IFPI Says 95% of Music Downloads Are Illegal

from the but-then-they-would,-wouldn't-they dept

The IFPI, the international equivalent of the RIAA, has put out new stats claiming that only 5 percent of all music downloads in 2008 were legal. The group estimated that 40 billion tracks were shared illegally last year, or an average of almost 30 songs for every internet user worldwide. The IFPI says it arrived at that estimate by “collating separate studies in 16 countries over a three-year period,” so it’s not really clear just how accurate it is — and of course, the higher the figure, the better, as far as the IFPI’s efforts to get governments to be their copyright police are concerned. The IFPI says that global music revenues fell by 7% last year, blaming the drop on falling CD sales, which a 25% increase in digital sales couldn’t overcome. The IFPI says piracy is the biggest challenge it faces; given the stats, the real challenge seems to be record labels’ inability to move past its legacy business model and adapt to consumers’ changing desires.

It’s hard to give much credence to the IFPI report, given the way it plays with statistics. For instance, in the press release for the report, the IFPI tries to pin the blame on piracy for a downturn in the “local music sectors” of France and Spain. It backs this up by saying that new French and Spanish artists accounted for a smaller percentage of album releases in 2008 than they had before. What about established French and Spanish artists? And does a lack of new local artists have more to do with downloading, or problems with labels in how they do business, and find and promote new talent? Furthermore, when the album is declining in popularity compared to singles, and new artists more likely to take advantage of this by targeting the singles market, is this even a legitimate metric for this purpose? These IFPI stats should be taken with a large grain of salt, and their intended purpose — to further the group’s goal to get governments and ISPs to prop up record labels’ outmoded business models — should be considered.

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Comments on “IFPI Says 95% of Music Downloads Are Illegal”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Ars Technica points out a few discrepancies in IFPI’s own report:

“In the same report, we find a discussion of how IFPI’s antipiracy team has “an excellent track record” and has “helped contain the level of Internet piracy.” Clearly, “containing” piracy at 95 percent would be an abject failure, so IFPI must be referring to something else, as indeed it is.

According to a further study, only 18 percent of Internet users in Europe actually share files illegally. IFPI suggests that this number has remained constant even as broadband penetration has soared from 5 to 42 percent over the last few years, but it’s hard to see what this could mean. With the rate of file-swapping remaining steady, IFPI’s own numbers actually suggest that file-swapping has soared. “


Joel Coehoorn says:

revenue v profits

> “global music revenues fell by 7% last year”

That number is interesting, especially because in this case the IFPI is in a position to actually give an accurate number. In fact, that number if anything seems small to me.

But is it important? One of the key features of digital music is that there is much less overhead. In other words, you can make as much or more profit from far less revenue. And that’s good for everybody.

Throwing out stats about falling revenue is misleading at best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: revenue v profits

What is interesting is the claim of rampant piracy doesn’t jive with the sales revenue. If 95% of the music files downloaded last year were illegal then who was actually buying? Clearly some people still find value in paying for the music. The labels needs to view this as an under served market instead of as a threat.

hegemon13 says:

Re: revenue v profits

Actually, that seems like a completely incorrect claim. Recorded music sales may be down, but concert sales are soaring, as well as instrument sales. “Music” sales as a whole are fine. It is just pre-recorded plastic discs and files that have dropped, and is that really any surprise? Given the state of the global economy, and the luxury status of music, I think they should consider themselves lucky.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: revenue v profits

First of all, you have to remember that the figures are for *music downloads*. Not CDs or vinyl. Not merchandising. Not gigs or other paid downloads. So, while the *total* music revenue (according to other reports) is up, only 95% of music downloads, and nothing else, are “pirated”.

Then, you have to consider the sources. The IFPI is an international organisation, so these are *global* stats. There are many countries in the world where piracy is rampant and no legal download source exists. If this was 95% of North American downloads or 95% of UK downloads, it might be a significant figure, but globally it doesn’t mean a great deal.

You also have to wonder what criteria they’re using to determine what is “pirated”. For example, do the paid-for downloads from sites like MP3Sparks/AllOfMP3 count as legal downloads or not? Do they count free downloads from legal free sources like download.com and AmieStreet as legal, or are they discounted? What about subscription downloads from eMusic or Napster? Do streamed subs count, or only downloads? There’s a lot of room for manoeuvre if they want it…

Finally, as a British citizen who currently makes his home in Spain, I have to comment again on the idiocy of regionalisation. AFAIK, I can only buy mainstream music from iTunes or 7digital. But, they don’t have everything I want, and until recently couldn’t play anything from iTunes anyway as I didn’t own an iPod (I own a Creative player). Stores like Amazon and Play literally refuse to sell to me because I live in the wrong country (though they can sell me a CD). So, if something was not available on 7digital, I had to either buy a CD or pirate, or go without (usually the latter, making no money for anyone).

I’m sitting here, cash in hand, but because a record label doesn’t see the value of selling music I want through a store I can access, I can’t buy it. If you refuse custom, you can’t complain when a customer’s needs are met by someone who will supply them, even if it is a “pirate”.

Aaron Ortiz (profile) says:

Give the rest of the world a legal alternative

I daresay most of the “illegal” music downloads are from outside the USA. I would certainly pay for downloading music if music stores actually sold music in Latin America. All I get is messages saying something like “sorry, but you live in the third world, so we won’t sell to you, PIRATE!”.

This is nuts! Once these stores open in the third world, who will want to buy anymore after being demonized?

Canucklehead says:

DRM Music

Why would I want to buy music tracks when I can’t trust it will continue to be supported and authenticated by my music vendor in years to come. It would be nice to have higher quality tracks, with consistent volume levels. But the risk of being left holding unplayable songs ( worse yet, being extorted to have their DRM removed ) doesn’t justify the cost.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Odd Arguments

The IFPI statement of facts, when examined carefully, are much like a restaurant chain lobbying government to ban refrigerators and stoves due to people buying and cooking their own food.

We go to restaurants to enjoy the added value of either convenience or better quality. Music labels probably understand this but greedily want to continue to charge fine cuisine prices for tinned beans.

snowburn14 says:

Re: Odd Arguments

“The IFPI statement of facts, when examined carefully, are much like a restaurant chain lobbying government to ban refrigerators and stoves due to people buying and cooking their own food.”

It’s a little more like lobbying to prevent people from stealing (I know, I used the forbidden word…funny how nobody was ever up in arms over the phrase “stealing cable”, though) the recipes used by the chefs in those restaurants. I’m all for banishing the RIAA and most of the corporations they represent to the scrap heap, but I don’t see the need to group the actual artists in with them, most of the time. Granted, they should know better than to sign with these people by now. But so far I have yet to see a convenient alternative for them, particularly one that would ensure that those who WROTE great songs were compensated properly… not that they are now, but they do better than they would if music revenue came entirely from concerts and merchandising.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Odd Arguments

“It’s a little more like lobbying to prevent people from stealing..”

Yes, you’re right, that’s exactly what the IFPI is doing. My analogy was attempting to point out that all people do what is the most convenient or more desirable, not what is legal.

When music is of better quality and has more added value than illegal downloads then people will not download.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ripped from Next Weeks "Onion" Newspaper...

News Flash!
“IFPI says 95% of Music Downloads are Illegal, while 95% of users say music is never played all the way through.”

“I wouldn’t pay for it,” said a dismayed Henry The Eighth. “I wanted to venture a listen because the song had my name in the title. But I got to the 2nd verse and it sounded the same as the first. Where’s the originality?”

Silvio says:

i dont pay for music. never did, never will.
simple as that.

never paid for a cd. all the 1500 cds i own are pirated. do i feel bad about it. deeply. makes me cry every night before i go to sleep.

however, i do go to concerts. but paying money for a cd? never saw the point. same goes for movies. own about 2000 dvds. not one payed for. but i do go and see a good movie in the cinema, after i checked out my pirated copy weeks/months before. why would i pay to see another crappy movie and be angry i lost money over this again?

Jose Qweervo (user link) says:

People illegaly download music cause they have small cocks

People illegally download music cause they have small cocks, if they had big ones they would rob a music store not just download them, do because it says 95% of music in the U.S. was illegally downloaded that means 95% of the U.S. HAS SMALL COCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOO (P.s. i gt a 17inch)

Swifty says:


Can i just say you know the only reason every 1 illegally downloads is because 1 simple fact NO 1 CAN STOP IT! asoon as they remove one method a new 1 comes along every single person i know illegally downloads never payed for anything in their lives and its so stupid because its like saying we cant cook food in our ovens and share it with friends GIVE UP YOU CANT STOP ILLEGALLY DOWNLOADING AND U NEVER WILL!

Jessica (user link) says:

People who download music...

People who download music seriously need to get a life. I’m a song writter/singer and I’ve written well over 50 songs. I honestly can say that when I write music I put a lot of time and effort into it. I want to make sure people can relate to my music so I do lots of research to give them what they wanted. It’s just like going to the nearest super center market and swipping something off of the shelf. Muscisions put so much time and money into thier work. We strive all that we can to make our stuff likable to you. It’s terrible and just wrong if you do that. If you want the music so bad, then grow up, get a job, and pay for it yourself. How would you like it if you spent all of your time on the one thing you loved then people took advantage of it and snatched it out of your hands. STOP ILLEGALLY DOWNLOADING!

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