US music fans download more illegal music than any country in the world, according to a sensational report this morning.
The Digital Music Index report by Musicmetric claims to be the most in-depth study of the global digital music landscape, and tracked 750,000 artists. It reveals that the US are followed by the UK, Italy and Canada as the most prolific illegal downloaders.
405 million music releases were downloaded in the first half of 2012, with 97 million coming from the US and 43 million from the UK. The majority of downloads are of full albums rather than single releases.
The most downloaded artist in the US in 2012 is Drake, while acoustic musician Ed Sheeran is the most downloaded in the UK. Kanye West tops Canada's piracy chart.
Ed Sheeran has responded to the report saying he doesn't mind the illegal downloads because it helps him sell tickets to his shows. "There's a decent balance between you can live off your sales and you can allow people to illegally download it and come to your gigs. My gig tickets are £18 and my album is £8, so it's all relative," he said.
However, chief of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) Geoff Taylor said the report proves that illegal downloads are still a significant problem. "It is having a significant effect on investment in new music. That remains our serious concern," he told the BBC (via Music Week). "We just need to get over to them the harm that they're doing to investment in new British music."
Do you think downloading helps artists gain a fan base, or is it doing irreversible damage to the music industry? Let us know your opinion in the comments.