Research Says P2P Has Been a Boon to Artists

CYBERSPACE—The conventional wisdom has held that the proliferation of peer-to-peer file sharing websites and torrents has resulted in a profound loss of revenue for artists who need to control the distribution of their copyrighted material in order to survive and thrive. But new research conducted as part of a master thesis conducted by Norwegian School of Management students Anders Sørbo and Richard Bjerkøe suggests that the last decade has resulted in an increase in revenue for artists.

Though limited to the experience of the music industry in Norway, the study supports what many in the P2P movement have said, that freedom begets wealth.

According to an executive summary of the study, the authors found that the total music industry revenue in Norway was almost NOK 1.9 billion in 2009, up from NOK 1.4 billion in 1999. Adjusted for inflation, that represents only a 4 percent growth. However, total artist income, adjusted for inflation, was NOK 545 million in 2009, up from NOK 255 million in 1999, and increase of 114 percent for the same period.

The authors of the study estimated that the number of music artists in Norway increased by about 28 percent in the period from 1999 to 2009. On a per capita basis, that would mean that the artists had gone from NOK 80,000 in annual income from music to NOK 133,000, an increase of 66 percent.

The researchers also polled the artists themselves to determine the sources of their income, reports Torrent Freak. “Here, it was found that record sales have never been a large part of the annual revenue of artists. In 1999, 70 percent of the artists made less than 9 percent of their total income from record sales, and in 2009 this went down to 50 percent,” the site said.

Not surprisingly, income from live performances had doubled during the same time period, with 37 percent of Norwegian artists making more than 50 percent of their income from live performances in 2009, up from 25 percent in 1999. As Torrent Freak notes, however, “few artists make a full living off their music, as most have other jobs aside.”

While artists are making more money during the P2P boom decade from 1999 to 2009, revenue from record sales have decreased markedly, though Torrent Freak insists, “That can be just as easily attributed to iTunes as The Pirate Bay.”

And while the results of this study of music artists can hardly be shifted seamlessly to what is going on in the adult entertainment industry in some ways they are similar. Live content has retained a level of profit margin while revenue from recorded content has been in steady decline.

Another ray of hope for adult performers, quite distinct from the results of this study, can be found in the increasing acceptance of adult entertainment, which could lead to more opportunities for live performances.

Unlike music, however, which is rarely, if ever, under inherent legal threat, the adult entertainment industry needs to continuously fight to maintain its ability to simply exist. If it can succeed in that regard, the seemingly black hole of piracy could possibly turn out to be a speed bump on the road to greater fortune.