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Torrents and physical ownership score high for music fans

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Music collections and physical recordings still matter, even to younger "digital natives" who aren't supposed to care about such things, a new British music survey suggests. The research highlights the growing popularity of P2P services, although this may be brittle - if something better and legal comes along.

The survey, by the University of Hertfordshire for UK Music, polled 1,800 people between the ages of 14 and 24. It highlights the many forms of file sharing - including Bluetoothing, and IM - and contains mixed news for the music business.

P2P use is up slightly from last year - and remains a popular mainstream activity. 63 per cent have downloaded from unlicensed P2P sites in 2008, but 83 per cent of those use those services on a weekly basis.

But the good news for labels is that people still expressed a desire to pay for sound recordings - and that's a demand that hasn't been fully exploited, because the services aren't there.

For example, if offered use of an unlimited all-you-can-eat music download service, only 15 per cent of young respondents said they'd continue to use unlicensed P2P services to obtain music. 57 per cent said they would sign up even if it meant paying for the legitimate download service, and they would give up using the P2P sites altogether. It also suggests that most people use P2P to save money - not as a political statement, as the freetard Pirate Party would have us believe.

So although futurologists and freetard activists insist that sound recordings have no value, young people beg to differ. It all makes the music businesses' insistence on "fighting free with free" look quite irrational.

Fears of "cannibalisation" may also be overstated. 77 per cent of people said they'd carry on buying original albums (eg, CDs) even if they were on an unlimited download service. Of these, 64 per cent cited the simple desire to have a physical object, 57 per cent like to have artwork and sleeve notes, 55 per cent feel it's a statement of support for the artist, and 45 per cent cite sound quality. So much for audio quality concerns being the worry of some small "elite".

But if the biz wants to break the pirate habit, it won't do so with streaming services such as Spotify or Last.fm. 89 per cent of people want to "own" music, rather than trust that it will be available via on-demand internet services such as Spotify.

Feargal Sharkey, head of UK Music, implied that the music business wasn't doing enough to satisfy demand.

“We will achieve nothing if we do not work with music fans, and young music fans in particular," he said "We ignore engagement at our peril. That message is loud and clear.”

You can download the results from here, including qualitative research on attitudes to music sharing. We reported on last year's survey back here

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