October 13, 2008

Music Fans Turning Away From Illegal Downloads

A new British survey on consumers' digital habits found that nearly 3 in 4 music pirates would stop if told by their Internet Service Provider to do so.

Entertainment Media Research (EMR) conducted the study, with results suggesting that many music fans are steering clear of illegal downloads due to the abundance of online music services. In fact, nearly half of those questioned reported getting their music from legal subscriptions or ad supported sites. 

The survey aimed to discover consumers' digital media preferences, and ways that media sellers can make their services more attractive.

The research also revealed the effect of the music industry's campaign to clamp down on piracy.  Part of that initiative involved music groups contacting ISPs about customers they suspected of illegally downloading music.  The ISPs would then contact those customers to warn them about their suspected illegal activity.

"It is quite evident that an ISP-led strategy has bite, because illegal downloaders are fairly convinced that ISPs are currently monitoring their activities and are more likely to act against them than the courts," Russell Hart, CEO of Entertainment Media Research, said in a statement.

The survey found that the most persistent pirates were among younger Internet users, with 58% of those 13-17 reporting illegally downloading music. Additionally, 61% of those questioned were convinced their activities were being monitored.

However, as competition among online music providers has heated up, fewer feel the need to download their music illegally. In fact, 51% of those responding to the survey reported receiving their music through legal downloads.  It was the first time in the five years EMR has conducted the survey that a majority reported getting their music downloads legally.

MySpace, Nokia and Play have all launched digital music stores during the past month.    However, the survey showed that older customers generated a substantial part of that growth, with more than 40% of those buying downloads each month being over 35 years of age.

"The survey shows that despite the ubiquity of free music, there's a real willingness by consumers to pay for music products if the package is right," Alexander Ross at the media law firm Wiggin, which participated in the research, told BBC News.

The research also shed light on the important role played by networking and social media sites, with many music fans now turning to YouTube, MySpace and Facebook to find new bands or talk to other fans of their favorite acts.

Indeed, video is becoming an increasingly vital part of music consumption, the survey found, with 41% reporting that YouTube was their preferred social networking site, followed by 25% who said MySpace was their favorite site.

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