Streaming music service boom helped stunt illegal downloads in 2012

Well done, music lovers

It would appear music piracy's heyday is behind us, as more and more consumers are switching to streaming radio to get their musical fix.

The popularity of services like Spotify and Pandora has seemingly helped slow the illegal downloading business quite a bit, according to the NPD Group, a market research and analytics firm.

Based on information detailed in the group's annual music study, peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing has seen its sharpest decrease in years, with 2012 seeing the lowest amount of piracy since 2005.

While P2P hasn't been eliminated completely, the music industry should be happy to learn that giving people access to the content in more ways digitally has softened the impact of illegal downloads quite a bit.

Reductive reasoning

According to the NPD study, the number of consumers using P2P sharing dropped 17 percent in 2012.

Back in 2005, nearly 20 percent (33 million) of internet users ,13 years of age and older, were using P2P services to get their music. However, in 2012, only 11 percent (21 million) of that same demographic were still using P2P.

Even more impressive, the number of illegally downloaded songs through peer-to-peer services fell 26 percent last year, with 40 percent of users who claimed to download illegal music in 2011 giving it up entirely in 2012.

Of those that stopped illegally downloading music, almost half reported the reason as being able to stream licensed music through various services.

"Among other factors, the increased use of legal and licensed streaming services has proven to be an alternative for music fans who formerly used P2P networks to obtain music," said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

Growth industry

As more and more streaming services pop up giving consumers more options on how to obtain the content they want legally, use of the P2P system to get music could fall even farther.

Reports indicate both Google and Apple are making moves to enter the streaming music market, and industry heavyweights Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor are teaming for a service under the Beats banner.

Microsoft offers Xbox Music, joining Sony's Music Unlimited, and even Nokia is getting in on the action with Music+ for its Lumia line of smartphones.

How many streaming services the market will be able to sustain remains to be seen, but for now it appears people are jumping ship to hear their music through more legal paths.