by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
averages, file sharing, statistics, studies, uk


Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics: How The BPI Cherry Picks Its Averages To Pretend File Sharers Spend Less

from the add-back-the-missing-zeroes dept

We've written more than a few times about how multiple studies have shown time and time again that those who file share tend to spend more on buying music than those who don't. We've also talked about how the RIAA absolutely hates this fact and tries to dance around it at all costs. The latest move comes from RIAA sister organization, BPI (basically the UK RIAA), which has released a report (pdf) that they claim shows the opposite:
Appearing to debunk the common belief that filesharers spend more on music than other consumers, Kantar Worldpanel found that the average spend over a 12-month period for professed filesharers was lower than the spend of consumers who only use legal services. Kantar Worldpanel’s respondents diarise their music purchases on an ongoing basis – there are no estimates made of past purchasing, just an accurate recording of spending patterns over time. The panel data demonstrated that filesharers spent an average of £26.64, compared with £33.43 by legal-only consumers, refuting the popular argument that filesharers are the heaviest spenders on music.
Of course, when you're talking about averages, it's not difficult to fudge the numbers a bit, and as TorrentFreak explains, that's exactly what BPI did. If you break out the specific numbers, you can tell a very different story:
- Legal only digital music buyers spend an average of £33.43 a year.
- File-sharers, in total, spend an average of £26.64 a year.
- File-sharers, the 44.8% who are not buying, spend an average of £0 a year.
- File-sharers, the 55.2% who are buying, spend an average of £48.26 a year.
TorrentFreak confronted BPI on this, and they shot back that TorrentFreak's analysis was unfair:
"You cannot just wave away the 44.8% of file sharers who are not spending anything on music, despite being music 'consumers', and pretend they don’t exist or are not relevant. What happens if only 5% of file sharers are spending on music? Do we disregard everyone else who is freeloading?," a BPI spokesman said.

"It's not credible to discount the people who consume music, for free, illegally."
Fair enough... except that BPI's own numbers "wave away" all of the people who consume music legally for free, but don't spend anything on music. That is, there is a very large percentage of people who don't pay for music, but who also do not infringe. These people may listen to music on the radio or while walking around in stores, but neither purchase any music, nor file share infringing works. And if the BPI was being intellectually honest they would have to average all of those £0s into the average for "legal only" if they want to require all the £0s to be added into the infringing side as well. Basically, BPI is picking and choosing who it includes and excludes to make their argument look better. When it hand waves away all the zeroes on its side of the argument, while including all the ones on the other side of the argument, of course it'll make the numbers look better for its argument. However, if you're going to do an apples-to-apples comparison, you have only two choices. Either you include all the people who don't buy on both sides or on neither. BPI didn't do that. They only chose the ones who don't buy on the file sharing side.

It's important to note that an analysis of the UK market by economist Will Page, back when he was with PRS for Music, noted that only 40% of the UK adult population actually bought any music at all. So you've got 60% non-buyers, some of whom are file sharing and some of whom are not. The BPI report chose to only include those who file shared, and ignore those who didn't. That's a clear methodological problem with their data. If they're going to include the non-buyers on the file sharing side, they need to include the non-buyers on the "legal" side, or they're simply lying with statistics.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2013 @ 5:58am


    You still think you don't pay ??

    I don't buy, I make.


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