Researchers discovered there were more illegal downloads per person in Manchester than any other UK spot, followed by Nottingham and Southampton.
The study showed a total of 43 million albums and singles were downloaded illegally in the UK during the first six months of the year.
The first ever Digital Music Index revealed 78% of the BitTorrent downloads - a technique to simultaneously source from multiple locations - were albums and the remainder singles.
The survey by Musicmetric covered the entire BitTorrent sphere and claimed to offer the most accurate picture yet of the digital music cyberspace.
If each album is calculated to contain at least 10 songs then the total number of tunes downloaded would exceed 345 million for the first half of 2012, researchers said.
Analysis showed that Manchester's per capita downloading hit 395,516, followed by Nottingham (246,655) and Southampton (246,201).
Discounting per capita figures, for sheer download volumes London led the way with a total of 7,421,228.
Research showed the most popular pirated albums in the first half of 2012 were Ed Sheeran's + (Plus), Rizzle Kicks' Stereo Typical and Rihanna's Talk That Talk.
Musicmetric chief executive Gregory Mead said: "For the first time, we have evidence that blocking Pirate Bay had little effect on illegal downloading.
"It is also clear however, that availability of streaming services like Spotify does reduce illegal activity as people have greater access to music they want.
"The challenge for copyright holders is to find ways to monetise music files torrented online."
Widespread piracy still remains the largest factor that undermines the digital music business, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
The IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide, said: "The vast scale of the problem is widely recognised, as is the recent evolution of new forms and channels.
"Globally, it is estimated that 28% - one in four - of internet users access unauthorised services on a monthly basis."
IFPI added: "Even in a digital marketplace replete with attractive legal services, illegal 'free' continues to be an irresistible magnet for consumers."