European Commission: online piracy helps music sales

On: March 23, 2013
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About Vicentiu Dinga
Currently I'm an MA student at the UvA. I have a background in Journalism, PR and Advertising. I'm working as a Social Media Manager for various local brands in Romania. I'm interested in New Media, film photography, Gonzo Journalism and PR.

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Although it has been criticized as being a main cause of the musical industry decline, the online piracy of music files actually appears to help to provide access to legal content, shows a recent study of the European Commission’s research side, Joint Research Centre. The study engaged 16.000 European consumers and comes to show that, unlike the general perspective, online musical piracy does not affect the artists’ income, but even has a positive influence upon them. The study confirms other European studies but contradicts one from the US which showed that shutting down one of the biggest online piracy platforms, Megaupload, helped the growth of film sales.

The debate over the future of the musical industry began early in 2003, when Apple released iTunes which allowed people to download songs over a standard fee. The producers and the artists then began to state that this was going to be the demise of their financial revenues; however, ten years later, the recent study by Luis Aguiar and Bertin Martens – Digital Music Consumption on the Internet: Evidence from Clickstream Data – comes to prove the opposite.

The study shows how illegal music downloads don’t do almost any harm to the legal downloads form platforms such as iTunes, Spotify or Zonga and that 57% of the consumers have accessed one of the legal music services at least once and that 73% engaged in music piracy. Piracy is referred to in the study as being educational on the basis that it enlarges perspectives for the music fans. The study also shows how users still prefer to download a song as opposed to just listen to it in an online player because of the feeling of possession.

“It seems that most of the illegal music content consumed by the subjects we have analyzed would not have been legally bought if illegal services had not made it available on the Internet”, state the researchers. The study concludes that “although we are discussing the trespassing of intelectual property, it is highly unlikely that legal revenues had to suffer from illegal downloads.”

The study was developed over the course of an entire year and has also proven that streaming services such as Pandora or Spotify also offer a large boost to the sales in the musical industry. “According to our report, a 10% growth of the legal streaming websites led to a 0,7% growth of the legal music downloads” However, the International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI) questions the study, stating that it is “foul and malicious”. The IFPI criticizes the report, stating in a press release that “these conclusions seem completely unrelated to the comercial reality. If a large part of the online ilegal downloaders do not buy our music and still they have access to it, it can’t possibly be a logical fact that an illegal behavior is able to help legal sales and boost the musical industry.” The conclusion of the reports shows how little influence does piracy have over music production in general as the digital revenues grew 1000% in the last 10 years.

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