How Students Get Their Music: Is File Sharing Over?
- March 29th, 2011
- 5 Comments
The most interesting headlines in music in the past week aren’t about Britney Spears’ new album or Radiohead’s newspaper. It’s that only 9% of Americans still get music from peer-to-peer networks, according to NPD Group — that’s a whopping 44% drop from a year ago. Does that mean significantly fewer teens and college students are pirating music?
NPD suggests that steep decline in piracy is because LimeWire, a major P2P network, was shut down for illegal activity, so this is a victory for record companies, that now just need to shut down all P2P networks to get back in the black.
But we all still listen to music, so, as TorrentFreak notes, if fewer people are stealing music, sales of music should have risen since LimeWire’s demise…but they haven’t. Sure, both of these sources are biased in their presentation of the “facts” — NPD sells research to music companies, and TorrentFreak is obviously in favor of file sharing. But their statements beg the question: What’s going on here and what does it say about high school and college students’ music habits?
Ypulse recently conducted its own research about students’ media and technology habits and discovered some interesting stats about how they use technology to access music. We learned that iPods and MP3 players are as ubiquitous as cell phones, and two-thirds use them daily, so clearly students are still voracious music consumers.
Are they buying more music than they did a year ago? Nope. Nearly twice as many students say they’re buying less music as say they’re buying more. Are they downloading music (legally or illegally)? Yep, more than six in 10 download music, averaging 10 songs a week.
So what has changed? The number of legal sources of free or cheap music have proliferated in the past year — students spend nearly three hours a week listening to Internet radio streams, and services like Pandora, Spotify, and Rhapsody continue to get better. Bands themselves are giving fans free samples — the Strokes released their first single from their much-anticipated album as a free download, some bands have developed mobile apps that include music that never makes it to albums, and the list of bands that allow short-term free streaming of their albums on or near the release date is way too long to get into.
And then there’s social media. Copyfight points out the many ways to share music via Facebook and Twitter. With all these ways to try before you buy, perhaps music sales and downloads are down because people are only buying what they like.
Record companies can continue to fight P2P file sharing, but the fact is that the music distribution model has changed…again. The other major realization from our Ypulse Report on technology is that students will find (or invent) ways to get what they want how and when they want it (and that doesn’t necessarily mean free). Record companies’ energies would be better spent in recognizing the new ways students are getting and sharing music and building a sales model around that, rather than trying to force them to do something they don’t want to do.
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