The most in-depth report ever on the digital music industry revealed that file-sharing in the UK surpassed 347 million songs in the UK in the first half of 2012, while more than 3bn songs were illegally accessed across the globe.
MusicMetric anonymously tracks BitTorrent activity, a distributed file-sharing network that involves downloading large files quickly by taking different parts from multiple different sources at the same time.
The organisation stressed that no data is retained in its research, and it is not possible to identify any individuals from it.
UK-based BitTorrent consumption hit 43 million torrents containing illegal album and single downloads during the period. Torrents can contain multiple files, but MusicMetric believes that the total breaks down as 78% albums and 22% singles.
If the average album contains at least 10 songs, then the total number of tunes downloaded illegally in Britain would exceed 347 million for the first half of 2012, although that was well behind the 775m pirated song in the US over the same period.
MusicMetric found that Manchester had the highest rate of downloading per capita in Britain, followed by Nottingham and Southampton. London came in 20th place.
Torrents can be legal, but the organisation found that the majority of albums listed were not legally available via BitTorrent services.
It was revealed that Ed Sheeran's + (Plus) was the most popular pirated album, racking up an average of 55,512 downloads every month. By contrast, legal UK sales of the record in the first half of 2012 were 448,000.
Plus was the most pirated album in over 460 towns around the UK, apart from Bournemouth, where Discography of The Eagles topped their chart.
Globally, Talk That Talk was the most pirated album, racking up 1.2m illegal downloads over the six-month period, ahead of Billy Van's The Cardigan EP with 1m, and Adele's 21 album with 990,000,
Gregory Mead, chief executive of MusicMetric, said that the music industry's move to force UK internet service providers to block infamous file-sharing site The Pirate Bay earlier in the year is having little affect on piracy activity.
"For the first time, we have evidence that blocking Pirate Bay had little effect on BitTorrent downloading," he said.
"It is also clear however, that availability of streaming services like Spotify does reduce this activity as people have greater access to music they want via legitimate means.
"The challenge for copyright holders is to find ways to monetise music files torrented online. The potential for converting revenue lost through file trading is not entirely a fairy tale, however it will differ with different genres and life stages of artist."
Matt Mason, executive director at the BitTorrent network, said that MusicMetric's findings offer a "fascinating insight" into the realities of the digital music market, particularly the potential benefits of legal use of Torrents.
"These figures show for the first time that blocking the Pirate Bay had zero effect on piracy. It's short-sighted to think that we can simply tell people to stop and they will," he said.
"But great data like this will help companies build better services and platforms that empower artists to distribute their work into the BitTorrent ecosystem in ways that make sense for them.
"Consumers have used the BitTorrent protocol for over decade because it's the best way to move large files. That's true for musicians too.
"The challenge is building the right business models on top of the technology, which is something we're very committed to here."
Top 20 UK cities over the six-month period based on BitTorrent downloads per capita:
1. Manchester - 1,317,012
2. Nottingham - 598,621
3. Southampton - 480,151
4. Liverpool - 927,535
5. Sheffield - 748,301
6. Leicester - 487,406
7. Stoke-on-trent - 380,872
8. Glasgow - 1,037,934
9. Cardiff - 348,603
10. Leeds - 566,589
11. Bristol - 424,790
12. Edinburgh - 519,736
13. Wolverhampton - 257,840
14. Derby - 195,632
15. Reading - 190,053
16. Bradford - 233,339
17. Kingston upon Hull - 256,479
18. Birmingham - 803,741
19. Coventry - 198,481
20. London - 4,565,502
The Top 20 albums illegally downloaded in the UK in the first half of 2012:
1. Ed Sheeran - + (Plus)
2. Rizzle Kicks - Stereo Typical
3. Rihanna - Talk That Talk
4. Jessie J - Who You Are
5. Olly Murs - In Case You Didn't Know
6. Emeli Sandé - Our Version of Events
7. Ben Howard - Every Kingdom
8. Chase & Status – No More Idols
9. Chris Brown - F.A.M.E
10. Gotye - Making Mirrors
11. Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
12. Drake - Take Care
13. Adele - 21
14. Kanye West - Watch The Throne
15. Beyoncé - 4
16. Snow Patrol - Fallen Empires
17. The Script - Science & Faith
18. James Morrison - The Awakening
19. JLS - Jukebox
20. Florence and The Machine - Ceremonials