While CRIA regularly trumpets commissioned studies as evidence for the problems posed by P2P, this week it released a major study without any fanfare whatsoever. Conducted by Pollara last month, the study serves as part of CRIA's submission to the CRTC's Commercial Radio Review. What makes this particular study interesting (aside from the fact that it finally includes full details on responses and the actual questions posed), is that much of the data challenges many familiar CRIA claims.
Particularly noteworthy findings in the 144 page study report (appendix one) include:
- The survey asked for the sources of music on people's computers. Among those who download music from P2P services, the top source of music was ripping copies of their own CDs (36.4%), followed by P2P downloads (32.6%), paid downloads (20.1%), shared music from friends (8.8%), downloads from artist sites (5.6%), and other sources (2.9%). In other words, even among those who download music from P2P services, the music acquired on those services account for only one-third of the music on their computers as store-bought CDs remain the single largest source of music for downloaders (page 53).
- For all the emphasis on the teenage downloaders, it is interesting that the 35 to 44 age group had the largest spread between CDs and P2P as the source of music. Among that demographic, 31 percent of their music comes from P2P services and 27 percent from ripping their own CDs (page 69).
- Consistent with many other studies, people who download music from P2P services frequently buy that same music. The study found that only 25% of respondents said they never bought music after listening to it as a P2P downloaded track. That obviously leaves nearly 75% as future purchasers, including 21% who have bought music ten times or more. Note that demographically, the lowest percentage of non-buyers actually belonged to the 13 to 17 year old demographic (page 70).
- The 13 to 17 year old demographic also happens to be the largest purchasing group of music, buying an average of 11.6 music CDs or DVDs in the past six months. Close behind are the 18 to 24 age group at 10.9 music CDs or DVDs. By comparison, the older demographics may not download much music but they don't buy much either. The 55 – 64 age group bought 4.2 music CDs or DVDs, while the 65 and up age group bought 2.8 music CDs or DVDs (page 92).
- As for music buying trends, the study also asked whether purchasing patterns had increased or decreased over the previous year. The data was inconclusive with 28% buying more, 35% buying less, and 37% saying they didn't know (page 93).
- More interestingly, the survey also asked why people bought less. Only 10% of respondents cited the availability of music downloads. Instead, people cited a long list of alternatives that have nothing to do with downloading including price (16%), nothing of interest (14%), lack of time (13%), collection is big enough (9%), don't buy (7%), listen to radio (7%), change in tastes (6%), no CD player (3%), have an MP3 player (2%), lack of opportunity to buy (2%), watch more tv (2%), age (1%), only buy what I like (1%). Simply put, P2P simply is not a major factor behind decisions to buy less music (page 95).
In summary, CRIA's own research now concludes that P2P downloading constitutes less than one-third of the music on downloaders' computers, that P2P users frequently try music on P2P services before they buy, that the largest P2P downloader demographic is also the largest music buying demographic, and that reduced purchasing has little to do with the availability of music on P2P services. I've argued many of these same things, but now you don't have to take my word for it; you can take it from the record labels themselves.
Update: Howard adds to the coverage of the Pollara report by noting the enormous difference in the response to the question about Canadian copyright law and international standards. CRIA reported that 72 percent of Canadians favoured meeting international standards in December, while two months later that number declined to 46 percent. As Howard notes, the difference highlights the lack of reliability of public surveys about complex legal treaties since most people have not taken the time to become fully informed about the issue. Of course, asking about copyright law and international standards increasingly means more than just WIPO as it may also include the dozens of exceptions contemplated by the Australian parliamentary committee, the mandatory DRM compatibility being considered in France, fair use provisions in the U.S., and the provisions being floated as part of an Access to Knowledge Treaty.