Study: Illegal Downloaders Ultimately Pay More for Music

LONDON—A new poll that asked 1,000 respondents, ages 16 to 50, about their online music habits has concluded that people who illegally download music also spend more money purchasing it than those who claim they do not obtain music illegally.

Though the study was limited to questions regarding the illegal downloading of music, it could potentially provide some insight into attitudes regarding pornography, the illegal downloading and sharing of which has also reached stratospheric levels in the past few years.

Commissioned by the London-based think tank Demos and conducted by U.K. market research company Ipsos Mori, the study found that those who admit to illegally downloading music also spent an average of $125 a year on music—$54 more than those who claim they never download music illegally.  

The findings come on the heels of a plan by the British government to implement a “three strikes and you’re out” law next year that would punish people who illegally download music by cutting off their internet connections. The Digital Economy Bill, which internet service providers are already claiming will be impossible to enforce, is now also being criticized as a law that will not produce its intended results. 

"The latest approach from the Government will not help prop up an ailing music industry. Politicians and music companies need to recognize that the nature of music consumption has changed, and consumers are demanding lower prices and easier access," said Demos’ Peter Bradwell. 

Contrary to conventional wisdom, said Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research, the very people who file-share are the ones most interested in music and the ones who will ultimately pay for it.

"They use file-sharing as a discovery mechanism,” he said. “We have a generation of young people who don't have any concept of music as a paid-for commodity. You need to have it at a price point you won't notice."

The music industry, unconvinced that the proposed law will be ineffective, instead interprets the poll to suggest that “the Government's plan to disconnect illegal downloaders if they ignore official warning letters could deter people from internet piracy, with 61 percent of illegal downloaders surveyed admitting they would be put off downloading music illegally by the threat of having their internet service cut off for a month,” according to the Independent.