What Music Piracy Really Looks Like In 2017

So, after being accused promoting piracy, YouTube commissions a study that shows (surprise!) it actually helps curb piracy.  This is only true, though, if you don’t count the massive amount users using stream ripping piracy sites to download content from the platform.

Right before posting strong Q2 2017 numbers thanks to strong streaming revenue, Warner Music Group secretly criticized YouTube.  In a leaked memo, WMG CEO Steve Cooper blamed the platform for taking advantage legal DMCA ‘safe harbor’ loopholes.

Accordingly, instead inking a long-term deal with YouTube, it only signed a limited deal.  This signals that the major label may soon focus on ‘fixing the YouTube problem for good.’

But what does this have to do with music piracy?

In an interview with Re/Core last month, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman accused YouTube running a ‘DMCA protection racket.’  Sherman, Cooper, and other music industry insiders believe that the platform enables people to upload videos without paying artists their fair share.  Sherman explained,

To defend itself from these claims, YouTube recently commissioned a new study that (allegedly) proves the contrary.

RBB Economics examined the pivotal role that the platform played in the music industry.  The study focused exclusively on YouTube data.  RBB Economics asked 1,500 users across France, the UK, Germany, and Italy about their consumption habits.  Unsurprisingly, the results showed positive results for the Google-owned video platform.

Spinning the paid survey results, YouTube’s Simon Morrison wrote,

“The study finds that… if YouTube didn’t exist, 85% time spent on YouTube would move to lower value channels, and would result in a significant increase in piracy.”

According to Morrison, a significant portion active users on the site would switch to piracy sites and services if the video platform suddenly vanished.  RBB Economics agreed.

“The results suggest that if YouTube were no longer able to fer music, time spent listening to pirated content would increase by +29%.  This is consistent with YouTube being a substitute for pirated content.”

According to YouTube, without the site, there would be more music piracy.  However, are things really all that clear?  Yes, course. That is, if you exclude a massive amount the site’s users actively stream ripping music content from the site.

So, what exactly does music piracy look like in 2017, according to a reliable (read: unbiased and unpaid) third-party source?  Let’s take a look.

Muso recently shared their “high level, all industries view” global piracy for 2016.  The London-based firm specializes in pirate audiences.  Here’s a quick overview.

1. Nice try, YouTube.  Stream ripping from your platform is actually on the rise

Muso saw a total 191 billion global total visits to all form piracy sites.  These include streaming, web download, public and private torrents, and stream rippers.  Muso registered 107.9 million visits to streaming sites.  Public torrent sites came in second place with 31.9 million.

Muso also saw 29.6 million visits to web download sites, and 7.87 million to stream ripping websites.


However, there’s one key fact to pay attention to.

“2016 saw the continued rise stream ripper sites, used primarily for downloading MP3s from YouTube music videos, overtaking web downloads to become the second largest form online music piracy.”

With the paid RBB Economics study, the Google-owned video platform portrayed itself as a “savior” from music piracy.  However, it can’t spin this: many users on the platform actually stream-rip music videos from the platform to MP3.  Of course, more MP3 stream ripping means less payouts for artists and labels.

2. Say hello to the undisputed king piracy demand: The United States America

India counts with a population around 1.33 billion people, the highest on the list.  However, less than 35% the country’s population has access to the internet.  In the country, Muso registered 9.768 million total visits to piracy sites.

The United States America counts with a population slightly over 324 million people.  And close to 89% the population has internet access.

Besting Russia to take the top spot, Muso registered 20.356 million total visits to piracy sites in the US.  70.94 sites were visited per internet user. Poland registered the most piracy visits per internet user at 197.33 sites.

3. Welcome to the mobile piracy reality

Muso registered 34.2 billion visits to music piracy sites throughout 2016.  However, they noted a major behavioral shift.  For the first time, mobile pirate site visits overtook desktop ones.  52% people visited these sites through mobile devices.  During the year, this number went up 6%.  In 2015, that number reached 28%.

Between January 2016 to December 2016, Muso saw 13.8 billion visits to stream pirated content.  60% this activity was done through mobile.  As with last year, more people stream ripped music through mobile than on desktop.

4. While the numbers remain high, daily piracy actually stagnated

Despite a shift to mobile for pirating content, overall piracy levels remained static.  As the year progressed, daily visits to pirate sites fell 6%.  In January 2016, Muso registered 16.44 billion visits.  In December 2016, it registered 13.87 billion visits.