Illegal music file sharing drops significantly since 2011

Filed Under: Featured

Headphones silhouette, courtesy of ShutterstockThe number of people using peer-to-peer (P2P) services to download music fell by 17% last year, compared to 2011.

That's according to the NPD Group's Annual Music Study 2012, released yesterday.

Some other interesting stats, comparing 2012 to 2011:

  • 26% decline in number of files illegally downloaded using P2P services;
  • 44% less music files burned and ripped from CDs owned by friends and family;
  • 25% drop in files swapped from hard drives; and
  • 28% fall in volume of music downloads from digital lockers

P2P sharing peaked in 2005 when 1 in 5 internet users aged 13 or older were using the services, but last year only just over 1 in 9 (11%) internet users were downloading music this way.


40% of those surveyed reported that they had downloaded less or no music from P2P networks since the previous year, 2011. The main reason they cited was free, legal music streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, and Rdio.

Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD, commented:

For the music industry, which has been battling digital piracy for over a decade, last year was a year of progress. Among other factors, the increased use of legal and licensed streaming services has proven to be an alternative for music fans who formerly used P2P networks to obtain music.

Other reasons people said they had reduced their use of P2P file sharing included their preferred services, such as Limewire, closing down, as well as the risk of malware from using these kinds of sites.

According to IFPI's Digital Music Report 2013, which was also published yesterday, 62% of internet users are now using licensed services to download music, and the number of people paying to use subscription services jumped 44% last year to 20 million.

And with rumours about Google's possible foray into music streaming territory, this may well be only a sign of things to come.

Man listening to music and headphones silhouette, courtesy of Shutterstock

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16 Responses to Illegal music file sharing drops significantly since 2011

  1. Sam · 914 days ago

    Is it because of the advancement in laws and technology or is it because the quality of music is going down and people have found other interesting things to do? Both can have the same outcome.

  2. Jeremy · 914 days ago

    Probably has slowed due to the boom in usenet and fast fibre connections which can directly download from file lockers at decent speeds.

  3. Bob · 914 days ago

    I use p2p, but only from a private tracker that restricts content to unofficial material - audience concert recordings and such. It also has a mechanism for artists to request to be added to the "not-allowed" list and the moderators enforce those wishes. So my answer in the poll is No. A better question for the poll to ask is, "Are you less inclinced to use p2p for illegal/officially-released content", to which my answer is Yes.

  4. J16 · 914 days ago

    I hate to say it but I think people have just found an alternative way of illegally downloading songs, youtube file conversion is where it's at!

    • Exaptation · 913 days ago

      Agreed. I have altered my gathering to that method as well. I've had to dodge invasive apps along the way, and some have been not worth the trouble. It's not a panacea.

      What I did not see listed as the reasons given for behavior changes was my reason: my ISP announced that it would downgrade the connection speed if P2P traffic is detected, regardless of legality or not. That policy affects me directly, where legal forces have never done so. The worst I've experienced before was a cease and desist notice from Disney's lawyers delivered by my (previous; I've moved) ISP.

  5. Timothy Campbell · 914 days ago

    I've always paid for my music, but I do understand that some people might do otherwise and I don't necessarily condemn them for it. Organizations such as the RIAA and other content-protectors are not making any friends with their draconian outlook.

    With the advent of Spotify and the continuing availability of Pandora, I have no temptation to pirate music. Yes, in their free mode they have ads, but that simply gives me a chance to do something else for a moment.

    In fact, I even suggested the Pandora that they could expand their non-music content by offering a kind of time-shiftable DJ. Pandora rejected my suggestion but it seems to me that eventually there will be world-wide internet radio stations that are as customizable as Pandora or Spotify. (You can read my letter to Pandora on my blog at

    When I'm not connected to the net I listen to free podcasts I've downloaded to my MP3 player. I have dozens of hours of great talk to listen to — and I haven't even looked very hard to find it.

  6. Nigel · 914 days ago

    I don't steal music...not because it's illegal, but because it's immoral. I don't do unto others as I would not have them do unto me.

    I'd like to think that those who used to steal music but have now chosen not to do so (if indeed that's true) have made that choice for moral reasons, but the cynic in me is saying, "Get real."

    • 2072 · 912 days ago

      With P2P, you don't steal, you replicate without taking. The original item remains in the store for someone else to buy...

      If I hadn't been able to use P2P to replicate things I wouldn't have bought them any way... so no loss for the industry.
      In some other cases if P2P hadn't been there I wouldn't have discovered some artists, I wouldn't have been to their show nor bought their merchandise nor the collector editions of their albums, etc...

  7. Mark · 913 days ago

    The bitrate of your collection will be so bad! D:

  8. pepe · 913 days ago

    I listen radio :)

  9. Wolf_Star · 913 days ago

    In the music industry, someone is always stealing from someone else.

    I don't buy or listen to anything that goes through the RIAA because all they do is steal from the artists, so it really doesn't break my heart to hear them whining about losing profits, which means their executives can't afford that extra Porsche this year.

    And most of the stuff that passes for "music" nowadays is the same claptrap sound, tweaked a little in a computer, and prefaced by some nondescipt arteest who sounds just like 100 others out there - the only difference being the packaging of the product.

    Don't get me wrong, there is some awesome music out there, but so long as the industry is controlled by the likes of the RIAA, the money will always be more important than the music.

  10. Muhammad Badi · 913 days ago

    Piracy is never liked but there are reasons for that.

    In my opinion and as of a personal experience, I never paid for music, not a cent for it but with online music streaming the game is different. I started using Spotify with a free account, yes with ads between 2-3 songs but it's great, I have my playlists synced wherever I go and available for me anytime which game me ease to stop consuming storage on my Mac or iPhone and there is no need to download. Also, I use Grooveshark on web mostly when I am not on my device, and on my iPhone. My music need is achieved.

    but I also agree with @J16's comment, YouTube is a huge alternative to music downloading. Some people are converting videos to MP3s but the majority just listen and save to their playlists. Thanks to the increasing Internet speed services.

    Finally, the more restrictions you add to any services is the more chances people are going to get pirated content, put restrictions and let people try your service and then encourage them to pay. Piracy won't stop and there is no way to stop it, the wise is who manage it and grab more legal users.

  11. w1z · 912 days ago

    Pandora ? lol who needs to download when pretty much everything is on there.

  12. kakes · 910 days ago

    It's not like there's anything new worth pirating out there.

    Soundcloud and legal youtube music videos pretty much cover everything.

  13. Justin Ong · 909 days ago

    There are so many songs you could find in Youtube. If you know how, you can download audio MP3s from Youtube video clips. There are even some channels like Vevo who are already displaying few seconds of Ads before a video is played.

  14. mike · 908 days ago

    In other news: The ability for corporations to detect who is illegally downloading music has significantly dropped.

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About the author

Anna Brading is Naked Security's editor. She has worked in tech for more than ten years and as a writer with Sophos for over five. She's interested in social media, privacy and keeping people safe online.