Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Of course, up until now, the BPI has had little evidence that it was losing any money as a result of illegal downloading, so it needed to come up with something to prove it wasn't just being vindictive. So, it commissioned and paid for a survey which, surprisingly, came up with a staggering figure for the level of loss: Six hundred and fifty million pounds lost - lost to the music industry as a result of downloading.

Crikey, that's a lot.

How did they come up with the figure? Erm... TNS surveys got 10,000 people aged between 12 and 74 to keep track of what they spend on music. Then, it compares the total spend by downloaders with what they would have expected them to spend if their spending patterns were typical of the market as a whole, subtract one figure from the other, and bingo - 650 million quid.

Except, there's a couple of big problems here: first of all, why is the survey matching the "downloaders" spending to "market trends" rather than the non-downloaders spend? Surely they'd make a better control group?

Second, the BPI doesn't explain exactly what constitutes a downloader - presumably they had to self-identify, which probably means that anyone who follows the music world with half an eye would have pretended not to be downloader at all. And does someone who was a downloader in 2003 still count as a downloader in 2004? Even if they've given up?

Third: The 'downloaders' behaviour seems to be based on the 18% of the sample TNS reports as being downloaders - although some of these are actually using legal services (were these still factored into the figures? And was money spent on actual downloads counted as part of their music spend?)

Fourth: There are other reasons why the level of cash spent by the downloaders might have fallen. Since they're the ones with the best access to the internet, isn't it possible that their 33% fall in music spend between 2002 and 2003 could almost entirely be explained by the comeptitive prices of music CDs for sale through Amazon, CD Wow, and so on?

Not much of this is addressed by the BPI. Still, they got an eyecatching headline figure, which is all that counts, isn't it?

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