Gov’t Commissioned Study: P2P Downloaders Buy More Music

Industry Canada, a ministry of the federal government, released a study this past week that suggests a positive correlation between peer-to-peer downloading and CD purchasing. While this may come as a surprise to the CRIA and many in the recording industry, it certainly is merely confirmation of personal practices for the majority of people who download music through peer-to-peer networks.

This was not a study with any desired outcome, conducted by some sort of special interest group. The government had commissioned independent research in order to make better policy decisions. Michael Geist has a good summary of the findings, and Jack Kapica of the Globe and Mail also provides some good coverage.

Michael Geist summarizes the key findings:

The two key findings:

  • When assessing the P2P downloading population, there was “a strong positive relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchasing. That is, among Canadians actually engaged in it, P2P file sharing increases CD purchases.” The study estimates that one additional P2P download per month increases music purchasing by 0.44 CDs per year.
  • When viewed in the aggreggate (ie. the entire Canadian population), there is no direct relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchases in Canada. According to the study authors, “the analysis of the entire Canadian population does not uncover either a positive or negative relationship between the number of files downloaded from P2P networks and CDs purchased. That is, we find no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole.”

  • there was no statistically significant relationship between P2P downloads and digital download purchases from stores such as iTunes. In other words, P2P downloads neither increase nor decrease the likelihood of such purchases.
  • CD prices have little impact on CD purchases, though there was some indirect evidence of pricing being factored into those that P2P file share.
  • people who buy digital downloads are not less likely to buy CDs
  • people who own MP3 players are less likely to buy CDs
  • people who buy large numbers of DVDs, videogames, cinema and concert tickets also buy a higher number of CDs. In other words, consumers of entertainment consume more entertainment, not less.
  • household income has no statistically significant effect on CD or digital download purchases

Peer-to-peer music file sharing always occurred to me as a great way of sampling and evaluating music before a purchase. The majority of real music fans would happily purchase the albums which they like to support the artists and get “the real thing” (ie. higher quality audio, the official disc, album artwork, etc.), while those who only download without purchasing wouldn’t be purchasing much anyways. It’s great news if independent researchers commissioned by the government are finding the same things.

Unfortunately, it’s almost inevitable that the CRIA and the like will brush this aside and continue lobbying for draconian copyright measures based on rather unfounded claims that balanced copyright laws are destroying their industry. Maybe it’s the record industry’s ignorance and stubbornness shown through their refusal to adapt and admit error that’s the real problem.

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