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Study finds file sharers buy more music

American Assembly research also finds copies of friends' tunes rivals piracy

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A preview of research conducted by The American Assembly, a “national, non-partisan public affairs forum” attached to Columbia University, has found that file sharers who acquire music also pay for more tunes than their non-freeloading brethren.

Copy Culture in the US and Germany concludes “The biggest music pirates are also the biggest spenders on recorded music” and also suggests that “If absolute spending is the metric, then P2P users value music more highly than their non-P2P using, digital-collecting peers, not less.”

The research covered consumers in the US and Germany, using the same telephone surveys conducted for another study, Infringement and Enforcement in the US (PDF) ,an effort that in August 2011 conducted over 2000 telephone interviews in the USA.

Copy Culture finds that music collections are largest among the young, with the median number of songs hoarded falling from 1000 (USA) and 300 (Germany) for 18-29 year-olds to just 100 among 64-year-olds in both nations.

Younger folks are likely to have acquired more of those songs without paying for them, either by ripping, sharing with friends or illegal downloads. The graph below illustrates where the songs come from.

The study's analysis of the graph leads the authors to conclude that file sharers also make “significantly higher legal purchases of digital music than their non-P2P using peers–around 30% higher among US P2P users.” [Author's emphasis]

Importantly, the study notes that sharing music among family and friends, either by ripping CDs or sharing files, is almost as prevalent as illegal downloads. That kind of copying, the study also notes, is not the subject of anti-sharing action by record companies or law enforcement authorities.

The study notes that emerging cloud music models, such as Microsoft's Xbox music service announced today, may make this kind of research moot.

“Most of the innovation in the music sector in the past several years has been an effort to (re)commercialize this demand for universal access through paid streaming services,” the study notes, describing those efforts as having had “some success” as “29% of those under 30 listen to ‘most or all’ of their music via streaming services.  11% have paid subscriptions.” ®

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