Do people who illicitly download songs via peer-to-peer file sharing networks buy more music than those who have never grabbed a torrent or searched for tunes through LimeWire?
That’s what a study by the BI Norwegian School of Management is hinting at, saying people downloading infringing music also buy about 10 times more music than their law-abiding counterparts, according to Oslo newspaper Aftenposten.
But does that mean music pirates are also the recording industry’s best customers? Maybe. Maybe not.
On the “maybe side” you have P2P proponents citing the school’s study as another example proving copyright-infringing song sharing promotes sales. Ever since Shawn Fanning came up with Napster, those promoting song sharing at the expense of the record labels, publishers and artists have claimed all those downloads will pay off in the end because the downloaders only “sample” the music, and will ultimately buy what they enjoy listening to.
However, those on the “maybe not” side of the argument contend the survey only establishes folks who pirate a lot of music also buy a lot of music. As an EMI representative pointed out, that doesn’t mean one thing necessarily leads to another.
It might be safer to assume that those who pirate a lot of songs as well as regularly purchase a hefty number of tunes are people who really love music.
Even before P2P piracy became a problem for the music industry, major music fans were often the same ones who scanned classified ads in music magazines for unauthorized bootlegs. They were also the ones who spent a good amount of time taping albums purchased by their friends, concerts off of the radio and even those albums-in-entirety radio programs that used to be so popular in the ’70s and ’80s.
In fact, one of the reasons the original Napster was seen by the labels as threatening the entire recording industry is because it introduced casual music consumers – those who rarely go looking for new music, and often buy only “the hits” heard on radio – to music piracy.
If anything, the BI Norwegian School of Management Study reminds us how much the music business has changed during the last 15 years. The old dynamic was centered around labels relying on radio to introduce new music. Today people discover new music through online streamers like Rhapsody, inexpensive downloads from Amazon MP3 and iTunes, social networking sites, and yes, P2P song-sharing, both legal and not.
While the BI Norwegian School of Management says its study indicates folks who pirate a lot of music also buy a lot of music, it also suggests the reverse – those who buy a lot of music also pirate a lot of music.
Which means, after years of the recording industry pushing the “piracy is stealing” meme to the public, that concept still hasn’t sunk in among those who really love to listen to music. That’s hardly good news for the labels. Or, for that matter, anyone who depends on music to pay the bills.
Please click here to read the Aftenposten article (translated to English by Google).