The traditional music industry has long been busy building the image of music pirates as scofflaws and reprobates, the type of people that would kick granny to the curb and steal candy from babies; an evil that must be crushed at any cost. Pity the industry didn’t actually expand that same energy trying to understand them as consumers in an emergent marketplace, thus better positioning themselves to meet the needs of that market rather than threaten it with a cudgel.
A United Kingdom research group, Demos, did just that, and surprise, surprise, they discovered that those people who confessed to pirating music were also those who spent the most on music. Pirates spend, on average, $126 per year on CDs, MP3s, and vinyl. Non-pirates (landlubbers?), on the other hand, only spend, on average, $72 per year.
Interestingly, only 10% of the respondents fessed-up to having illegally downloaded music. But, as the study was conducted in Great Britain, where the repercussions for illegal downloading are way more severe than in the United States, it’s surprising any did. (The Performing Rights Society (PRS), Great Britain’s RIAA doppelgänger, is presently pushing legislation to ban from the Internet any one caught illegally downloading music three times--a modern day version of walking the plank.)
Respondents indicated they were willing to buy more music, provided the price is right. It might be that, as consumers, they’ve recognized that downloaded music is a quality notch or two below CDs, and pricing should better reflect that differential. The tipping point appears to be 73 cents, at or below purchasing becomes more likely.
"Politicians and music companies need to recognize that the nature of music consumption has changed and consumers are demanding lower prices and easier access to music,” says Peter Bradwell, a Demos researcher.