Why Do People Download Music Illegally?

Duh.  Because it’s free.  But there’s more to the behaviour than that.  Digital Music News has a story about how a new study indicates that the number of people downloading music illegally is almost equal to the number who download music through legitimate means.

So why go the illegal route?  According to the study:


  • Because it’s free:  50%
  • Because it’s convenient:  46% (I’d argue otherwise, but never mind)
  • Because it’s quick:  43%
  • Because they want to try before buying:  26%


Read the entire story here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

7 thoughts on “Why Do People Download Music Illegally?

  • March 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    From what I've been able to deduce, the group that flagrantly downloads popular music and keeps it are the very people that the "product" is marketed to.
    It has no value to them. The record companies have made the advertising so generic that they've shot themselves in their own foot, so to speak.

  • March 13, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    I just spent $29 bucks and tax on Sound City – Real To Real. I wanted the double vinyl with the digital download. I will take time to download from Bit Torrent sites what Record Stores don't feel is worth putting on their shelves. I don't want to wait for my order from Amazon or buy a crap 128 kbps download from iTunes. The music industry still doesn't have a clue how to reach the true music fans.

  • March 13, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Most record companies are marketing the tours more now anyways… Where the real money can be made. in england, tour dvds constantly outsell those of movies, and they've marketed them to be available when people want something physical as a gift (christmas). it makes near perfect sense. I was flabbergasted as to why mumford and sons tour dvd came out in november in the uk… But not for several months in north america. Its a model that will work but a culture of it needs to be built.

  • March 14, 2013 at 1:07 am

    The more convenient comes down to this, if there is one file I can download and have an artist entire catalog in lossless and it downloads quickly this is much more convenient to having to get low quality from the online store or buying and ripping to lossless.

    Personally I pay for a streaming service for my music needs.

  • March 14, 2013 at 4:31 am

    I'm sure the 21-and-under demographic really cares about illegal downloads, copyrights and the old guard trying to preserve the old business model. It's always the idealistic old farts like David Lowery who are outspoken, and never the 18 year-old's into Lady Gaga.

  • March 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I use torrents for those 4 main top reasons but also because of "rarity". Try looking for an album by Moist or Rusty or Rheostatics … no, try looking for an album by Rush or The Tragically Hip after you have moved from Toronto to Australia.

    uTorrent offered me something that I was more than willing to pay for but I have either no way of buying what I want or I just have to jump through too many hoops.

    Now here is a scenario for you, I very happily pay a subscription to Netflix as well as a service that lets me access Netflix … it just comes off my card every month and I find that far more convenient than using uTorrent, which would cost me nothing.
    Now look at this, I am back in the billing cycle and paying the creators of the content I am consuming (or at least I am paying somebody who has legally acquired it and is allowed to sell it). Region locking is a moronic practice and easy to get around and I think once we get around this hurdle, people will be attracted to the wider offering of services and will ultimately consume more. I know I do.
    If my music/video subscription services were to suddenly be blocked again, I would return to ripping off the content and have absolutely no remorse about it – why ? because they have now made it hard for me to get what I want where I was previously quite happy to pay for it. It's their own fault and either way the artist starves because if I can't have an easy subscription service, I will consume less content which means I will not be exposed to the artist anyway (suggestion folders are what subscription services are all about). So they do not get the money nor my on going support for their craft because I don't know about them.

    Make it easy, make money. Make it hard, go broke. Either way, I am going to get what I want – because I can.

    Where I have no desire for physical copies of video, I certainly do have the desire for physical copies of Audio so I am a bit different in that respect. I will always end up buying the album.

  • June 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    The honest truth?

    Amazon.com won't allow anyone outside the U.S. to download MP3s. Amazon.co.uk won't allow anyone outside the UK to download MP3s. Amazon.ge won't allow anyone outside of Germany to download MP3s. And that's when you try to pay for it. The fact is that until someone makes it globally available for cash, people like me are left with two options for increasing their music library: Buy the entire album (for one song? No thanks) or illegally download it.


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