Internet pirates went crazy downloading Prince songs the week following the legendary musician’s death.
From April 21-28, a total of 230,031 users were accessing the Purple One’s hits like “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U” and “Let’s Go Crazy” on file-sharing services, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio. That’s more than ten times the 20,341 unique addresses pirating Prince’s songs in the week prior.
During his career, Prince actively fought piracy and unauthorized posts of his material, even threatening to sue fans who shared links to file-sharing sites with his songs.
The surge in piracy of Prince’s work following his death isn’t surprising. It’s worth noting that sales of his albums shot to the top of iTunes, Amazon and other services the day news broke that he was found dead, just as the deaths of artists like David Bowie and Michael Jackson precipitated a rise in purchases of their music.
But the piracy numbers show that illegal sharing of songs remains an ongoing issue for the music biz, despite broad digital distribution of music on paid download services and streaming outlets like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal.
Indeed, the absence of Prince’s songs on services like Spotify and Vevo, and no official versions available on YouTube, may have contributed to the postmortem piracy. Tidal is the only streaming-music service that has rights to his catalog, with a subscription starting at $9.99 per month.
While the ubiquity of legitimate sources of music online has helped put a damper on song swiping, piracy remains widespread: The amount of music downloaded illegally globally rose 16.5% in the second half of 2015 vs. the first six months of the year, according to a study by data-protection and analytics vendor MUSO.
Even as pirates feasted on Prince over the past week, two artists were more popular on file-sharing sites: Drake tallied 248,408 users worldwide swapping his songs, and Kanye West registered 241,825, the Excipio data shows. Justin Bieber’s pirate count was 221,455 from April 21-28, followed by Adele at 219,052.
In terms of geography, the U.S. registered the highest number of Prince pirates, with 80,110 users, followed by the U.K. at 22,017 and Canada at 10,842, per Excipio.