Study: pirates biggest music buyers. Labels: yeah, right

April 21, 2009

Those who download illegal copies of music over P2P networks are the biggest consumers of legal music options, according to a new study by the BI Norwegian School of Management. Researchers examined the music downloading habits of more than 1,900 Internet users over the age of 15, and found that illegal music connoisseurs are significantly more likely to purchase music than the average, non-P2P-loving user.

Unsurprisingly, BI found that those between 15 and 20 are more likely to buy music via paid download than on a physical CD, though most still purchased at least one CD in the last six months. However, when it comes to P2P, it seems that those who wave the pirate flag are the most click-happy on services like the iTunes Store and Amazon MP3. BI said that those who said they download illegal music for "free" bought ten times as much legal music as those who never download music illegally. "The most surprising is that the proportion of paid download is so high," the Google-translated Audun Molde from the Norwegian School of Management told Aftenposten.

Record label EMI doesn’t quite buy into BI’s stats, though. EMI’s Bjørn Rogstad told Aftenposten that the results make it seem like free downloads stimulate pay downloads, but there’s no way to know for sure. "There is one thing we are not going away, and it is the consumption of music increases, while revenue declines. It can not be explained in any way other than that the illegal downloading is over the legal sale of music," Rogstad said.

Rogstad’s dismissal of the findings don’t take into account that the online music model has dramatically changed how consumers buy music. Instead of selling a huge volume of full albums—the physical media model—the record labels are now selling a huge volume of individual, cherry-picked tracks. It’s no secret that the old album format is in dire straits thanks to online music, which is a large part of why overall music revenue is going down.

BI’s report corroborates data that the Canadian branch of the RIAA, the Canadian Record Industry Association, released in 2006. At that time, the organization acknowledged that P2P users do indeed buy more music than the industry wants to admit, and that P2P isn’t the primary reason why other people aren’t buying music. 73 percent of of respondents to the CRIA’s survey said that they bought music after they downloaded it illegally, while the primary reason from the non-P2P camp for not buying music was attributed to plain old apathy.

This post has been written by Jacqui Cheng on April 20, 2009 10:31 PM couresy of arstechnica.com.

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