Legal music downloads catching up to pirated copies
BPI report says first half of last year saw 239m legal downloads compared to 345m illegal ones
Legal digital purchases of songs are starting to catch up with pirated downloads, according to music lobby group the BPI.
While the record industry used to claim only one in ten downloads were legal, the BPI said 345 million tracks were illegally downloaded in the first half of last year, with 239m paid-for downloads.
The industry group claimed last year's closure of Megaupload led to a significant drop in piracy levels, while increasing access to legal services was also having an impact.
Despite innovation in the online market for music, new services still have to compete with websites and services that attract potential customers away because they offer music illegally
"Before its closure, Megaupload had more users than any other locker site in the UK, averaging 1.3m each month in 2011," the BPI said in its report.
With digital sales now accounting for more than half of all music sales, the BPI said the industry had sold 114m albums and 938m single tracks as digital downloads to date.
The figures highlighted the challenge faced by high-street retailers such as HMV, with digital sales now accounting for 99.6% of singles sold.
Despite the progress, the BPI warned that the industry still faced a battle to convert the remaining pirates to paying customers.
"Piracy in the UK remains at a high level with 7m individuals visiting sites that offer content illegally each month," the report said.
"Despite innovation in the online market for music, new services still have to compete with websites and services that attract potential customers away because they offer music illegally for free."