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Survey Shows MP3 Pirates Also Buy the Most MP3s, So Why All the Fuss?

A survey conducted in Norway found that music consumers who regularly download illegally pirated music tracks are also the largest purchasers of legitimate digital music files, by a factor of 10 over non-pirates. So, you have to wonder, why there's all the legal bother?

In conducting the survey, the independent group, the BI Norwegian School of Management looked at the music purchasing habits of 1900 respondents, each over 15 years of age. Among the results,other than the fact that about as many people aged 15-20 bought a physical CD as paid to download music in the last six months, the most striking fact is the high rates of legitimate purchases made by pirates.

Though the survey doesn't inspect the reasons behind the result, the implication is slightly staggering: Pirates are actually the greatest consumers of legal MP3s. And in a world where physical CD sales have been spinning rapidly down the toilet for some time while downloads have been rising, this implies that the music-buying audience that will be most responsible for future income for the recording industry is actually the group that the industry has been vilifying.

Bjørn Rogstad of EMI responded to the survey predictably, denying that the data proves that pirating promotes legitimate sales—something that the data doesn't actually infer anyway. Instead he suggests that there's one inescapable fact, "the consumption of music increases, while revenue declines. It can not be explained in any way other than [...] illegal downloading."

But he's wrong—it can be explained in another way: It's a pure demonstration of how behind the times the business model of the record labels have fallen. The industry is simply failing to seize the opportunity to successfully monetize online and digital distribution, and in an unhappy economic climate too. Much of the power now rests in the hands of digital retailers like iTunes—America's number one music retailer—and Amazon MP3, as well as the tech-savvy users who know their way around the Internet. 

The vast majority of music will clearly be sold online in the near future so maybe the recording industry needs to look at how to make money by selling its wares, rather than suing for them.

[BI via Reddit]

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