The U.S. music piracy rankings: Gainesville (FL), New York, Los Angeles top the list

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In spite of the growing number of well-promoted music subscription services available on the U.S. market like Spotify, Rdio, Amazon, iTunes Match, among others, music piracy remains a fact of life for many.

Research firm Musicmetric reports that 97 million BitTorrent music files were downloaded across the United States in the first half of 2012, of which 78 percent corresponded to full album downloads. Because albums are only counted as one, with an average album containing 7-10 songs each, that means over 700 million songs have been downloaded via torrents so far this year. The U.S. accounts for about 16 percent of global music piracy via torrents, according to the study.

On a per capita basis, Gainesville, Florida ranks #1 on the country for most pirated music. Home to the University of Florida, alma matter of this editor, Gainesville is home to close to 50,000 students and 260,000 people in its metropolitan area. Cities completing the per-capita top 5 include Albany (GA), Fairbanks, Alaska, Lexington (Ken), and Tallahassee (FL).

Rihanna’s ‘Talk that Talk’ was the most downloaded release globally with 1.2m, followed by Billy Van’s ‘The Cardigan’ EP with 1m, Adele’s ‘21’ album with 990,000, Gotye’s ‘Making Mirrors’ album with 904,000 and Drake’s ‘Take Care’ mixtape which notched up 860,000 downloads.

In absolute terms, New York topped the chart with 7 million music downloads in this period, followed by Los Angeles (6.2 million), Chicago (3.2 million), Atlanta (2.6 million), and Philadelphia (2.5 million).

Coincidentally enough, Gainesville also happens to be where music streaming service Grooveshark was founded. Grooveshark employs over 100 people on its Florida headquarters, and has been subject to lawsuits by all the major music companies over alleged copyright infringement.

Other key findings of the report included the fact that lower volumes of torrent downloads relative to GDP occurred where Spotify and iTunes exist around the world. SoundCloud is becoming the ‘new MySpace’: artists that had the most plays on SoundCloud a year ago have the most fans across all social media networks today.

Musicmetric claims to have tracked each download, and not the number of shares or downloads of the torrent itself. They were able to track files and geographic locations of the downloaders but didn’t look at personal identifiable data.

Top 15 countries for total BitTorrent music downloads (H1/2012), ranked by total volume (source)

  Country Total downloads Approx songs Country population
1 United States 96,681,133 775,382,687 313,232,044
2 United Kingdom 43,263,582 346,973,928 62,698,362
3 Italy 33,158,943 265,934,723 61,016,804
4 Canada 23,959,924 192,158,590 34,030,586
5 Brazil 19,724,522 158,190,666 194,037,075
6 Australia 19,232,252 154,242,661 21,766,711
7 Spain 10,303,633 82,635,137 46,754,784
8 India 8,964,360 71,894,167 1,189,172,906
9 France 8,398,550 67,356,371 65,102,719
10 Philippines 8,380,208 67,209,268 101,833,938
11 Mexico 7,522,056 60,326,889 115,017,631
12 Netherlands 6,671,624 53,506,424 16,847,007
13 Portugal 5,607,910 44,975,438 10,760,305
14 Poland 5,052,277 40,519,262 38,441,588
15 Greece 4,933,478 39,566,494 10,760,136

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