Nielsen Music has released a new study that should make record labels very nervous: Fewer than 20 percent of internet users worldwide pay for downloads of individual songs, and even fewer pay for downloads of full albums. Americans and Europeans are the most likely to purchase downloads, while users in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East overwhelmingly favor free downloads.The survey doesn't say that "[f]ewer than 20 percent of internet users worldwide pay for downloads of individual songs", it says that in the last three months fewer than 20 per cent had.
And that's really not a bad figure - how many people were buying a record in any three month period prior to the digital disruption? I'm working on guess and anecdote, but I'd imagine it'd be roughly one in five people, in a good month. More than that, in the UK, the 1980s would have been selling far, far more records than they actually were.
More to the point, though: if record companies are still seeing their business as selling individual files to individual consumers, they're still not really coping with their new business. Sure, it's a nice little business, a bit of side dealing to make some extra money, but really, for a record company individual sales should be treated the way petrol stations think about the sales of air fresheners. Silly not to get the sales if you can, but it's not what you're really there for.