A STUDY OF 'PIRACY' has found that as many as 345 million songs are downloaded illegally every six months in the UK.
The study, which looked at Bittorrent traffic and is published by analysts Musicmetric, found that Manchester has the most 'pirates' and that the most popular downloads are albums by Ed Sheeran, Rizzle Kicks and Rihanna.
There are some geographical differences however, and while Sheeran's album was the most popular download overall, it was beaten out by the Best Of The Eagles in Bournemouth, for example.
According to those involved, the numbers show that blocking The Pirate Bay website has had little impact on stopping downloads and that understanding how and where people are downloading music is important.
"Knowing exactly where your fans are has long been a holy grail for record labels. Understanding what drives them to engage will be vital to helping the industry to really prosper in the coming years," said Musicmetric CEO Gregory Mead.
"For the first time, we have evidence that blocking Pirate Bay had little effect on Bittorrent downloading. It is also clear however, that availability of streaming services like Spotify does reduce this activity as people have greater access to music they want via legitimate means. The challenge for copyright holders is to find ways to monetise music files torrented online."
According to figures released by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), combined sales of digital and physical albums in the UK reached 113.2 million in 2011.
Loz Kaye, the leader of the UK Pirate Party was unimpressed by the latest figures, explaining that they, like so many before them, could be used to muddy the debate around ‘piracy' and downloading.
"These figures don't prove anything very much, other than the fact that people like music, and that the people of Manchester are leaders in using technology. They are certainly not evidence of the BPI's shrill claims that 'a lot of people are getting very rich' from so-called piracy. And as Musicmetric point out, torrents download numbers also include lots of legal files," he said.
"This report illustrates what the Pirate Party has always said: measures like the current Pirate Bay block don't stop downloading, and do nothing to put money in artists' pockets. All the crackdowns promoted by the music industry harm digital business by putting unnecessary burdens on internet businesses, hampering freedom of expression and creativity. We really need to move on from this sterile debate and focus on policy that actually will benefit our shared culture and digital economy." µ