University of London researchers, Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz surveyed a large group of Canadians to find out what the effect of piracy is on music sales. The results are surprising, at least, for the music industry.
The researchers conclude that that people who download more music actually buy more CDs. They report: “We estimate that the effect of one additional P2P download per month is to increase music purchasing by 0.44 CDs per year.”
This basically means that if someone downloads 270 songs a year via BitTorrent, he or she will buy 9 CDs more than someone who only downloads 27 songs. So, in a way illegal downloads actually convert into more CD sales.
Overall the researchers found no difference between pirates and other people in the number of CDs they buy. They did not find a positive or a negative relationship between filesharing and CD sales. So, at worst, filesharing isn’t the cause for a drop in CD sales. It might even be a boon to it.
This study once again confirms that piracy is not as bad as the recording industry content “owners” want us to believe. Filesharing gives people the opportunity to discover new music for free. It makes it easier to try new music before you buy. Right now, downloading songs off P2P networks is pretty much the only way to listen to complete tracks before deciding to buy them.
It is worth mentioning that there are legal alternatives, like Soundpedia and Lala.com’s upcoming service, which will let you stream entire songs for free. However, most people will still prefer pirated music because the quality is much better and they can transfer it to their MP3 player.