Spotify’s director of economics, Will Page, spoke at the Bigsound conference in Brisbane, Australia, about the impact of legal streaming services on piracy. His data showed that, in the year from December 2012, the volume of BitTorrent files downloaded by Australians dropped by more than 20%. Spotify launched in Australia on May 21, 2012. Since then, he said one in six Aussies have tried out the music service.
“It’s exciting to see that we are making inroads into reducing the music piracy problem within such a short space of time in this market,” Page said. “It shows the scope for superior legal services (offered at an accessible price point) to help improve the climate for copyright online.”
While Page’s presentation emphasized the potential of legal services to reduce piracy, the correlation between Spotify’s presence and reduced BitTorrent activity is not crystal clear. The illegal download platform includes more than just music, and Page acknowledged that BitTorrent has a vastly higher demand for movies and TV shows than for music. Is that because listeners have legal options or because more Aussies are interested in visual media? That level of nuance can’t be easily divined. The study, conducted by MusicMetric, also focused solely on BitTorrent, although many other illegal sites are available. Plus, Australia’s online music industry has a complicated history regarding licensing fees, which can quickly cause trouble even for an established and respected service.
It seems reasonable to see a connection between the advent of Spotify and a drop in piracy, but the latest data isn’t enough to draw definitive conclusions that streaming decreases illegal downloads. Australia has more than a dozen streaming services currently available, many of which are recent additions to the market. We’d be curious to see if the decline from this study continues into the current and coming years.