Ed Sheeran, the UK's most pirated singer.

Ed Sheeran, the UK's most pirated singer.

With the music industry becoming more and more digital and music easier to get now than ever before, you would presume that music piracy might be so much of issue now than in the past.

That’s not the case though, as a recent study by statistics company MusicMetric has claimed that there are more than 43 million total instances of illegal downloading of music, or ‘shares’, with Ed Sheeran coming top as the UK’s most pirated artist.

To put that into perspective, that’s for the first half of 2012 alone.

These aren’t individual tracks either, as most of the shares are of full albums, meaning that the music industry is losing hundreds of millions of pounds from the UK alone.

While the likes of Geoff Taylor, the chief executive of the UK music industry sights it as “A major concern”, a viable position for the biggest artists, perhaps this is a golden opportunity for those willing to take a leap of faith.

Some artists are embracing this thought, with electronic DJ Billy Van a prime example of those artists making the most of the downloading culture. The Dubstep artist has appeared as the most downloaded artist in India, Brazil, Romania and Greece amongst others.

Offering his music for free via ‘torrent’ (a method of downloading files from the internet) he simply asks for contributions. In return he gives out rewards, ranging from a physical copy of his CD to being your DJ for the night (but only if you give him $2,500).

He’s not the only artist aware of free downloads though, with rapper Childish Gambino having made all of his mix tapes and even his full album available as free downloads.

While it may seem like a slightly illogical move, it may just be what small artists like Billy Van need to do though to make their voice and talents known to the world. If he’d just been selling his music there’s no way that he’d have become so popular in so many different countries.

Even the bigger artists are willing to accept this too, with Ed Sheeran coming out and saying; “I've sold 1.2 million albums, and the stat is that there's 8 million downloads of that as well illegally. Nine million people have my record, in England, which is quite a nice feeling.

"I'm still selling albums, but I'm selling tickets at the same time. My gig tickets are like £18, and my albums £8, so ... it's all relative.”

Music is already available for free anyway, with YouTube and Vevo displaying the biggest artists music for free. It’s can’t be argued that it hurts sales, as Carly Rae Jepsen will not have sold 257 million copies of Call Me Maybe, the number of views the video currently stands at.

Even though music sales are now mostly digital, the legal hoops a lot of artists have to jump through to get their music on popular places such as iTunes are still slightly prohibitive. In a truly global age as well, iTunes having regional stores with different content on simply isn’t viable when within 10 clicks you could have the music for free illegally.

Surely putting out your art for free and building up a fanbase is the way to create a vibrant listenership in this new digital era. Being able to have you music listened too by people from all over the world is surely a big enough temptation for musicians to resist.

FemaleFirst Cameron Smith

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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