- 13 Oct 08, 09:20 GMT
Their press release is headlined: "Light in the tunnel for the music industry: revenue opportunities are increasing, illegal downloading is down." The truth is, it's still a mixed picture. There are signs that threats of action against illegal downloaders may be having an effect, but there's also evidence that the music-buying (or sharing) public is still pretty underwhelmed by the legal digital offerings.
The figures showing a fall in illegal downloading are pretty inconclusive - down from 43% of the 1500 sample last year to 39% in 2008. But look at the figure for teenagers, tomorrow's potential music buyers. A shade up at 58%, and this was also the group which said it was most likely to carry on swapping music for free. There was also a belief that legal download services just weren't good enough - two in three said that legal sites couldn't offer the range of music that they could get by file-sharing.
But there's vindication in this survey for the music industry's campaign to get Internet Service Providers to join their campaign against piracy. In July the big ISPs agreed to send warning letters to persistent illegal downloaders and it looks as though that may have had more success in putting the frighteners on the pirates than the threat of legal action by the music industry. 61% of illegal downloaders said they believed they were being monitored by their ISPs and 72% said they'd stop if they got one of those scary letters.
After years of snail's-pace innovation by the music industry, consumers suddenly have an embarrassment of choices when it comes to legal digital services. But this report shows they are often more conservative than we might expect. Radio was still by far the most important way of discovering new music, and, when it comes to acquiring music, there's still a degree of wariness about digital options.
The survey respondents were asked to rank different methods in order, including buying CDs, subscription services, free music supported by ads, downloading to a PC, buying a Nokia Comes with Music phone and downloading to a mobile. And, you've guessed it, buying CDs was number one by a mile.(A friend who dropped by while I was writing this has told me he has just spent over £80 on a Bob Dylan three-CD collection, after scouring London to find it. But that may say more about my friends than the state of the music business).
That doesn't mean that CD sales won't keep on falling, and what will worry the music industry is the lack of enthusiasm for one of its big new ideas to replace those lost sales, mobile music. The numbers downloading to their mobiles had actually fallen, and over half said they were just not interested in trying it out.
But let's not assume that this revolution has been stopped in its tracks - or that consumers aren't changing. One fascinating part of the report deals with social networking and its growing importance for music fans. So which was the top music network? YouTube. Yes, the site which started as a simple way to share your favourite video clips, was cited by 41% of the respondents as the most important network for music, sweeping past MySpace which was number one last year. Why? Because they've found that just about any music video ever made is on the site.
The next challenge for the music industry is to turn all that passion about music on YouTube and MySpace into cash. The survey floats an interesting idea, asking whether people would be willing to act as sellers of music on sites like YouTube and MySpace, promoting bands they like and then getting a commission for each sale. 43% of those asked warmed to the idea, so when your friends start boring on about some fantastic new album you need to buy, you may have to question their motives.
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