Last month Taylor Swift poured her heart out in the Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry, blamed declining CD sales on illegal downloading, p2p file sharing and streaming services and thinks music should be valued by the amount of heart and soul a musician puts into their work. While I disagree with the latter (how does one quantify ‘heart and soul’?), I do agree with the former – the way people are consuming music has drastically changed and will continue to evolve over the next few years.

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Fittingly, Nielsen SoundScan has released its annual mid-year report and streaming audio and music video has increased 42% year-over-year, to 70 billion accessed streams so far in 2014 (33.65 billion songs were streamed, and 36.64 billion music videos were streamed, to be precise). When you break it down further, on-demand audio has increased by 50.1% and on-demand music video streaming has increased by 35.2%.


The Shift From Ownership to Access

One thing we can glean from these stats is that we’re well in the midst of another digital disruption in the music industry. Consumers are moving away from wanting to own music and store it on their shelves or their hard drives and would rather access it whenever and wherever they please. This makes complete sense as we continue to move towards a culture of ubiquitous Internet connectivity, but was very hard for me to accept at first. The amount of time I have spent over the years organizing my 20,000+ song iTunes library (and prior to that, my sprawling record collection), making and sharing playlists (before that, mixtapes and CDs) but I, like many others, have embraced the change and now stream music constantly.

GigaOM reported earlier this year that YouTube is the world’s biggest music streaming service, which is really interesting when you consider that it’s not actually a dedicated music streaming platform. But YouTube’s popularity continues to grow as a music streaming service because it’s free, fast and easy to access, and you can find an expansive range of musical content on the platform from official music videos, to concert footage, to fans lip syncing along to their favorite songs (not for the faint of heart). When listening to music on the go, many people just load up their YouTube playlist of favorite videos and stream like that. I’ve unfortunately been to many parties where YouTube is the house DJ. But this method of music consumption can be problematic in the workplace from a bandwidth perspective if multiple people in the office are streaming songs via YouTube, especially if they’re rocking out to high definition music videos.

How many people still download music illegally? While streaming continues to grow and digital downloads continue to decline, there’s still a large group of people who continue to illegally download and share music. According to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, the digital theft of music, movies and copyrighted content accounts for 24% of global Internet bandwidth. In Australia alone, 2.8 million people pirate music monthly, sharing a total of 1 billon songs a year, according to Kate Vale, Spotify Australia’s managing director, whose hope is to get these people to switch over to a streaming model.

However, we know that even with relatively affordable services like Netflix within our reach, people still illegally download Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black, so why would it be any different with music? Even with the plethora of music streaming services out there, users still continue to illegally download and share music, especially leaked material prior to album release dates.

Piracy is a problem that’s not going to go away on its own and as streaming continues to surge, IT managers need to be able to set policies to limit prohibited and bandwidth hogging behavior on enterprise and educational networks.

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