People who pirate buy 30% more music than people who don’t pirate, according to study

While downloading one song may not feel that serious of a crime, the accumulative impact of millions of songs downloaded illegally – and without any compensation to all the people who helped to create that song and bring it to fans – is devastating.

The above quote is from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA — an industry group), who claims the music industry has lost billions of dollars over the past decade due to illegal sharing and downloading of songs. Unfortunately for the RIAA, a recent study by the American Assembly of Columbia University shows people that illegally download or share music actually purchase more songs than people who don’t.

According to the study, which was conducted through phone interviews of consumers in the United States and Germany, people in the United States who take part in P2P (aka downloading music via online file sharing, such as torrents) purchase 30% more music than people who don’t P2P; the gap in Germany is even greater:

US P2P users have larger collections than non-P2P users (roughly 37% more). And predictably, most of the difference comes from higher levels of ‘downloading for free’ and ‘copying from friends/family’.

But some of it also comes from significantly higher legal purchases of digital music than their non-P2P using peers–around 30% higher among US P2P users. Our data is quite clear on this point and lines up with numerous other studies: The biggest music pirates are also the biggest spenders on recorded music.

The last phrase in the above quote is something the RIAA would be wise remember — the biggest music pirates are also the biggest spenders on recorded music.

Aside from the tidbit mentioned above, the study by the American Assembly also revealed that offline sharing of songs (e.g. copying songs from CDs and passing them off to friends or family) is more prevalent than online file sharing of songs — especially among the older generations:

It isn’t entirely clear why pirates are more likely to purchase music than non-pirates. One theory is people who pirate music are more music enthusiasts than people who don’t; grabbing music via file sharing is the quickest way for them to “sample” songs before shelling out money for them. If this is indeed the case, it is hard to imagine that this trend would hold true for TV shows and movies — because movies and TV shows don’t have as much repeat value as music — but you never know.

[via American Assembly, TorrentFreak]

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  1. clockmendergb

    I visited the site.and it certainly has potential .
    you can search using words like country ,rock ,ballad etc .
    You can play a track or two in order to hear the artist.
    This is how the radio,s used to do it.
    Its how new talent was discovered.
    Good job.

    Now for me as an older music lover .
    I want somebody else to whittle down the talent and give me a smaller choice.

    The site could have a top ten page on utube
    redirect from the site and that would give me what I was looking for.

    I would not be suprised if the top ten site ended up with a life of its own

    But I certainly like the format and the outlet it gives to artists.

  2. KMHamm

    Have a look at They have a great model for artists. You can “tip” the artist if, after downloading and listening, you like the music. You input your email and zipcode to get the download link and can sign up for info on tour dates for those artists you like. I found Matthew Mayfield there. Bought some of his music and I’m looking forward to seeing him in concert. There is just too damned much “music” out there to pour thru to get to what one likes or might like. I download and listen when I can. When I like an artist, I buy their music and see them in concert if I can. Isn’t the music “out there” supposed to prime the pump to get people into concerts and expose them to music they never have heard but may like (and then buy)? Or is it all Justin Bieber…

  3. clockmendergb

    My retort to Shava is simple .

    I was a teenager in the 60,s and have obviously grown up since then.
    Over my lifetime I have bought 78,s 45,s 33. vinyl. Cassette tapes(even those great honking 8 track tapes the USA loved so much.CD,s and Downloads.

    Prior to this downloading crap
    Everything was copied, shared, borrowed,given and in general Enjoyed for what it was. Music.

    I would hazard a guess that the copying and sharing of music then was more prolific than the downloading of P2P music is today.

    The companies and the Artists made money.
    There was a lot more choice of artists to buy
    and music was enjoyed.

    In those days an enormous amount of people were able to enjoy music.
    Not any more

    Now the companies have greed to motivate them.
    They like other corporate mega companies have found out how easy it is to buy laws that will help their bottom line.

    The top 10 is to all intents and purposes the top 5

    If it was not for the 60,to the 80,s there would be hardly any radio stations to listen to.
    Television has become an endless round of award shows because they have no real music to air.
    Today,s music for the young is techno .
    With a young good looking person to front it.

    My apologies to the few such as Gaga who have a genuine theatrical talent.

    The music companies have brought it on themselves.
    I do not buy music anymore because I will not be treated as a potential criminal and ignored as a consumer.

    I can get my kicks on utube and the Radio with the odd real concert on PBS,BBC Etc.

    I am not alone .
    there is a massive untapped buying population that does not condone this bullying.

    Remember as well that in lots of countries we pay a small percent on every purchase of copying materials that goes directly to the music industry as payment for copying.
    even though 90% of CD,s DVD, Memory sticks are used to backup other information.

    Sorry if I rambled
    It comes with age

  4. Stephen

    On a different note, closer to Shava Nerad’s comment, which appeared as I was typing my first (and most of which I agree with), a lot of music that is distributed via P2P methods is not illegal. There are bit torrent sites that not only make every effort to control and ban any content that has ever been released or is likely to be released in ANY format, and that even ban all material from any artist that just asks. Mostly these are concerts, sometimes of poor audio quality. People who would want such material must have acquired that musical taste/desire from released material, and so are very likely to have first bought as much of the artist’s released material as is available.

    Of course, splitting out these ‘Recordings of independent origin’ is far too difficult for the poverty-stricken music industry, and wouldn’t make the figures look so good, so why would they bother?

    And furthermore, the use of a separate category for ‘ripped from CD’ is misleading as it is totally legal in most countries.

  5. Stephen

    It’s amazing how the publishers, record labels and their industry bodies cannot bring themselves to think about their customers. They are just shipping ‘Some Product’. It doesn’t occur to them that the people who buy their products the most actually LIKE the music, they actually search for music of value. Turn it around – suppose someone doesn’t like music much – what is their motivation either for buying OR for downloading illegally? It’s very low, whatever it is, and so surprise surprise, they don’t download much.

  6. Shava Nerad

    OK, *FIRST* P2P users are not all pirates. HUGE amounts of legally shared music is available on P2P and torrent index sites — for example, every live show of the Grateful Dead catalogue. So this article is immediately suspect on legal and technical bases.

    Second, this is a bullshit “study.” You don’t call up people and say, “Did you engage in activity that is considered criminal in your country? Is that so? Then, can you justify it by telling me that you are virtuous in other ways that would make you look good and screw the RIAA please?” and not expect the people on the free culture side of the culture war to LIE enthusiastically and happily. They aren’t dumb, and they understand disinfo.

    Yes, it’s likely that a great many huge music fans who torrent music where the license would require them to pay, also pay for a lot of music. They are feeding a fanatic habit — that’s where the term “fan” in music fan comes from. Music is addicting, and that’s why people feed their habits with torrent/P2P feeds, without regard if they are ripping off Sony/BMG or some starving indy dude in a basement who asked for PayPal karma on his original web page.

    And ultimately that is the cost of Pirate Bay and such — those people often never get to see if the original artist asked for donations or what have you because the ancillary material is often stripped out of the download. We have added a new layer of starving to starving artists. I know a few of these people who can’t break into studio deals like the artists of my generation did, nor can they make it selling music or touring in hard times — especially any kind of performance that calls for ensemble performance or crew.

    No one wants to pay for art anymore. We are killing the arts. Pretty soon, the only arts we’ll see that call for much more than solo performance will be pop pap, and the kind of performance that can attract the support of the 1%. It’s going to start to look like renaissance Italy, where you have to court a patron and indenture yourself. Trump, Romney, do you need a court rocker? Oh, I’m sure you like hip life, say. Something marginal and juicy and ethnic, right? Going to thrive under that system.

    Downloaders say, “The big studios are ripping off artists so we will rip them off!” but often what happens is the downloaders are proxies for a whole new generation of artists who are now just having the middleman cut out — instead of being ripped off by the studios, they get ripped off directly by the consumer.

    Technology marches on.

    So no, this is a bullshit study. It’s not a study, it’s a SURVEY. It’s a survey that has no corroboration. It doesn’t seem to hold up when you observe the dropping sales volume of actual music as individual cuts and albums.

    No, this should not be filed as a study, just another press release and propaganda from the torrent freak/american assembly side of the war, just as reliable as any press release from the RIAA.