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Perhaps the music industry should think twice before alienating some of its highest profile customers

While the independent music industry and small labels are largely thriving, the major label music industry is down on its luck.  Big artists like Jay-Z, Britney Spears, and Metallica just aren't selling as many albums as they used to.  The major labels blame this on pirates.  They have banded behind a thuggish organization by the name of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has tried to strong arm thousands of filesharers into out-of-court settlements typically totaling a couple thousand a piece.

A new study, though, brings the industry's tactics of attacking filesharers into question.  The new study, conducted as an online poll by the research organization Demos had 1008 total respondents between the ages of 16 and 50.

Approximately one in 10 of the people freely admitted to using sites like The Pirate Bay or filesharing utilities to download music illegally.  Ironically, though the pirates appeared to be the most enthused about music and the biggest legitimate buyers of music as well.  Of the pirates 8 out of 10 said they bought CDs, vinyl and as MP3s legally.

The pirates estimated their yearly purchases at £77 ($126) on average, versus a mere £44 for non-pirates ($72).  Thus it appears that the industry's current "collection" tactics may be risking alienating its own biggest customers that  in theory amount to over 16 percent of their total revenue.

The survey also offered other interesting insight into online music use.  Approximately half of those responding said they had accessed music via YouTube.  And almost 22 percent listened to internet radio.  Meanwhile, the study showcased Napster's fall from relevance.  The former P2P giant-turned legit business was only used by 4 percent of those responding, and 21 percent had never heard of it.  Spotify, a streamed peer-to-peer music service with DRM (you can't put files on your MP3 player), on the other hand showed traction, with 9 percent saying they had used it.

The survey indicated more would buy MP3's legally, but that they are currently priced to high.  Approximately 75 percent said they would buy tracks for 45 pence (approximately 73 cents), but that current rates (of a dollar or more) were too high.  This makes sense as many stores like iTunes charge rates on par with their physical equivalents, but without the perks of the physical purchases, such as album art and liner notes (some of this is now being offered -- but only with full album purchases).

The study was conducted from Britain, one of the nations with the most aggressive recording industry.  From allegedly stealing copyrighted music from independent artists to suing people for singing in public, Britain's Performing Rights Society (PRS) has made the RIAA looked downright friendly by comparison.

Britain is considering a law that would terminate pirates from the internet after three filesharing violations.  It would also levy steep fines against them.  The bill is opposed by the liberal and conservative parties, the majority of the public, law enforcement, the tech community, and internet service providers.  However, the ruling center-left Labour Party is firmly behind the music industry in supporting the measure.

Stated a spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, a government organization currently headed by Labour Party appointees, "The scale of unlawful file-sharing poses a real threat to the long-term sustainability of our creative industries.  While surveys asking people about unlawful behaviour should be treated with caution, it's encouraging that the findings signal that the three-pronged approach set out by the Government this week - a mix of education, enforcement and attractive new commercial deals - provides the best way forward for industry and consumers."

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By spwrozek on 11/3/2009 8:40:52 AM , Rating: 2
I am wondering who steals music anymore(young adults, teens, old people?)? It is so easy to legally get the songs you want at a good price that there is really no reason. Typically you can get on youtube and see if you like a song (if you don't already know) and then go buy it off amazon for a buck.

RE: Who?
By AWeav09 on 11/3/2009 8:52:40 AM , Rating: 5
Pretty much everyone I know (mostly young adults) downloads music illegally. Sure getting it legally isn't that expensive, but you can't beat free.

Personally, I'll gladly steal any music that comes from a member of the RIAA, but when I find independent music that I like, I go out and buy the CD.

RE: Who?
By Denigrate on 11/3/2009 8:59:03 AM , Rating: 5
I see it more as finding new artists that I haven't listened to before. As a non-mainstream music fan, it's much harder to discover new talent. When I find a band that clicks, I go and buy ALL their albums from Amazon or Rapsody. One thing that is a bit annoying is that many bands that I like have a lot of music that is never released in the USA.

RE: Who?
By Spivonious on 11/3/2009 9:34:19 AM , Rating: 1
And with songs showing up on YouTube now, there's really no reason to download something to see if it's good before buying it.

Personally, I still buy CDs. They just sound better. Now if I could buy lossless tracks at $1 or less then I might reconsider, but there's just something nice about having something physical in your hands. That's why electronic books haven't really caught on, and that's why we still have CDs, DVDs, newspapers, magazines, etc.

RE: Who?
By Denigrate on 11/3/2009 2:46:01 PM , Rating: 2
I still buy physical copies of all the authors I read that don't publish electronic copies, but the VAST majority of my reading over the last couple years was done on a Nokia N770 via downloads of scanned books.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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