Saturday, September 16, 2006

Good DRM purchasing citizens also file-sharing pirates

Some not entirely surprising results from the latest piece of digital music research by Jupiter: people with iPods don't fill them up entirely from the iTunes Music Store:

The Jupiter Research report reveals that, on average, only 20 of the tracks on a iPod will be from the iTunes shop.

Far more important to iPod owners, said the study, was free music ripped from CDs someone already owned or acquired from file-sharing sites.

There's a question and a curiosity here. First: being told that only an average of 20 songs comes from the iTMS is a bit of a meaningless figure without being told how many other tracks, on average, will be on the iPod. (Later on, it's suggested that this would be 5% of the average music player load, or 400 tracks.) The other curisoity is the use of "free" music - if you rip your own cds and put them onto your music player, which is surely the most logical use for an iPod, it's not "free" music as you've already paid for the right to do that. I think its a fairly safe bet that someone who'd pay a hundred quid for a music player will be the sort of person who would have spent a few years buying an above-average number of CDs, isn't it?

The report warned against simple characterisations of the music-buying public that divide people into those that pay and those that pirate.

"It is not instructive to think of portable media player owners, nor iPod owners specifically, as homogenous groups," warned the report.

No, really? It'll be reports suggesting cooker owners don't all eat the same sorts of food next.

It said: "Digital music buyers do not necessarily stop file-sharing upon buying legally."

This is slightly confused wording - because it implies that file-sharing is always illegal, which, of course, it isn't - but it's an important fact the RIAA sometimes overlooks. Just because a person buys a DRM copy of Justin Timberlake's new song doesn't mean they won't take a shady copy of an old Britney Spears one if they come across it. The RIAA tends to see the purchasing of any DRMed track as being some sort of eucharist, with the purchaser pledging themselves to follow the path of righteousness forever more; this simply isn't the case. It's handy to have that confirmed.

Of course, what really is lacking here is the question of why - what motivates consumers to behave in this way - and, more interesting to the music industry, what would make them stop.

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