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Music Research: Legal Hits Just As Dominant On P2P

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imageChris Anderson may think the internet unleashes a sales boom for obscure and old content but, in the P2P file-sharing world, music download patterns look uncannily like those back in the world of mainstream hits, according to new research. The Long Tail Of P2P paper, which observed illegal downloading habits over 12 months, says: “Consumers are still driven to seek the same music in legal and illegal markets. The most swapped files were also the most downloaded on legal music sites, indicating that what

5 Responses to “Music Research: Legal Hits Just As Dominant On P2P”

  1. Peter Ely

    First, wake me up when Pirate Bay wants to negotiate a deal to distribute content legally. The studios and labels have been using P2P for some time. Technology is morally and legally neutral. It is the abusers of artists' rights that are the problem.

    Secondly, the Long Tail misses the key curve that (not surprisingly) invalidates it as a useful concept for inspiring artists. While the curve illustrates that even obscure content will be found over a long period of time, it neglects to include the curve that shows that the amount of content available for discovery is increasing much faster than the curve declines. That means that while even 'obscure' music has a category has a long life, the odds of any particular song being found, and any particular artist benefiting from the discovery, decreases rapidly over time. Chris Anderson, who controls the major media whose audience cares about this concept (Wired and related sites/communities) may be able to repeat the idea that the Long Tail is good for artists, but the basic trends readily observable on the web don't bear him out.

  2. I think this does not refute the long tail argument. If I recall correctly, The Long Tail does not say that there will not be any hits. It's just that the hits are not as big and the 'long tail' makes up a larger proportion of the overall market. In the 90's a hit record could sell over 5 million records and there were several of them breaking this mark in a given year. I'm sure there are no albums selling this well any more. Also, the book gives the example of "I Love Lucy" and how something about 70% of the TV audience would tune in. Clearly, no show can capture that share any more. Perhaps Chris Anderson's claims might at times be overstated or not reached yet, but the trends still support the basic theory.

  3. The Web music market disproves not only Anderson's theory of the Long Tail, but also Clay Shirky's one about "free" downloads being always more attractive than the ones users have to pay for, even if it is pennies. Shirky like to say that "people hate to be nickel-and-dimed."

    Well, it is not the price that makes Web music attractive or not, it is its perceived quality or popularity. And, I am glad Pages's study seems to confirm that. Because I believe the same is true for other types of digitally available content, such as pictures, video clips, magazine articles or even news. Web users would love to get all they want for free (and quickly and safely, too), but as Page suggests, given the choice between a free but unknown tune or even hundreds of such, and the newest hits by Lady Ga Ga, they will download the later, even if it cost them something. — 99 or 69 cents! Come on!