Doctorow on Norwegian Piracy Study
Cory Doctorow is, as always, making a lot of sense – this time about the Norwegian BI study that shows that pirates are 10 times as likely to buy music as non-"pirates". He makes two key points. First he explains the result in an intuitive manner:
Second, he looks at piracy as progressive taxation according to artist success. This closely aligns with my experience of music pirates. Very few people want to buy Britney Spears, because they're not invested in the artist. They are heavily invested in a particular song. We want to download "Hit Me Baby (One More Time)" and play it at our high school reunion. We don't want the complete Spears oeuvre. As one commenter on Boing Boing puts it "I no longer buy records that suck. And I check out more bands. That's what piracy does for me."There's a simple explanation for this: if you really love music, you do lots of music-related things. If you're in the 20 percent of fans that buys 80 percent of records, you're probably in the 20 percent of downloaders that download 80 percent of music, the 20 percent of concertgoers that buy 80 percent of the tickets, and so on. The moral is that music superfans love music and structure their lives around it.
Which means that when the music industry targets "the worst offenders" in its legal campaigns against downloaders, the people they're attacking are the ones who are spending the most on music.
So artists such as Spears, who depend in their business model on constantly attracting attention from newly converted, but fundamentally low- and short-term-interest around hit singles, rather than a complete catalogue, will lose some money:
As Doctorow puts it:
Me too.Now, does this mean that downloads end up interfering with sales of music, or not? My guess is that it's a little of both. As Tim O'Reilly wrote, Piracy is Progressive Taxation. Obscure acts probably get more sales than they lose. Modestly well-known acts probably lose and gain about the same. Very famous performers probably lose a little. This has been the conclusion in the quantitative studies in music and books to date, and it makes sense to me.