Illegal Downloaders *Can* Drive Music Sales

A guest post by my Interpret colleague, Josh Bell who leads our music research on how illegal downloaders can actually drive music sales. Great stuff.

Interpret’s Syndicated Research Service recently released an interesting report about illegally downloading music. Rather than focusing on the illegal activity, we took a closer look at how else downloaders get their music. This isn’t the typical “let’s vilify the illegal downloaders and get them to switch to iTunes” strategy – it’s been tried with little success. Nor are we suggesting more lawsuits, though I’m sure that would be a fascinating and controversial read. Instead, we took a look at overall music consumption – what else are these “pirates” doing to find music? Are they paying for music at all? How can we reach them and squeeze some additional revenue out of them? recently posted a thoughtful article about our report, but there are two points to clear up – first, we surveyed a nationally representative sample of over 9,000 respondents, then weighted the data to the US Census to project to millions. Second, the finding that “51% [of music pirates] are fine with the current price point of legal downloads” is misleading. What we state is that on an 11-point scale where 0 = completely disagree and 10 = completely agree, 49% of illegal downloaders completely agree that downloading should be cheaper than buying a CD. This doesn’t mean the rest don’t agree – in fact, 85% agree with the statement (rated it a 6 or higher).

And one tidbit from our report not mentioned in the article – music pirates are consuming music in a multitude of ways – video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, streaming on social networking sites, etc. So even if they’re not buying CDs or paying for downloads, there are other ways to reach them that the music industry is not exploiting.

Want to read more? Let me know and for a limited time we’ll send you the report free!

13 responses to “Illegal Downloaders *Can* Drive Music Sales

  1. Thanks for the clarification about those stats. Just goes to show that putting stats into context and showing their relative meaning can be just as important as the numbers themselves. ;)

  2. Hi Michael

    I am very interested in reading the full report.

    Would appreciate it if you could send me a copy.

    Thanks and Regards

    Ayush Gupta

  3. Hi Michael

    I’d like to read the report could you send it to me at danielherb at

    Do you see any parallels between the dynamic of paid versus “free” music and the introduction of the app store introducing free as a default price for mobile (non-music) content?

    I noticed that NPD’s latest says Apple iTunes share of the US music industry rev is 25%. The report doesn’t mention that US music revs have dropped by about half during the rise of the iPod due to pirating and sideloading. Will we see this in mobile?

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