Is music sharing by P2P up or down?
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 www.ukmusic.org.
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.