One-Third of All Young People Use Stream Ripping to Steal Music, Global Study Shows

Despite widespread acceptance of piracy, legit streaming continues to grow, with the biggest increase among older demos, IFPI's survey shows.

IFPI, an organization that represents the music industry around the world, has released its annual report on global music consumption, and while it includes some encouraging figures about the increased adoption of legal streaming, there are alarming numbers about the everyday acceptance of piracy.

According to the study, 34% of all 16-to-24-year-old music listeners surveyed admitted to using “stream ripping” apps or services to illegally copy music. When all respondents (ages 16 to 64) are factored in, the overall number of admitted stream rippers globally is 23%. “Stream ripping is the illegal practice of creating a downloadable file from content that is available to stream online,” the study says. “It is now the most prevalent form of online music copyright infringement.”

The numbers for general copyright infringement are not that higher — 38% in the younger demo had used illegal services in the last month, and 27% among overall age groups — confirming the study’s statement that stream-ripping is by far the most prevalent form of music piracy in 2019.

But in more positive news, the numbers for legit streaming continue to trend upward, with nearly all-inclusive figures for the youngest demographics and higher rates of increase for older listeners who might have been streaming holdouts.

For the first time, more than half of all global listeners in the 35-64-year-old age group had used streaming in the past month. The figure for that grown-up demographic was 54% — up 8% from 2018.

Streaming numbers were up in every age group; even among 16-to-24-year-olds, the percentage who stream music increased 5%. It’s just that there’s less room for growth there; streaming already has 83% penetration among that youngest surveyed demographic.

Paid streaming has also passed the halfway mark among the youngest consumers. The study showed that 52% of 16-to-24-year-olds had used a paid streaming service in the past month.

Globally, among all age groups, streaming — of the paid or free variety — was up 7%.

Among those who still purchase music, some interesting demographic anomalies emerged. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the age group that devotes the largest amount of its purchasing power to CDs is 45-54. But if you think that’s true of vinyl, think again: LP purchases are highest among 25-to-34-year-olds… which is the same age group that is likeliest to buy digital downloads.

Globally, 20% of music listeners had used a smartspeaker for home listening in the last three months. However, respondents reported that only 3% of their listening time actually occurred over a smartspeaker.

Radio remains the most prevalent way to consume music, with 29% of listening time spent there, with smartphone use following very close behind at 27%. Computers and laptops account for 19% of music consumption, with traditional home stereo setups lagging far behind at 8% (but still five percentage points ahead of smartspeakers).

IFPI’s survey consisted of a whopping 34,000 Internet users in 21 countries that account for more than 90% of global music consumption, with the respondents and results proportioned according to the size of the nations, which included the U.S., UK, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, Japan, Italy and Sweden. (China and India were surveyed but accounted for separately and left out of the global numbers, presumably because of their statistical anomalies.) The margin of error was reported as 3%.

IFPI has represented music business interests globally since its founding in 1933 as “the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry,” with the org preferring to just go by its acronym now, for obvious contemporary reasons.

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