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Wrong conclusions: Study does not show music piracy is disappearing

Several media outlets are reporting on a new study from Envisional claiming that it shows music piracy is subsiding. But no, music piracy is not dying. If one reads past the first few pages of Envisional’s study, they’ll see music piracy is just as rampant – and even see real ways to deal with it.

The graph everyone is latching onto is below, showing that music only accounts for 2.9% of the top 10,000 torrents on PublicBT’s tracker.  Let’s ignore for the moment that PublicBT is a small sample of the many torrent trackers out there; this still is likely somewhat representative.  But how are these 10,000 torrents ranked? By leechers. Leechers are people who are still downloading the torrent file.  Seeders have completed the file. When a leecher completes the file, they become a seeder.

Music torrents are often only several megabytes. The complete Beatles catalogue can be found for under 2GB, a bit larger than a movie file. TorrentFreak found that the average video torrent is 1.73GB while the average music torrent is only 214MB.  A single album can be downloaded within minutes meaning there will usually be very few leechers on the average music torrent.  Just reading on a single page, for total number of downloaders, music jumps ahead of PC games and software by more than 100,000 downloaders (pg 14).

48336443-Envisional-Internet-Usage-Jan2011.pdf - Adobe Reader

Let’s also consider that BitTorrent is not the sole file-sharing tool.  Cyberlockers like Rapidshare and Megaupload, music accounted for 10.1% of links found, slightly ahead of software and games, behind TV shows, films, and pornography, same as BitTorrent. So again, we see music is not disappearing.

But how can we track interest of file-sharers.  Thankfully, on page 25 of this same study, Envisional charts search queries on the Gnutella network.  Music accounted for almost 55% of all search queries.

Maybe, based on these numbers, other media have just gotten more popular on piracy networks.  As bandwidth increases and more learn about piracy, thanks to generous campaigns from the media industry telling every about it, larger files can be shared more easily.  So larger video files are growing as all file-sharing grows.

BPI (England’s version of the RIAA) claimed 1.2 billion songs were downloaded in 2010 in the UK alone.  So the music industry still sees music piracy as pretty significant.

So iTunes, streaming sites, and other legal music options still aren’t quelling music piracy as much as music execs would like to think.  Maybe embracing BitTorrent, like so many music artists have, they can increase the value of scarce goods and make more money. The selling of songs and plastic discs just isn’t a significant market anymore.


So, what do you think ?