Illegal file-sharing drops amongst music fans in the UK

Not only is illegal file-sharing on the decline in Britain, but the biggest fall has taken place amongst teenagers.

That’s the intriguing finding in an opinion poll from The Leading Question, who interviewed 1,000 music fans with broadband access and mobile phones, aged 14-64 in the UK face-to-face in January this year.

The opinion poll reports that:

The overall percentage of music fans file-sharing regularly (i.e. every month) has gone down since the last national survey. In December 2007 22% regularly fileshared tracks, but in January 2009 this was down to 17%…

The biggest drop in those regularly file-sharing occurred amongst 14-18 year olds. (In December 2007 42% of 14-18s were filesharing at least once a month. In January 2009 this was down to just 26%)

With a sample size of 1,000 the first finding looks to be a statistically significant decline, whilst the second is also large enough to be statistically significant unless there was an extremely low number of 14-18 year olds in the sample. So far, so solid.

The conclusion The Leading Question points to is an interesting one, namely that the problem with illegal file sharing of music isn’t so much with people willing to indulge in illegal behaviour and being unwilling to pay for music, but rather that legal paid-for music has been too cumbersome to get.

Making it easier for people to keep to the law will, the argument goes, reduce illegal behaviour even if being legal means paying money that is saved with illegal activity:

Tim Walker, CEO of The Leading Question, adds: “Ultimately we believe that the best way to beat piracy is to create great new licensed services that are easier and more fun to use, whether that’s an unlimited streaming service like Spotify or a service like the one recently announced by Virgin which aims to offer unlimited MP3 downloads as well as unlimited streams.”

This argument that the answer to piracy is to make legal sources of music more accessible has been consistently argued by The Leading Question, for in 2005 the BBC reported:

People who illegally share music files online are also big spenders on legal music downloads, research suggests.

Digital music research firm The Leading Question found that they spent four and a half times more on paid-for music downloads than average fans.

Rather than taking legal action against downloaders, the music industry needs to entice them to use legal alternatives, the report said.

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