Web Informant #287, 8 May 2002:

How file sharing benefits the music industry


A recent report from Jupiter Research concluded that music file sharing has a

net positive effect on overall music sales. All I can say, is duh!, of course. The

sooner the music industry understands this, the sooner we can all go back to

doing our jobs.


The report, which was written by Aram Sinnreich and published last week,

surveyed online music fans and asked a  series of questions about their online

behavior and music purchasing habits. The more experienced a file sharing

user was, the more likely they are to spend more on their music collection. 

This runs counter to the wisdom (if you can call it that) expressed by the

recording industry executives, to say the least.


The research firm measured experience by looking for one or more of three

technologies: file sharing technology, CD burners, and cable (or other

broadband) modems. They conclude by saying, "It is safe to say that active

usage of online music content is one of the best predictors of increased

consumer spending."


Not one to take their efforts at face value, I conducted my own research:

using my Netprep students in my high school class here in Port Washington,

NY. Granted, my kids aren't a representative sample (all boys, juniors and

seniors, and fairly into computers at that), but my results mirrored Jupiter's

for the most part.


My class was split on two critical issues: first, the trend in their own music

buying habits. Half the class is no longer buying any CDs, other than as gifts

for friends. The other half is still buying them, but very critically at that: "If you

really like the artist, and most of the songs on the CD, then you'll buy it," said

one. "But for one song, I'll just download it from the Net." Another student

mentioned that he has friends that buy the CDs for the liner notes and the

lyrics. (Yeah, and he probably reads Playboy for the articles, too.) Of course,

finding song lyrics online isn't always easy, as some mentioned, although I

have usually found a lyric of a song I liked.


They also were split on whether cable modems or CD burners were the more

important enabling technology that moved them towards online music.

There wasn't any clear consensus, but clearly the combination of both

technologies has brought the file sharing revolution that is now upon us. I

should point out that not every student in my class has a cable modem

connection to the Internet, and some have had their cable privileges taken

away from them temporarily for spending too much time online and not

enough time studying. I usually hear about these events because I sent my

homework assignments to them via email.


All of my students are file sharers, for both music and videos. One gave me the

drill to obtain whatever file he wanted: "Login to mIRC, go to FDFnet, then the

Warez channel and ask for lists of files." Seems obvious now, doesn't it?  All

have used the various services, and one even printed out a long list of Gnutella

and other clients for me. Very considerate bunch, these guys.


What if the music industry could figure out how to charge a minimal amount

per song? "Doesn't matter. It would take a day and someone would crack a

weak point in whatever they ended up making," said one student. Speaking of

costs, one student mentioned the price delta between a blank recordable DVD

and the actual movie:  "once this increases and blanks are cheap and DVD

burners are less than $300, the DVD industry is toast." By the way, the class

discussion was pretty lively at this point. One of my students has close to 100

pirated movies (I didn't really want to find out the titles, but you can use your

imagination. Suffice it to say, I don't think he has much of the Disney ouvre.)

and others spoke about buying region-free DVD players so that they could

play DVDs from overseas.


One of my students sent me his comments that I thought I would share with

you: "This Jupiter Research report has now confirmed something that I have

believed for more than three years: file sharing, on the whole, actually makes

people want to buy more music.  Then why is the music industry loosing

money?  It's easier to pass the buck and shift blame onto boogums and

spooks. They may be saving their jobs in the short run. But they're

preventing the music industry from taking the steps that'll rescue it in the

long term.  The fact of the matter is that downloading music on the net is

good for the musicians for many reasons: concert ticket sales will rise,

because the Net is just one huge word of mouth, it can make stars overnight

and increase ticket sales and merchandise orders dramatically.

The more that an artist is heard, the more likely people will go out and

purchase the album legally. I only see good things coming from the file

sharing services that the RIAA is trying to shut down."


Promotions dep't


Mentioning my Netprep students here, I would like to ask a favor from those

of you in a position to feed and house one of them for at least two weeks this

summer. I am looking for unpaid internships for several of my students (and

others in my school that I can vouch for who are network and computer-

savvy). If your company is interested, drop me a quick email and we can try to

work out some details and have one of my kids spend some time at your shop

for part of this summer.


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David Strom
+1 (516) 944-3407
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