UK POLL: File-Sharers Buy More Music

Spend an average of £75 ($123 USD) annually versus £44 ($72 USD) for non-file-sharers, proving once again that file-sharing actually increases music consumption.

A new Digital Music Survey(.pdf) conducted by Ipsos Media Ct for Demos, a UK-based think tank whose goal it is to “search for and communicate ideas to give people more power to shape their own lives,” concludes once again that file-sharers do purchase music, and oftentimes in far greater quantities than their non-file-sharing counterparts.

The music industry always insists that a single illegal download equates a single lost sale and it couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to the survey, two-thirds of those who illegally download music spent an average of £75 ($123 USD) a year on music versus £44 ($72 USD) by those that don’t (10% buy a “lot more,” 16% a little more, and 47% “about the same).

It also says they are “active music buyers,” with 8 in 10 having purchased music, be it physical or digital, is the past 12 months.

“The people who file-share are the ones who are interested in music,” said Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research. “They use file-sharing as a discovery mechanism. We have a generation of young people who don’t have any concept of music as a paid-for commodity. You need to have it at a price point you won’t notice.”

The findings echo a number of studies that have come to the same conclusion, file-sharing actually increases legal music consumption.

The most recent was “Consumer Culture in Times of Crisis,” conducted by the the BI Norwegian School of Management, the largest business school in Norway and the second largest in all of Europe, which found that file-sharers actually buy 10 times as much music as they download for free.

Despite these findings UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson plans to forge ahead with plans to disconnect repeat offenders, ala a “three-strikes” graduated response system, from the Internet.

In fact, a spokesman for his Department for Business, Innovation and Skills told the BBC that the survey’s report that 61% of illegal downloaders would be encouraged to stop using “unofficial services for accessing music without permission” with the threat of Internet suspension for one month proves that the plan will work.

“While surveys asking people about unlawful behavior should be treated with caution, it’s encouraging that the findings signal that the three-pronged approach set out by the Government this week – a mix of education, enforcement and attractive new commercial deals – provides the best way forward for industry and consumers,” said the spokesman.

He also alluded to the scale of the problem posing a “threat” to the “long-term sustainability” of the creative content industries, but the 7 million file-sharer myth, also oddly perpetuated by the Independent, has long since been debunked.

The estimated number of illegal file-sharers is actually 6.7 million, not 7 million (it was rounded up), and is based on a questionable proportion of the UK’s estimated online population. The actual figure is between 5.6 and 3.9 million.

“The latest approach from the Government will not help prop up an ailing music industry,” said Peter Bradwell of Demos. “Politicians and music companies need to recognize that the nature of music consumption has changed, and consumers are demanding lower prices and easier access.”

The survey was conducted online and canvassed some 1,008 adults aged 16-50yo.

Stay tuned.

[email protected]