Do people who illegally download songs end up buying more music than those who don’t? That’s what a recent study done by the Norwegian School of Management is hinting at. Their findings show that folk who download music illicitly also purchase around ten times more music than those who don’t. Would that imply that digital song pirates also count as some of the music industry’s best customers? Let’s check out the arguments below.
On one side you have the downloaders claiming the study shows once more how music sharing grows sales. Since the dawn of Napster, digi-pirates have claimed that while being illegal, song sharing is actually beneficial to the music industry, because it gives people the chance to test out new musicians and albums, and buy the ones they really dig.
On the other side, people opposed to file sharing say that sure, pirates buy a lot of music, but maybe that’s just because they are people who just like music period. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are buying more music because of their pirating; they just love music and will get it anyway they can.
These pirates can be seen as just really avid music fans; in the days before illegal downloading, they would be the ones who tried to get unauthorized bootlegs, copied albums from their pals, and taped music from the radio.
That’s one of the reasons Napster had industry folk shaking in their boots- it introduced regular music buyers to the arts of illegal downloading, something that this type of listener would never have thought of doing before it became so easy.
The interesting thing about the Norwegian study is that it actually shows how the music industry has mutated in the past 15 years. In the old days record labels used the radio to introduce new music to the public. Now people discover music online, in a variety of different ways, both illegal and not.
Another thing this Norwegian study is saying is that if people who pirate a lot of tunes also buy a lot of tunes, then it means that those who buy a lot also pirate a lot. That seems to show that the whole piracy=stealing campaign does not really disturb music fans.
However, the bottom line is that it’s actually impossible to tell if music sales have declined due to piracy, because for every pirate who steals a song, they also share it with people who may buy it or they may steal a song to sample, then go buy the album, go to the concert, buy their merchandise, etc, etc.
In the old days, copying blank tapes didn’t hurt sales, so why would digital sharing? And remember, it’s also illegal to prevent people from sharing for personal use if there is no intent to distribute. Besides, no one gets sued for sharing the latest Oprah book, right?