piracy visits globally in 2021 compared to 2017.

MUSO notes that the music industry’s “decision to not encourage exclusive content on streaming platforms” had a positive impact on music piracy over the past five years.

However, there was a 2.18% increase in 2021 compared to 2020, and an 18.6% increase in Q4 2021 compared to Q4 2020.

So what’s driving this growth in piracy in the music streaming age?

According to MUSO, the No.1 online destination for music piracy is so called ‘stream-ripping’ websites.

Stream-ripping sites, which allow users to rip and download audio from YouTube, accounted for 39.2% of all music piracy globally in 2021, up from 33.9% in 2020.

A number of prominent stream-ripping sites have been hit with legal action by the recorded music business in recent years.

Just last month for example, a US judge recommended that operators of two stream-ripping sites pay over $80 million in damages for circumventing YouTube’s anti-piracy measures and infringing copyrights in audio recordings.

That case was brought by the RIAA and more than a dozen record labels including UniversalWarner and Sony back in 2018.

Meanwhile, unlicensed streaming sites accounted for 31.5% of all music piracy visits in 2021, while illegal downloads made up 24.3% (see above).

Private and Public torrents accounted for the remaining 5%.

Looking at MUSO’s data globally shows that India is the most popular country for music piracy, with unlicensed streaming and web downloads the most popular forms of music piracy in the market.

Iran is the second most popular market for music piracy, followed by the United States in third place, where at 63% of all activity, stream ripping was the most-popular method of piracy there, according to MUSO.

MUSO says that its data from 2021 was sourced by tracking over 182 billion visits to piracy websites for Film, TV, Music, Software and Publishing.

The company adds that music piracy accounted for 8.15% of all piracy that it measured in 2021.

“The data shows that in 2020 and in 2021 traffic to music piracy sites increased, largely driven by the growing demand for stream-ripping websites.”

Andy Chatterley, Muso

Andy Chatterley, CEO of Muso, said: “Globally, digital piracy is high across all media industries. MUSO measured 182 billion visits to piracy websites in 2021 and we have seen significant increases in piracy traffic TV, Film and publishing in 2021.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a steady decrease in music piracy traffic – which I believe was driven by the decision to discourage exclusive content on the streaming platforms. However, the data shows that this trend plateaued in 2020 and in 2021 traffic to music piracy sites increased, largely driven by the growing demand for stream-ripping websites.

Added Chatterley: “Another troubling development is what MUSO refer to as ‘artist-hijacking’ where an artist’s profile is hi-jacked on legal services and new music is released purporting to be by the official artist but actually completely unrelated and without exception extremely damaging to an existing brand, often utilising DIY distributors to generate quick revenue off a global artist profile and streams.

“We are seeing many instances of this kind of trademark infringement for global artists and MUSO are helping a lot of managers and labels monitor and protect against this type of activity.”

Cinq Music Group’s repertoire has won Grammy awards, dozens of Gold and Platinum RIAA certifications, and numerous No.1 chart positions on a variety of Billboard charts. Its repertoire includes heavyweights such as Bad Bunny, Janet Jackson, Daddy Yankee, T.I., Sean Kingston, Anuel, and hundreds more.Music Business Worldwide

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