Internet File-Sharing Boosts Music Sales
May 5, 2002 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Internet File-Sharing Boosts Music Sales Or so this report by Jupiter/Media Metrix says. Is it true? It's true for me, anyway. Not that Jupiter/Media Metrix gets anything right.
posted by laz-e-boy (20 comments total)
Finally there's some research into the area. I've never trusted the RIAA's assumption that sales have gone down (or the RIAA in general). I read somewhere that the RIAA doesn't count online CD sales (from Amazon, CDNOW, etc) in their listings, so that may artificially be causing the decrease. (There's a good thread where we discussed this.)

I've always hypothesized that for college students, yes, CD buying probably goes down. With fast ethernet connections, tight budgets, and greater free time, if you really want an album, you can take the time to find all the MP3s for it. But as we start to graduate, get jobs, age, and have more dispensable income, CD buying is going to shoot up. A friend sends us an MP3, we like it, we order the CD off Amazon: just like my parents, if they like something they hear, they'd rather spend the 15 bucks to buy the CD than spend the time trying to search for the other songs, since they have more important things to do, like work, pay the bills, be with family, dinner with friends, etc.
posted by gramcracker at 8:26 AM on May 5, 2002

Music companies say Internet piracy is partially responsible for a 5 percent drop in sales last year

Don't most companies lower their prices when faced with declining sales?
posted by electro at 9:46 AM on May 5, 2002

Electro, though it is not a definitive fact, your presumption is more or less correct. Any college student who's taken economics 101 would know that a declining demand with equal or greater supply would necessitate lower prices, yet the big music companies are pretty much doing business as usual with their pricing. They claim they see a drop in sales, but even if it's true, the drop is inconsequential and is not adversely affecting their bottom line. Personally I think it's a smoke screen.

I used to buy a lot of CDs from big name artists years ago, but in recent years I've chosen to only buy from local independent artists. My main reason for that is because I have found many local musicians to be comparable or exceeding in talent compared to big names, and their works are more exciting and daring. Rather than being conditioned and even censored by big record companies trying to invent music that appeals to a wide audience, unknown talents produce what works on stage immediately for them, and what comes from their hearts. Consequently, their music is more potent and awe-inspiring than something made through assembly line corporate mentalities.

Another reason for this change is that I can't in good conscience spend money buying CDs where the majority of the profit doesn't go back to the artist. Due to overhead, any artist who signs with a big label gets a very small percentage of the profit for their art. Whereas self-producing unknown talents, or bands lucky enough to sign with a small independent label get more of the profit and have more direct input on the artistic direction of their own product.

If there is a drop in sales for the big companies represented by RIAA, it's because they're competing with artists that don't even show on their radar screens. It's like a giant being overrun by townspeople. The RIAA is too big for its britches, and it's only a matter of time before the behemoth gets chopped down.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:23 AM on May 5, 2002

Could it be that these manufactured bands - which the record companies keep churning out - are in fact the reason why no one is buying thier music.

I cant count how many mp3's i've downloaded that have lead me to going out and buying the groups, dj's or artists album, then if i like that album then there's a good chance ill go get their previous and other albums. I prefer to have an album to hold that i can take about with me than some scrappy ripped mp3 at 96k. I'd have a good idea that this may be the case for quite a few other people.
posted by monkeyJuice at 10:27 AM on May 5, 2002

My buying habits have increased with the advent of MP3's. Before, the only way for me to hear new music was to either buy a CD or listen to a friend's, but since friends hang out together, we all had the same tastes in music. So along comes Napster, and my world is redefined. I got to the point of typing in random words and downloading whatever showed up. And now I buy about 3 CD's a month, as to before where I only bought 3-4 a year.
posted by Mach3avelli at 10:34 AM on May 5, 2002

I WAS buying a lot more CDs when filesharing was easier/more effective. Now I'm buying many less, in direct proportion to the difficulty I have in sampling/discovering new music.

btw, what's the deal with LimeWire? I registered a couple months back and have found the "Pro" version to be utterly unusable. It doesn't tell you how many files you have access to at any given time, and virtually all of my searches come back empty. Worst 8 bucks I ever spent. :(
posted by rushmc at 10:46 AM on May 5, 2002

Before Napster, I owned THREE CDs -- and I only purchased one of them. In the last year and a bit, after discovering whole new genres on Napster and other such tools, I have purchased nearly THIRTY.

None of those were from major labels.

What mp3s showed me was the musical world beyond the same top 40 crap that is always played on TV or radio. Something I didn't have access to before. And whereas file sharing neither hurt or helped the RIAA on my behalf, it surely helped the smaller labels from which I purchased (in a very small way.)
posted by mkn at 10:52 AM on May 5, 2002

That study is pretty ambiguous. Here's more details at Cyberatlas.

Part of my contention with it is that JMM doesn't offer an analysis of the behaviour. Or at least that part was omitted from the news report. In fact both the Cyberatlas release and the Yahoo! Reuters release seem more focused on the political controversy rather than the marketing aspect of the research.

In any case, note the date of the conduct of the research. June 2001. Isn't that shortly after Napster and Kazaa went down? Surely if your regular source of free online music were cut off, wouldn't you turn to alternative sources like CD-music?

I think that would be the most obvious explanation of the behaviour rather than the insinuation that file-sharing makes people go buy more music.
posted by timyang at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2002

Ya know, I don't understand why it's a big mystery to the RIAA that music sales are down 5%. Hello! We are in the middle of a recession ...

My CD buying is down more like 100% this past year
posted by chipr at 11:28 AM on May 5, 2002

I bet there's a survey out there somewhere which would indicate at least 5% of those who actually watched and enjoyed The Lawrence Welk Show back in the 1970s have been diagnosed with cancer. So someone could argue that Lawrence Welk reruns cause cancer.

I hate surveys. On occasion they're fun to take or even fun to use as if they meant something. They mean nothing.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:02 PM on May 5, 2002

I sat down once and listed all the CDs I've bought in the past couple of years. About 80% were ones that I only bought as a direct result of file sharing.

And the other 20%? Bands that I saw live because they were playing with bands I discovered online.

The RIAA's reports show that they're losing money because they want people to think they're losing money. They can do subtle manipulations of any data they gather so that it proves their point. I'd like to see some more large-scale research done on the matter by a group with a more objective view of the issue.
posted by katieinshoes at 12:04 PM on May 5, 2002

When the RIAA took its "you're all a buncha goddamned thieves" stance with filesharing, I think we all realized that it didn't matter how many more CDs we were buying. Whether sales went up or down, they were going to keep sending the lawyers.

So I formed a new buying habit. I keep buying CDs if I like the MP3s, but only if the artist is on a non-RIAA-member label (always check the RIAA member list first). If I really like the artist, I'll even buy much of the back catalog to spread some more good will. (My last such purchase: all 6 of Joe Pernice's CDs based on a recent download of one of his albums.)

If the music I like is on an RIAA label, then I fulfill my obligation to pay the artist by attending his or her live shows whenever I can or buying other merchandise. If I want the CD packaging, I buy it used. I won't give another cent to the RIAA's legal fund.

Bleed them dry, I say.
posted by Dirjy at 12:27 PM on May 5, 2002

But I heard that if you download mp3s, a nuclear missile is sent to your house.
posted by password at 12:42 PM on May 5, 2002

katieinshoes : "The RIAA's reports show that they're losing money because they want people to think they're losing money."

Yeah but if they're gonna lie, you'd think they'd do it more convincingly. Five percent? They're bitching about five percent? That means for every million CDs they used to sell, now they're selling around nine hundred and eighty thousand. Some suit in a penthouse somewhere can't buy his second yacht. Well cry me a goddamned river.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:28 PM on May 5, 2002

Try the LimeWire Pro again. I've had no problems with 2.3.3.
posted by Samizdata at 3:41 PM on May 5, 2002

posted by Mach3avelli at 4:41 PM on May 5, 2002

rushmc - I've been using Limewire Pro with good results. I'm currently running the 2.2.3 version under Linux. You may want to give it another shot, and contact support (or post on the message forums) if the problems continue.
posted by chipr at 5:11 PM on May 5, 2002

The Jupiter Media Metrix study made no issue of causality-- whether or not filesharing and music sales are related, just that there is a correlation... I wouldn't put much weight behind it.
posted by andrewraff at 7:20 PM on May 5, 2002

Okay, I just upgraded to 2.4.1...still don't see the number of available files (used to be measured in terabytes), and while I'm getting a few more hits on my searches, they are still VERY sparse compared to what I was getting with the free version.
posted by rushmc at 8:24 PM on May 5, 2002

rushmc - When I do Tools -> Statistics I'm seeing 266K files and 763GB. It does take some time for your peer to weave itself into the Gnutella network, so initial results will be poor. Also, I think the LimeWire "ultrapeer" servers (sorry, I don't know the details) may shield you from some of the traffic load.

I'd say let 'er soak for a while and reach a quiescent state, and then take a look.
posted by chipr at 9:04 PM on May 5, 2002

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