File Sharing Down in the UK

Well, sharing music files at least, according to this article.

Funny, isn’t it, how illegal file sharing is going down just around the time that new services (such as Spotify) and new music stores (such as Amazon’s) are finally starting to provide some viable legal alternatives.

One section of the article that I found particularly interesting is this:

The results also show there are now more U.K. music fans regularly buying single track downloads (19%) than file-sharing single tracks (17%) every month. However, the percentage of fans sharing albums regularly (13%) is still higher than those purchasing digital albums (10%).

It strikes me that there’s a simple explanation for this: people need to know what they’re getting before they can decide what it’s worth. Single tracks are most likely to be those that have been played on the radio, recommended by a friend, or a particular favourite from an older album previously owned on a physical format. They are tracks that consumers specifically buy because that’s the song they want.

Albums, on the other hand, often contain unwanted tracks. Back in the days of audio cassettes and the Walkman it was a pain to skip them – which sometimes had the surprising effect of initially dismissed songs becoming “growers”, and eventually firm favourites. Now that skipping a track is as simple as pressing a button, there’s less chance for “growers” to plant their roots. So not only do albums contain genuinely unwanted tracks – they also contain unwanted tracks that in previous years would have become wanted. The end result is that an album is less value for money now than at any time before – at least if you look at it as a ratio of the number of good tracks to the number of skipped tracks. No wonder people are opting to try before they buy via filesharing… but of course once you’ve tried, you’ve got a little less incentive to buy.

If the record industry wants “The Album” to survive in a world where tracks can be downloaded, individually, in a matter of seconds and at a reasonable price, they’re going to have to start thinking a bit more creatively.

1 Comment

  1. Simon says:

    I do wonder if buying ‘tracks’ as I do know I am actually missing out on some amazing ‘growers’. But then again I’m so enjoying listening to the ‘instants’ I have bought I’m not so worried about the ‘growers’ I haven’t.

    Maybe bans need to make sure that its easy for internet ‘radio’ to play full range of tracks by a star rather then the next expected ‘hit’ (if they don’t already.

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