Is the US really the worst offender in illegal music downloading?

music downloadingMusicmetric, an online music analytics firm, has published a report, which it claims to be “the most in-depth study ever of the global digital music landscape.” In the report, we find a list of the 10 countries in the world where the most music has been illegally downloaded during the first half of 2012.

But the report only lists total downloads. What happens if we, instead, put the number of downloads in relation to the size of the population and the number of Internet users?

Relative numbers changes everything

Ranked by the number of illegal downloads of music worldwide the US tops the list with about 96.7 million, followed by UK at 43.2 million, and Italy with 33.2 million.

Would you, therefore, assume that the US is the worst offender when it comes to snatching digital music from the jaws of the music industry?

If you do, then we can only say “it depends.”

We combined Musicmetric’s findings with numbers for population and Internet users from, and here’s what we found.

Illegal music downloads per person and Internet user
Country Illegal music downloads Population (2011) Downloads per person Internet users Downloads per Internet user
US 96,681,133 313,232,044 0.31 245,203,319 0.39
UK 43,263,582 62,698,362 0.69 52,731,209 0.82
Italy 33,158,943 61,016,804 0.54 35,800,000 0.93
Canada 23,959,924 34,030,589 0.70 27,757,540 0.86
Brazil 19,724,522 193,946,886 0.10 81,798,000 0.24
Australia 19,232,252 21,766,711 0.88 19,554,832 0.98
Spain 10,303,633 46,754,784 0.22 30,654,678 0.34
India 8,964,360 1,189,172,906 0.01 121,000,000 0.07
France 8,398,550 65,102,719 0.13 50,290,226 0.17
Philippines 8,380,208 101,833,938 0.08 33,600,000 0.25

If we take these numbers and present them in chart format instead, it’s easier to see the differences between the countries. Then it’s clear that although the US may be the country with the highest overall number of illegal downloads of music, put in relation to the the size of the population and the number of Internet users, it’s not even close to the number one country.

music downloads

In this view, Australia leads the pack with almost one download per Internet user (0.98) and 0.88 downloads per person. The US comes far behind, with 0.31 downloads per person and 0.39 downloads per Internet users. Internet penetration in the two countries differ a bit. In the US, Internet penetration is 78.3%, and in Australia it is 89.8%.

Furthermore, India comes in at number 10, with just 0.01 download per person, and only slightly more, 0.07 downloads, per Internet user. With an Internet penetration of only just over 10%, that is perhaps not so surprising.

Imperfect numbers

To conclude, it’s of course not the case that one and only one user downloads each song. There may be, and probably are, users who download thousands of songs, and a majority who don’t download any.

But putting the number of downloads in relation to the size of the population as well as the number of Internet users does reveal some interesting aspects of this issue, more so than just the number of downloads per country.

So, until we have numbers to put in a column called “Number of people who illegally downloaded music” we probably have to make do with numbers like these.

Image (top) via Shutterstock.


  1. Australia is probably so high because we have a western music culture, getting most of our ‘hits’ from the US, while not having access to services like Pandora. Add to the mix the ‘Australia Tax’, and it’s inevitable that we’re going to source our music from somewhere convenient that doesn’t try to rip us off.

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