File-sharing services have existed for more than a decade, from the earliest days of Napster in the late 1990s to today’s Pirate Bay and BitTorrent. Users know file sharing is an easy, fast and free (though not necessarily legal) way to find and download digital music.
These services have also been the nemesis of the entertainment industry. For years, the industry has said file sharing is a major drag on its bottom line. Several studies have disputed those claims, though, and two recent ones seem to agree. These new studies say file sharers are actually more likely to purchase digital music than their counterparts who don't share files.
One study by Columbia University researchers looked at the habits of file sharers in both the U.S. and Germany. The second, by the Dutch Institution for Information Law and CentERdata, surveyed file sharers 16 years and older in the Netherlands.
Columbia University researchers found that file sharers spend 30 percent more money on paid music content then those who don’t use file-sharing services. [See also: Streaming Music Bumps MP3s Off the Playlist ]
“Our data is quite clear on this point and lines up with numerous other studies. The biggest music pirates are also the biggest spenders on recorded music,” Joe Karaganis, vice president of the American Assembly at Columbia University, wrote of the findings.
The Dutch study echoes Karaganis’ argument. There researchers found that file sharers were four times more likely than everyone else to have purchased digital music, and only a third of all file sharers did not pay for any of the music they’d downloaded.
“If absolute spending is the metric, then P2P users value music more highly than their non-P2P using, digital-collecting peers, not less,” Karaganis pointed out. “They’re better digital consumers.”