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If You Give Music Away Free (And Legally), They Will Come

Free is always better, but free and legal is the best.

At least that is what music lovers appear to be thinking. According to The NPD Group, illegal music downloads conducted via Peer-to-Peer (P2P) websites dropped off dramatically in 2012 as people opted for online music streaming services as their preferred choice for free music.

Data from NPD’s Annual Music Study 2012 showed a 17 percent decline in P2P usage. The actual number of Internet users utilizing P2P sites fell 11 percent to 21 million, down from its peak of 33 million in 2005.

In addition to fewer people illegally obtaining music, the amount of music downloaded also decreased 26 percent. NPD questioned why those who had been using P2P sites had stopped and 40 percent claimed they had stopped doing so. The primary reason given for this change of heart was their preferred use of free streaming sites.

Interestingly, stealing music was not the only activity to decline last year. Fewer people were borrowing, burning and ripping their friends CDs and the number of music files swapped directly between hard drives dropped 25 percent. Finally, the number of music downloads from digital lockers decreased 28 percent.

There is also a practical reason for the decrease in P2P usage. There are many fewer sites to access as the music industry has expended a huge amount of money and time to shut them down. But just as important, P2P users said, was that they were sick of the viruses, spyware and spam associated with the remaining sites.