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Digital Music Finds a Wide Audience in the UK

Legal music acquisition still more common than illegal acquisition

April 3, 2013 | Media & Entertainment

Streaming and downloading digital music is popular in the UK, and legal acquisition is trumping illegal file-sharing by a good margin. Kantar Worldpanel surveyed UK residents in August 2012 and found that 27.7% of respondents legally downloaded or streamed music content, while only 14.5% obtained music through peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services.

Demographic Profile of UK Digital Music Users, by Type, Aug 2012 (% of respondents in each group)

P2P file-sharing skewed heavily toward younger consumers: 28% of respondents between the ages of 13 and 19 used file-sharing services, dropping down to 22% of those in the 25-to-34 age group. Only 10% of adults ages 45 to 54 used these networks.

Unsurprisingly, a substantial share of digital music sales come from those who only acquire music through legal means; as of September 2012, 42% of total digital music sales came from this group. That’s compared with file-sharers, who represented 16% of digital music sales.

Respondents between the ages of 13 to 24 spent by far the most money on digital music, while older consumers, those 55 and over, spent the most on physical music sales.

Physical and Digital Music Sales Among UK Internet Users, by Age, Sep 2012 (% of total)

Streaming services have had a major impact on UK residents’ awareness and access to digital music. Four out of five UK internet users surveyed in August 2012 were aware of music streaming services in general.

Spotify, which has been widely available in the UK since 2009, had the highest level of awareness among the streaming services, at nearly seven out of 10 UK internet users. is also starting to reach a wider audience, known by just over one-third of internet users.

Awareness of Select Music Streaming Services Among UK Internet Users, Aug 2012 (% of respondents)

Streaming music services are among the newest disruptions to the digital music industry. These services offer varying revenue models, from subscription-based fees to ad-based free streaming. While the overall impact of these services on digital music revenues is not yet known, streaming services provide more options for listening to music without resorting to illegal means.

IHS Screen Digest and the The Official UK Charts Company put UK digital music sales at £383.3 million ($608.4 million) in 2012, up 15% over 2011.

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