Thursday, November 5, 2009
The industry's case falls apart... again!
An interesting tid-bit of news from the UK's Independent newspaper:
"People who illegally download music from the internet also spend more money on music than anyone else, according to a new study. The survey, published today, found that those who admit illegally downloading music spent an average of £77 a year on music--£33 more than those who claim that they never download music dishonestly."
The exchange rate puts this roughly at $150 and $65 respectively. If the same is true for here in the US (and there's no reason to believe it wouldn't be) then this finding flies in the face of one of the music industry's long-standing gripes with peer-to-peer file-sharing: that those who download "illegally" would otherwise be buying the albums in the stores and are costing the record companies money.
There's never really been any evidence to back up this claim. RF has (more than a handful of times) referenced a 2004 Harvard-UNC study that not only showed very little link between downloading and the decline of CD sales, but actually revealed a possible correlation between peer-to-peer and increased sales of the most popular albums. This most recent finding seems to jive with that study.
In Britain there is a plan in place for the government to implement a "three-strikes" clause, where users who don't obey written warnings from ISPs could have their service permanently terminated. Similar possibilities have arisen here in the US. But such measures, far from protecting the music industry, will most likely only further seal its fate. The article goes on as quoting Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research as saying that "[t]he people who file-share are the ones who are interested in music... They use file-sharing as a discovery mechanism."
This gets at yet another key point for defense of file sharing. Record companies more or less killed the single a long time ago, and in doing so, did away with what little power music fans had in sampling records before they buy them. Mp3s put this power back in kids hands. As the numbers, show, these aren't the people looking to rip off artists. Far more likely is that they're people who are rightfully picky about the music they're spending their money on.
And this, in a way, may reveal what is actually behind the years-long slip in album sales. If the industry wants to rebuild itself, then it should be more concerned with putting out a quality product, not scapegoating the people who very well may have the most respect for music itself. But then, this is the same cabal of people willing to bankrupt a single mother of two over a handful of songs. Clarity in thought clearly isn't their strong suit.