Study Finds Music Sharing Doesn't Kill Sales
Finally some fuel against the blanket claims of the RIAA, [failed] retailers (e.g. Tower Records) and record labels - a study that finds that file sharing has little effect on CD sales. This study was the most detailed economic modeling survey to use data obtained directly from file-sharing networks thus far.
For the study, released Monday, researchers at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina tracked music downloads over 17 weeks in 2002, matching data on file transfers with actual market performance of the songs and albums being downloaded. Even high levels of file-swapping seemed to translate into an effect on album sales that was "statistically indistinguishable from zero," they wrote.
"We find that file sharing has only had a limited effect on record sales," the study's authors wrote. "While downloads occur on a vast scale, most users are likely individuals who would not have bought the album even in the absence of file sharing."
Even in the most pessimistic version of their model, they found that it would take about 5,000 downloads to displace sales of just one physical CD, the authors wrote. Despite the huge scale of downloading worldwide, that would be only a tiny contribution to the overall slide in album sales over the past several years, they said.
Moreover, their data seemed to show that downloads could even have a slight positive effect on the sales of the top albums, the researchers said.
The study is unlikely to be the last word on the issue. Previous studies have been released showing that file sharing had both positive and negative effects on music sales.
The Recording Industry Association of America was quick to dismiss the results as inconsistent with earlier findings. RIAA spokeswoman Amy Weiss wrapped up a statement with this, which says it all to me: "Our own surveys show that those who are downloading more are buying less."
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