With everyone from Taylor Swift to the European Commission having their say on the 'value gap' argument, new research commissioned by international labels body IFPI shines a timely light on the ever-changing face of music consumption.
Key takeaways from IFPI's "Music Consumer Insight Report 2016" include the news that one-third (32 percent) of under-25-year-olds worldwide now pay for a music streaming service -- a rise of almost 40 percent on the previous year's total. When it comes to all internet users, aged between 16 and 64, the number is 18 percent, up from 15 percent in 2015.
The report, carried out by Ipsos Connect, who surveyed over 12,000 respondents in 13 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany and Japan, also states that nearly half (48 percent) of all internet users pay for music in some way, whether it be through purchasing a CD or download or subscribing to a service like Spotify or Apple Music. Meanwhile, over 80 percent of people who hold music subscriptions said that, in addition to streaming, they also purchase music in other formats, be it vinyl, CDs or downloads.
South Korea, Sweden and Mexico are identified as the most popular (per population) markets for subscription services, with about four in every ten people paying for a music subscription. In the U.S. and U.K., the number was around two in every ten; in Japan around one in every ten.
Despite the growth in licensed music consumption, copyright infringement has not gone away, with more than a third (35 percent) of respondents admitting to accessing illegal content in the past six months. Of those people, stream ripping is the fastest growing form of infringement, with 3 in every 10 respondents admitting to the practice, rising to almost half (49 percent) among 16-to-24-year-olds.
Search engines are also continuing to direct large numbers of traffic to unlicensed content, with a quarter of those polled (23 percent) saying that they use Google to get "free" music -- of which two-thirds explicitly searched for pirated content.
In line with previous years, YouTube remains the world's most popular music service, with over 80 percent of its users saying that visited the site primarily for music. The number climbed to 93 percent among 16-to-24-year-olds.
Further insight into YouTube's user base was provided with the -- not entirely unexpected -- revelation that the vast majority of its traffic (over 80 percent) visited the site to access content that they are already familiar with, rather than discover new music or artists.
Commenting on the research findings, IFPI chief executive Frances Moore said that there were many positives for the music industry to take away from the research, but that it also "highlights the dominant position amongst music services of YouTube."
"Yet YouTube can get away without remunerating fairly artists and producers by hiding behind 'safe harbour' laws that were never designed for services that actively engage with and make available music enjoyed by the vast majority of its users," she went on to say.