Effects of Pirated Music On The Music Industry


Early Days of Pirated Music

Long gone are the days of hearing a song on the radio, going to your local store, and purchasing a hard copy of an album. Pirating music began gaining traction in the late 90s and by the late 2000s it had severely hurt the profitability of the music industry as a whole.


US Sales from 1999-2009

Watch The Throne

On August 8th, 2011, XXL Magazine posted an article on their website that began as such: “For the first time since the dawn of the Internet age, one of the year’s most anticipated albums has remained leak-free. Jay-Z and Kanye West’s joint album, Watch the Throne, ceremoniously hit iTunes today (August 8), and the duo, collectively known as The Throne, have miraculously managed to keep their LP under tight guard.” 


Watch The Throne Album Cover

A “leak” is when the file of an album becomes accessible for users to download illegally before it’s release date. This was very prevalent for a number of years. The two artists did a number of things to make sure that this didn’t happen but their most important one was that they didn’t begin the process of manufacturing hard copies until four days after the iTunes release date. If a single CD out of the millions manufactured in foreign countries like China reached the wrong hands it’s contents could have been uploaded to the internet for the world to hear ahead of schedule. This album was revolutionary for the music industry not because of the music on it but because of the process in which it was released. This process has since been used by countless other artists and labels to achieve similar results.

Streaming Services

In 2013, Forbes published an article about a research study on the decline of pirated music which stated some interesting numbers. In the study it stated that illegally downloaded music files declined by 26% from 2011 to 2012, 40% of the people surveyed in the study who said that they’d illegally downloaded in 2011 did not do so in 2012, and nearly half of the people who had stopped or sharply reduced their music downloading cited streaming services like Spotify as the reason for stopping. Services like Apple Music and Spotify are rapidly growing on a daily basis.

Spotify Chart.jpg

New Music Friday

For over 25 years, Tuesdays were the day of the week that artists and record labels would release new music in the USA. This had a lot to do with the shipping of music in the pre-digital era. It gave stores an equal chance to have their inventory ready for the shelves on the initial release date as opposed to Monday when not every store may have received their shipment. It also gave them a chance to restock their inventory during the week in order to prepare for the weekend sales. It was a pretty effective strategy until advances in technology like iTunes and streaming services made new music of all different types more accessible than ever. However, Tuesday wasn’t a unanimous decision internationally. The United Kingdom released their music on Mondays, Australia and Germany on Fridays, and so on.

On February 25th 2016, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) -which essentially acts as the United Nations of the music industry- announced that Friday  would be the global release day for all new music across the world at 00:01 local time beginning on July 10, 2016. This decision was made after much consulting amongst the IFPI (representing 1300+ record labels worldwide), MBAFIM, iTunes, Spotify, Napster, and many more organizations.

This was done with the intent of reducing piracy. New music being released in certain countries before others caused more consumers to download the music illegally simply because it wasn’t available to them through legal means for another few days. This  also allowed artists to focus their social media campaigns on a set date for their fans worldwide. The organization stated that research from TNS found that Fridays and Saturdays were the most preferred days for new music releases.

Frances Moore (CEO of IFPI) stated “Music fans live in the digital world of today. Their love for new music doesn’t recognize national borders. They want music when it’s available on the Internet – not when it’s ready to be released in their country. An aligned global release day puts an end to the frustration of not being able to access releases in their country when the music is available in another country.” 

While many agreed on this decision, a lot of powerful voices strongly opposed it. Martin Mills (Head of the Beggars Group, the UK’s largest independent) stated his belief that he believes the consultation was simply a charade and that this was going to be passed regardless. He believes this move reinforces the strength of the mainstream as well as further marginalizes the niche, which could be tomorrow’s mainstream. He believes this will further cement the dominance of the few and that this was the real intention of this action.

Regardless of the opinions on this change, it’s already happened and “New Music Fridays” is appearing in more and more places such as Snapchat and Spotify.










  1. polmankevin · ·

    Interesting post. I think that streaming services are definitely the main opponent to pirated music. Why would I download music illegally when I can access it on Apple Music or Spotify. However, I think that pirated music still has a substantial market in the music industry, and streaming services might actually be the reason for the rival of pirated music. One of the main problems with the fierce competition between streaming services is that they fight for the exclusive rights to new music. For example, Tidal had the exclusive rights to The Life of Pablo by Kanye, and Apple Music had the exclusive rights to Views by Drake. I’m sure thousands of Spotify users tried to download these albums illegally rather than waiting for Spotify to gain the right to play it on their service. Something to keep an eye on for the future, will competition between streaming services revive the pirated music market?

  2. Very cool post. I have been doing some research on my own on the music industry and the effects of streaming are crazy. The invention of Napster started the whole fad, but now with every new album comes the fear of a leak and the loss of revenue. I only hope people can stop pirating music and enjoy the talents that artists bring to the table day in day out.

  3. rohansuwarna · ·

    Great blog post! This has become a very interesting topic in recent years. Even in class we discussed the battle over the music streaming industry since this source is what consumers prefer. Paying $5 a month and being able to click a button in order to add music to my library is much easier than downloading a song/album on Limewire, BeeMP3, or MP3 Skull, then importing it into my iTunes Library and then synching my phone to my laptop. Also, I would rather have the actual music file from the artist than music that has been tampered with and has lower quality. As a result, paying $5 for the ease and higher quality is certainly better to me than a longer strenuous process.

  4. Very interesting post! As a music lover, I love the streaming services and am a huge Spotify user. It really is the main combatant to the pirated music from happening. With such a low price for $5 for ease, why wouldn’t you get it instead of going through the effort downloading and even pirating music. I have the New Music Friday and Discover Weekly playlists saved and it is a great way to listen to new music and discover things. It allows artists to be discovered without people having to leak music.

  5. Thoughtful post! I had no idea there was a “federation” for the industry. I hadn’t really thought about the different time zones and release dates playing a part in pirating but I think it’s great that the IFPI has taken measures to protect artists’ music. I think we’ve all played a part in the piracy issue because illegal music is SO accessible. However, since streaming services like Spotify have come out, I am way more inclined to pay a small monthly fee than download music illegally (and risk a computer virus). It’ll be interesting to see how other platforms will capitalize on the “New Music Friday” concept.

  6. Nice post. Music services are always a popular topic in this class!

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