Study Shows File Sharing Not Harming CD Sales

from the ah,-more-evidence... dept

We were just talking about how the Australian music industry is trying to hide the fact that sales are actually up, despite file sharing, and now (via Boing Boing) comes news of a study that looked very carefully at the data and found no evidence that file sharing negatively impacts CD sales (pdf file). The study set to go beyond the theories and rhetoric from all sides on the debate, and try to establish actual numbers suggesting the impact of file sharing. They point out that it’s easy to make anecdotal cases of how file sharing could both harm (since people could download instead of buy) and help (since people could find out about new music via file sharing) music sales. The study is quite an interesting read. They found that downloads seem to have a negligible impact on most sales (positive or negative). For popular albums (the ones the RIAA seems to be most concerned about) the evidence suggested downloads actually increased sales. As for all those other downloads, the study found (as many have been saying from the very beginning), most of the songs downloaded would never have been bought by downloaders in the first place – so no sales were lost. The study also suggests that it can be used as evidence to show that (despite popular belief) intellectual property protection is not necessary to encourage innovation. They also point out why this seems obvious in retrospect, since the software industry has dealt with so-called pirated software available online for ages – and the industry is still growing. Finally, they point out that while file sharing has little to no economic impact on the recording industry, it does have huge societal benefit, in allowing more music to be heard. Of course, as we were pointing out with the early post about the Australian recording industry, it’s likely that folks in the industry will again refuse to reconsider their beliefs, despite the new evidence suggesting they were very wrong.

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Comments on “Study Shows File Sharing Not Harming CD Sales”

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david says:

the study is flawed

As much as I believe in what this study says it proves, it actually does no such thing.

The authors state that albums which see large amounts of sharing on OpenNap do not seem to have their sales affected by the sharing, by showing that albums which are shared heavily show no decline in sales.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t prove their case. All it shows is that Album A sells 100 copies and is shared heavily. Maybe without it being shared, it would have sold 150 copies, or 50 copies. Without a control – for instance, finding that Album B, which *isn’t* shared and is very similar to Album A, sells more or less copies – there is no way to prove this argument either way.

Brian says:

Re: the study is flawed

Unfortunately, this will never happen (at least in an apples to apples comparison). No amount of copy protection will keep albums off the file sharing networks. The only way to keep your album off the networks is to put out some obscure crap that nobody wants (and even then, you might find SOMEBODY that’s interested)

Richard says:

the study is flawed

Agreed. It’s not proof, and proof never be had.

In my case, I can say that I’ve found new stuff through sharing, stuff that I would never have found any other way, would have never have purchased any other way.

I don’t listen to music with friends, unless perhaps you consider the friendship developed on a torrent site just another means of hearing new music, shared with a new cyber type of friend.

Of course, maybe there’s some who didn’t buy because they were able to download. So, no proof.

It seems to be a business in itself though. There’s money to be made, at least in personal salaries, and funneling of resources, in fighting “piracy”. It doesn’t really matter if it hurts sales or not, giving up fighting it would cost jobs, and cut of a means to express frustration.

Myself, I think they(record companies and/or the artists) should embrace new technologies, use it to their advantage, ditch the friction, instead of fighting a losing battle.

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