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Is music sharing by P2P up or down?
Tuesday 11 August 2009 11:33:18 by Andrew Ferguson

The University of Hertfordshire completed a survey in the Spring of 2009 of over 1,800 14 to 24 year olds looking at how they consume music. This is the second year of the survey with a summary and a copy of the full report available for download on

The headline statistic that will be top of the page at most places is that 61% of people surveyed download music using P2P networks or torrent trackers, a reduction of 2%. The sound-bite reaction is that this is in response to the media coverage of file-sharing, but in actual fact the survey has a 3% margin of error, so the 2% difference is neither here nor there. What will be interesting is to see what effect the Digital Britain report plans once implemented (if they are) will have.

But above all, we will achieve nothing if we do not work with music fans, and young music fans in particular. We ignore engagement at our peril. That message is loud and clear.

The music industry continues to change at breakneck speed, and having been the first to wrestle with the impact and disruption of digital we have had to learn very quickly. While young people continue to display such a passion for music and the industry continues to forge ahead I remain positive that we can successfully rise to these challenges.

There are no silver bullet solutions, but I am convinced this research points us towards at least some of the answers.

Extract from foreword by Feargal Sharkey

One interesting key note in the report is that music sharing is more complex than just blocking or stopping P2P sharing: "86% of respondents have copied a CD for a friend; 75% have sent music by email, Bluetooth, Skype or MSN; 57% have copied a friend's entire music collection; 39% have downloaded music from an online storage site; and 38% have ripped a TV, radio or internet stream.". In some ways this is akin to what the generation before CD's would do, which was copy a vinyl LP to cassette, tape the Top 40 on a Sunday evening, or just lend each other the single. The big difference today is that rather than just sharing among class and college friends you can share with the whole world.

While file sharing is talked of in tones of killing off physical album sales, in just one year the average size of a CD collection has risen from 78 to 98, though only around 48% of respondents claimed that most of their collection consisted of original discs. Whether the questioning considered people creating mix CD's for the car or portable CD player as not originals is unknown.

A number of sites selling MP3 files have dropped Digital Rights Management (DRM) in the last year (DRM restricts the number of times you could copy a music file or limited the devices it would play on). For some 87% of those surveyed the ability to move music was important, and looking at comments from our visitors, there has been a complaint about a number of online music stores. We see as the next most common moan the lack of format choice.

The task for the music industry, or perhaps some outside body that can see a way to make money, is to convert survey results like '85% of those illegally downloading music' into people who use an all you can eat, paid download service.


Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
My moans are the low bit-rates on MP3 tracks and the high price. For the kind of prices I see on new releases I'd expect lossless or at least maximum rate WMA VBR.

I'm putting 256K MP3s through my hifi system.
Posted by meldrew over 7 years ago
FFS have these people at "universities" got nothing better to do? They get paid for it as well!

People share music because they can and there is no way it can be prevented. Buy one CD make ten copies for your friends and they do the same for you; lend your neighbour your MP3 player for an hour or two; record from internet radio, and so on.

I have still got reel to reel tapes in my attic that were used for recording the Sunday evening top whatever programmes before even the cassette was invented.

Posted by meldrew over 7 years ago
follow up: The simple fact is that like many other commodities (my firm once paid £300 for ONE megabyte of RAM) music has little or no value in the real world today.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
shock, horror, music sharing exists outside of p2p. I would never have guessed really, honestly.
Posted by beeflin over 7 years ago
As a musician who makes money from selling music I would like to add my voice to the music sharing community. If someone wants to share my music they will do it somehow. My father, a retired solicitor, has always explained to me that it is a mistake to pass a law which cannot be enforced. Musicians should depend on personal contact and stop trying to rule the world with millions of overpriced record sales. It is and has always been an inhumane world full of bullshit.
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