Filesharers Are the Biggest Legitimate Buyers of Music, Study Says
November 3, 2009 8:10 AM
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.
, 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
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."
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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