Sunday, November 1, 2009

The People Who Illegally Download Also Purchase the Most Music?

"People who illegally download music from the internet also spend more money on music than anyone else." Believe it? A new poll held in the United Kingdom says it's true.

"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 poll, which surveyed 1,000 16- to 50-year-olds with internet access, found that one in 10 people admit to downloading music illegally." (via The Independent)

But what does the poll really mean? It could be that almost everyone in the UK who enjoys music has downloaded music illegally, leaving only those that are rather disinterested in music in the non-downloading category. It seems reasonable to believe that those who like music the most, and thus most likely to listen to music, are also those that have at some point downloaded illegally. To me, the poll really says nothing that we can accurately analyze.

Does it really matter if, as the poll suggests, people who download music illegally also buy the most music. The fact that they download some music illegally means that they are likely buying LESS than they would if they couldn't download illegally. Sure, people would not pay full price for every song they download illegally, but the fact that they are downloading it means they place SOME value on the music. If the price point in the market met that value, they would arguably pay for it. Because you can download most songs for about a dollar online, it is hard to believe that people would not buy some of the music they download illegally if they were prevented from downloading illegally.

So, the labels and artists may get MORE money from illegal downloaders than non-downloaders, but they are getting less than they would if the pirates stopped downloading. That's the important point often left out of the discussion.

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