The American Assembly, a Columbia University affiliated public policy forum, has posted some surprising results about online music purchases by internet file-sharers.
Their studies have found that US and German file-sharers spend around 30 per cent more on legitimate online music purchases than users who do not pirate music via the internet. The results are part of the American Assembly’s ‘Copy Culture Survey’ that it intends to publish in the near future.
Despite amassing much larger music collections than users who do not use p2p file sharing networks, self-confessed p2p sharers appear to be purchasing more music legally than individuals who do not pirate content at all. It seems the ripping of CDs borrowed from friends and family accounts for almost as much music piracy as online file sharing anyway, which is an interesting discovery. This is something that has been rife since before online piracy music became a mainstream activity.
These findings directly contradict the Recording Industry Association of America’s arguments that online music piracy costs the industry, and its artists, billions of dollars in lost revenue. They RIAA state that: “While downloading one song may not feel that serious of a crime, the accumulative impact of millions of songs downloaded illegally – and without any compensation to all the people who helped to create that song and bring it to fans – is devastating.”
The fact of the matter is, people have always found ways to copy music for their own personal use. Whether it was by cassette tape, mini disc (remember those?), CD or MP3 files, but that doesn’t mean people do not wish to pay for music legally. In the past it was easier to download albums illegally than it was to purchase them through online services. Now that services like iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Google Music have made the process of buying music legally even easier than sourcing it through p2p file sharing networks, users are buying more music through legitimate channels than ever before.
Larger music collections, whether acquired legally or illegally, arguably help to drum up more interest in artists and their music than smaller music collections. As friends share music collections between themselves, they introduce each other to new artists, which in turn raises the profile of the musicians and inevitably leads to more fans, music sales, ticket purchases and overall public exposure.
This is not the first study to find that music pirates tend to be the industry’s most valuable customers, and it certainly won’t be the last. To test this theory, have you ever acquired music via file sharing websites, then subsequently purchased music, tickets or merchandise legally because of it? And if so, would you say this is something that happens frequently?
I expect I have spent more money on music, tickets and merchandise than I ever would have if I hadn’t been able to acquire so much music from friends, family and via the internet.