updated 09:55 pm EST, Wed November 14, 2012
American Assembly claims heavy sharers purchase more music
Researchers from the Columbia University-affiliated American Assembly, a non-partisan public affairs forum, have suggested in a new study that US media pirates buy roughly 30 percent more music than non-pirates. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Vice President of Research and Strategic Analysis Joshua Friedlander disagrees, claiming that "what [the study is] comparing is people who are interested in music with people who might not be interested at all."
Friedlander addressed data from market research company NPD Group, who was also critical of the report methodology. The NDP Group said that the "average P2P user spent $90 per capita on music in 2004 -- now they spend $42 (CDs, downloads, subscriptions). This was during the same period when the number of files illegally downloaded per capita was rising" implying that the piracy was taking the place of the drop in per capita spending.
The RIAA blogpost declares that "any analysis of BitTorrent that leads to a wider conclusion about illegal music consumption is potentially flawed or, at the very least, incomplete" and claims that people interested in the issue "look at the full picture of what's going on."
The American Assembly study is based on thousands of telephone interviews conducted in the US and Germany, focused on digital music collections. Despite the RIAA's protestations to the contrary, the study does include the effect of "free" downloads, as well as music copied from friends and family, and not just the impact of BitTorrent. Furthermore, the American Assembly takes umbrage at the lack of transparency from the RIAA, IFPI, BSA, or MPAA about research and methods.
A blogpost rebutting the RIAA position on the report says that the group "makes no claims about whether piracy harms sales, and we are not saying that piracy boosts sales. We're saying that many of the biggest music fans now want access to everything because that's what digital technologies have enabled. And many of them pursue this goal through a mix of legal and illegal strategies."
The group adds that its view on the debate about piracy's effect on sales is that it "has begun to resemble one in which economists look for their house keys under the street lamp because that's where the light is -- while their homes are being foreclosed by the banks. And in this version of the story, the RIAA and IFPI are in the business of pretending that the main problem is lost keys."