Internet music piracy has no negative effect on legitimate music sales, according to a study released today by two university researchers that contradicts the music industry's assertion that the illegal downloading of music online is taking a big bite out of its bottom line.
The long and short of the article is this: after tracking sales of 680 albums over the course of 17 weeks in the second half of 2002, and matching that data with activity on the OpenNap file-sharing network, they concluded that file sharing actually increases CD sales for hot albums that sell more than 600,000 copies. For every 150 downloads of a song from those albums, sales increase by a copy.
Yes, downloading increased sales.
It seems that downloading isn't killing the sales, but rather bringing music to more people...and those fans are still going out and buying the CDs. The important point (in other words, the one that biased previous research seems to "miss") is that not everyone every music lover was a consumer in the first place. The findings here show such a small amount of CDs accounted for (by piracy instead of sales) out of the entire amount of sales drop, that there "is no effect between downloading and sales", say the researchers (at best, the research shows downloading being responsible for 2 million CDs...but the sales drop was 139 million). This is in opposition to studies from groups such as RIAA that point to the drop in sales at the same time as the rise of P2P file sharing, and claiming that the two are related.
Quite predictably, RIAA has already called the findings into question. The trick is that RIAA's research is more circumstantial. They point to research that shows that, among 18-24 year olds, 33 percent said they bought less music than in the past year...but doesn't actually say why. Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf (the researchers) do admit that, for albums that fail to sell well, the Internet may contribute to declining sales. Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf found that albums that sell to niche audiences suffer a "small negative effect" from Internet piracy. However, let's face it, those aren't the albums RIAA is bitching about.
Seems to me that RIAA just doesn't want/can't admit that they are releasing a bunch of crapola that people don't want.
Will this research make RIAA rethink what they are doing, and give up this stupid crusade? Probably not. They've got too much invested in it, and they can't admit they were wrong without looking like morons, so they are stuck in a destructive course of action. Christ, can't even escape politics with music, now.
*Much thanx to bitterfun for the link*