Sep 11, 2014 · 2 minutes

Australians aren't pirating music as often as they were before, according to a study by Spotify that analyzed the rate at which consumers in the country illegally downloaded music via their mobile phones. And the company isn't shy about its excitement at the idea of selling its service to everyone who have decided they would rather pay for their music, or at least suffer through a few ads, than download it for free.

According to the study, a 20 percent decrease in downloaded music occurred between 2012 and 2013, with music lagging behind films and other entertainment in terms of overall downloads. Unlike many studies into piracy, this one focused on actual downloads instead of on those that consumers are willing to report.

But it isn't perfect: as ZD Net notes in its report, most people don't download a lot of music with a wireless data connection because of the harsh limits on how much they can use each month. (Not that those limits stop companies like Facebook from using a consumer's data however they want without regard to the costs, of course.) But it's still an interesting look at what happens when more options are offered to those who would've otherwise pirated music.

People don't really like pirating content. It's a last resort used when a company hasn't made a film, album, or other piece of content (ugh) available in a convenient package. That's what David Sirota reported last December, in a piece on entertainment's desire to be accessible:

This theory is based on the perception of friction, the idea being that when it comes to any kind of sharing – legal or illegal – the entire online world is basically a frictionless place. But there may be another kind of friction factor that plays an even bigger role in the piracy economy: accessibility.

Such is the takeaway from a new National Bureau of Economic Research study conducted by experts at Wellesley College and Carnegie Mellon University. Evaluating what happened when ABC added its content to Hulu, the researchers found that the move “caused a nearly 20 percent drop in pirated downloads of the added content.” According to the researchers, that finding is consistent with results from their previous study of NBC content on iTunes. The researchers consequently conclude that “delivering television content in more convenient, readily available channels can cause a substantial number of pirates to turn from illegal file-sharing channels to legal channels” – even though the former channels are free and the latter channels incur a financial cost to the end user. Spotify is positioning itself to take advantage of that aversion to piracy -- or "friction," at least -- and commissioning studies like this one is a great way to convince labels and artists that it's better to take whatever they can get from its service than to leave their wares open to piracy.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]