Tuesday, April 04, 2006


No, they're not, actually, but since they've decided to announce that illegal downloading has cost the UK music industry a billion pounds, we thought we'd pluck an eyecatching figure out the air and use it as a headline, too.

The figure is based on a TNS survey which tracks the entertainment spend of a panel of 15,000 consumers. Unfortunately, the value of the figures is weakened somewhat as the latest set of figures released by the BPI rely on just 3,317 response - THS only approached half the panel, and less than half of those asked to take part bothered to respond. The BPI hasn't chosen to make available any data to suggest the one-in-five of the panel considered this time round reflects the general make-up of either the panel as a whole, or society in general.

The billion? That comes by a little bit of magic. The music purchases of filesharers is compared with non-filesharers, and the conclusion drawn that if the filesharers behaved like non-filesharers, they'd spend the same on music as they do. Which - and let's ride with their assumptions here - would mean that there were £414 million worth of music purchases that weren't made in 2005. They add this to the similarly dubious figures from 2003 and 2004, and there you are: that's a billion quid.

But are these figures quite as scary as they seem? The BPI offers up the apparently conclusive claim that the impact has been particularly acute on singles sales where an overall decline of 9% on singles buying rises to 34% for illegal downloaders. The substitutional effect is clear.

But hang about a minute... when they say "singles", do they mean physical, CD singles? Surely they must, as they have to compare like with like, and the legal download market wasn't counted in the 2004 figures for "singles". But wouldn't you expect the amount spent in HMV by people who are also comfortable downloading music off the internet to decline quite sharply as they choose to buy online instead? In addition, of course, people who are more comfortable online are going to spend less on the same physical product as someone who shops for on the high street, simply because CDs are cheaper in Cyberspace than they are in the stores.

Perhaps that's why the BPI focuses on spend, rather than the actual number of records being bought.

The BPI also seems a little bit confused about its own figures. Today's report states:

Further indications that the BPI’s campaign against illegal filesharing is succeeding with the percentage of the population illegally downloading down to 15.4% in 2005 from 16% in 2004 and 17.8% in 2003;

but the report on the 2003 report says:

The survey reveals that 17.8% of the public say they are downloading music. This equates to 8.0m people. Of those 92%, are using illegal sites, some 7.4m people.

We make 92% of 17.8% as coming in as less than the 100% of 17.8% they claim today were illegally downloading. In fact, based on the BPI's 2003 figures, only 16.5% of the public were using illegal sites to download.

That makes the total fall in two years of expensive lawsuits and other high-profile, costly "educational" initiatives have seen only 1.1% of the population turn away from illegal downloading.

If our maths are more solid than the BPI, that's a sniff under half a million people.

Based on the BPI's chums at the IFPI report this morning which revealed only one in five people who reduce their file sharing do so as a result of fear of legal actions, we can conclude that the BPI's hurling around threats of legal action has managed to stop just 98,666 people from "stealing" music.

We don't know how much the scheme has cost the record companies - or, rather, the artists who provide their income streams - but so far there have been 138 legal actions.

That means each lawsuit takes an average of 715 filesharers off the internet.

Equally interesting, when this series of studies was first launched by the BPI, they made a great play of counting how many CD-Rs were bought by illegal downloaders. They seem to not be worried about that quite so much now. Perhaps they're trying to quietly forget their initial Chicken Licken style panic that CD-R sales would destroy music as we know it.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Headline of the year.

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