Yesterday we reported on statistics from BitTorrent tracker MusicMetrica company that statistically monitors the downloading of illegal material, that showed that Gotye was amongst the most pirated acts of the year, with his Making Mirrors album containing global smash hit “Somebody That I Used To Know” making the Top 10 most illegally downloaded albums list.

The MusicMetric study is believed to be the biggest analysis of its kind to be conducted, and demonstrated that while the US and UK were the biggest downloaders of illegal music in the world, logging nearly 97 million and 44 million pirated downloads in the first six months of the year respectively, Australia was no saint when it came to obtaining music either.

In fact our nation falls just outside the top five behind Italy with 33,158,943 illegal downloads, Canada (23,959,924) and Brazil (19,724,522). But some interesting analysis from The Age reveals that statistically we could be the worst of the lot.

By head of population, Australians download music illegally more frequently that any other country. Although MusicMetric‘s survey stats show Australia at 19,104,047 illegal downloads from the period of January to July of 2012, when that’s sized up to our population of 23 million – it makes us the most frequent user of unofficial or illegal sites.

In a similarly bizarre twist of patriotism, just as the UK’s most illegally downloaded artist was their own singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (with his 2011 album + racking up 55,512 downloads every month in Great Britain), Australia’s most popular artist to pilfer from is Adelaide hip-hop outfit, Hilltop Hoods.

When quizzed about the stats, Hilltop Hoods’ manager Dylan Liddy told The Age that he was sceptical about the MusicMetric figures as well as their impact on the group’s popularity and financial impact. Adding positively, “It is what is. It’s great that the boys are popular.”

“We are in the business of selling records so it would be great if we could monetise everything,” said Liddy. “But at the moment, the way that the music world has moved is getting [towards] illegal downloads and that’s very hard to police.”

Liddy also demonstrated the other side of the argument in the facts demonstrating the continued popularity of the Adelaide group, with the Hilltop Hoods’ latest album, Drinking From The Sun, still sitting pretty in the ARIA Top 40 Albums Chart. Liddy also noted that they had no trouble selling in a country where overall sales have held against global trends towards a slump.

Drinking From The Sun, no matter the amount of illegal downloads it may have suffered from, still managed to reach the top slot of the sales chart, selling in excess of 70,000 copies in both physical and digital formats.

“We are tremendously successful in the digital world. We have a lot of people downloading from various retail sites, legitimate retail sites, and that has done very well for us in the last couple of years. Our fan base is very tech-savvy and very online-savvy so it goes hand in hand. But it also goes hand in hand with the overall market which is moving towards a lot of digital sales as well,” says Liddy.

Indeed, earlier in the year digital sales outstripped physical sales for the first time in the UK earlier this year while the success of streaming services have led analysts to forecast that the sales of digital music – including downloads and streaming services which are now a $1 billion industry – would overtake physical sales by 2015.

Here in Australia, ARIA’s own statistics for 2011 suggest that Australians are generally happy to pay for downloads and still buy physical albums at a ‘comfortable’ rate.

ARIA’s figures show a 37% increase in digital sales from the previous year while the overall share of the music market in Australia was the same figure of 37%. The largest growth in music purchases for 2011 was for digital albums, despite the overall figure of $372,772,000 being down slightly from 2010. These figures are interestingly corroborated by MusicMetric‘s own findings that show that album downloads were more popular than single track downloads.

Speaking to ARIA CEO Dan Rosen earlier in the year on the advent of streaming services and music piracy, Rosen noted that new digital music services would “certainly assist with reducing music piracy.” Emphasising that, “there never was any moral justification for stealing an artists work, but with almost all music now being available for free or at a low cost, there is no justification for any music fan to use a pirate sites where money doesn’t go to the artist and label.”

Rosen insisted though that for Australia to better monitor illegal downloading and music piracy, it needed Government assistance. “To eliminate piracy… we still need urgent assistance from Government and ISPs to help protect our artists rights online, so that our creative industries can continue to survive and indeed grow, so we may enjoy their creative works for generations to come.”

The latest figures from MusicMetric demonstrate that Australia is the worst downloader of illegal music per capita, may be enough to suggest that further action needs to be taken. Whether ARIA, or the labels and artists they represent, will continue to urge for the Government to take up arms, or loud enough to get them to intervene, is another matter.

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