Manchester has been named as the UK hotspot for illegal music downloads in the UK, with the country as a whole illegally downloading around £250m of music a year.
Pirated downloads have long been the bane of the music industry, and earlier this year a court ordered internet service providers inclouding Sky, BT and Virgin Media to block the Swedish file-sharing site Pirate Bay.
The study, by digital music analysts Musicmetric, anonymously measures downloads via the BitTorrent method of downloading files from multiple users. The majority of downloads via this file-sharing method, MusicMetric said, will be illegal.
However, the Digital Music Index report shows that blocking the site had little, if any, effect of illegal downloads. The report says that there were 43 million album and single downloads via BitTorrent in the first half of the year, with Brit award winner Ed Sheeran the most downloaded artist.
In February this year Mr Sheeran won the best British male and best breakthrough act awards at the Brit awards.
Estimating that there will be ten songs to an average album, the total number of songs downloaded would be around 347 million.
Based on the retail price for new albums and singles in Apple’s iTunes store (£7.99 and 99p respectively), the retail value of the downloaded albums and singles would be more than £250m.
The most popular pirated albums in the UK were Mr Sheeran’s “+”, followed by Rizzle Kicks’ Stereo Typical and Rihanna’s Talk That Talk.
Hip-hop star Sway, talking to Channel 4 News (see video), said: “I don’t condone this (pirate downloads), but at the same time it’s an indication that people are after the goods.
“At this moment in time, we musicians don’t have the power to control these times, it’s really down to the service providers and the people who put up the these websites, and the people who allow these websites to run, those actually are the culprits.”
Worldwide there were 3 billion songs downloads in the first half of the year, the report said. The USA was the country with the most illegal downloads, at 775 million, followed by the UK. Rihanna’s album Talk that Talk was the most pirated album worldwide at 1.2m downloads.
Matt Mason, executive director at BitTorrent, said: “These figures show for the first time that blocking the Pirate Bay had zero effect on piracy.
“It’s short-sighted to think that we can simply tell people to stop and they will. But great data like this will help companies build better services and platforms that empower artists to distribute their work into the BitTorrent ecosystem in ways that make sense for them.
“Consumers have used the BitTorrent protocol for over decade because it’s the best way to move large files. That’s true for musicians too. The challenge is building the right business models on top of the technology, which is something we’re very committed to here.”
According to MusicMetric, the most prolific cities for downloading, arranged per capita, were as follows:
The most popular UK downloads for the first part of the year via BitTorrent were: