Karl: Every independent study has found that people who pirate music buy much more of it than people who do not.

[Quote]Are you seriously trying to say that piracy hasn’t had a negative economic effect on musicians??? [/quote]

[Reply] It has had a positive effect for a few musicians, and mixed effects for the majority. I believe the only musicians it has had a negative effect on, are the ones that are marketed as “impulse purchases” for young music consumers.

Traditionally, most people were not fans of music. They listened to the radio, and if they liked it, they bought the CD. But their music collections never went past about 50 or 100 CD’s. These are the “Joe average” listeners, the ones who only hear music when they’re listening to the radio at work.

These people do not care enough about music to learn how to share files, so file sharing has a negligible effect with this group.

On the other hand, there are the (usually young) people who are actually fans of music. They love it, can’t get enough of it. They spend most of their free cash on music, but their free cash is limited. So they pirate what they don’t buy.

These fans are less likely to buy Top 40 stuff. For one thing, it’s a guilty pleasure (try explaining your love of Taylor Swift to your best friend who goes on about The Liars or Lightning Bolt). For another thing, they know intimately that the people they would be supporting are screwing musicians and screwing consumers. On the other hand, they’re far more likely to buy something from a relatively unknown band, especially if their friend sent them a download link.

And these types of people buy a lot more music. Every independent study has found that people who pirate music buy much more of it than people who do not. And their preferred format is digital music. (The audiophiles among them prefer vinyl, which is why LP sales are increasing.)

So, piracy probably has a positive effect on unknown, underground, indie, or niche musicians. Mid-level musicians are indeterminate; it depends entirely upon how well they exploit (or even just accept) fans sharing music for free. It only has a negative effect on the current Top 40. “Catalog” artists are probably not affected too much, since the “Joe average” listeners are their demographic.