A new study indicates that an estimated 57 million Americans are acquiring music illegally either through P2P sharing services and the ever-growing practice of stream ripping. Interestingly, many of these consumers are also purchasing music legally, but resorts to piracy because they don't want the songs badly enough to actually pay for them.

MusicWatch, a research firm focused on the music industry, set out to find out what's going on in the minds of consumers who illegally acquire music. The study involved 1,000 participants from the United States between the ages of 13 and 50 who performed one of seven types of illegal music acquisition.

The survey has produced some interesting and unexpected results.

The survey shows many of the illegal acquirers are otherwise good paying customers for music, in other words, many of them do not use illegal acquisition as their sole means of getting their tunes - in many cases, they pay for it also.

It appears as if many of the tracks being downloaded illegally are chosen because the listener has some interest in the song, but doesn't want the track enough to be willing to pay for it. A full 80 percent of music rippers cited that reason for stealing tracks.

Although, many also do acquire unlicensed music for the obvious reason of saving money on songs they would otherwise pay for. About one in three of all regular music buyers admitted that they have gotten at least one song from an unsanctioned source.

The data also show the growing perception that consumers are not bothered about ownership of songs as long as they have unlimited streaming access is overstated. Downloading and permanently owning the songs is important to many music consumers.

The methods used for downloading music illegally have evolved since the days of Napster and LimeWire. While P2P file sharing still represents a big piece of the music pirating pie, stream ripping has gained in popularity.

This relatively new process involves music fans searching for YouTube videos and SoundCloud posts of the songs they desire and then entering the URLs into online converters that create permanent mp3s of the tracks, then make them available for permanent download.

Streamripping has become so widespread that it is now almost as common as direct file sharing. There were attempts to shut down the sites that offer the process have been unsuccessful thus far.

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