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Tiscali UK Survey Reveals Illegal File Sharing Attitudes
By: MarkJ - 24 February, 2009 (1:46 PM)

Broadband ISP Tiscali has conducted an anonymous online study into UK consumer attitudes towards music and illegal music downloading. The survey uncovers some interesting findings, including how P2P (file sharing) sites are used by 46% of respondents but 53% say they have never knowingly downloaded music illegally.

The percentage using P2P sites increases slightly to 54% for those in the survey using iTunes and significantly to 78% for the Drowned in Sound (DiS) audience. Only 7% of DiS audience have ‘never knowingly downloaded music illegally’ (40% for iTunes users). Limewire (34%) and BitTorrent (25%) are by far the most popular P2P sites.

Three out of four people know what is legal and illegal in relation to their music use, but at least half don’t think the music industry does enough to persuade them that such activity is damaging. Some also believe that their illegal activity is mitigated by regularly spending more money on legal content and live gigs.

83% of respondents said that they still pay for music in some form, whether on a CD or via download. Even the illegal downloading communities are spending money on CDs - 51% for tiscali.co.uk, 54% for iTunes and 69% for DiS. Up to 69% are spending over £10 a month on music, with just 17% spending nothing:

Sean Adams, founder and editor of DrownedinSound.com (DiS) says: "Our readers are some of the most rabid and complex music consumers in the world. Their slightly nerdy tendencies have meant they embraced downloading at its very embryonic stage. I was surprised that so many of our readers knew what the BPI is because I know people that have worked in the music industry for a decade who have never heard of it.

Recorded music is only part of their lives, they go to a hell of a lot of gigs and the study shows they go to at least 12 gigs a year, which is obviously a major contribution to the UK music industry.

However, it would seem from this study that little has changed their attitudes to 'illegal P2P'. Instead, the music industry should do much more to engage with outlets and fans by offering freemium products and help the likes of Spotify develop compelling alternatives to P2P in order to upsell legal digital products.

The more music savvy the consumer, the more likely they are to be participating in illegal downloading but also they are more likely to be spending more both on recorded music AND live gigs. This clearly poses a major conundrum for the music business.

Furthermore 60% of Tiscali respondents and 62% of DiS said they only downloaded free because of a limited budget or to supplement their spend. Roughly one in ten say they do it because they like to 'try before they buy'. However another one in ten say they rarely buy music now they can get it for free:

Neal McCleave, Managing Director of Media Services at Tiscali says: “The research shows that music fans have a far from simple relationship with music and many see illegal downloading as either a way to explore new music they would never buy or as a way to try before they buy.

There is clearly a distinct trend for people ‘topping up’ their paid music collection through free downloads. Only a hard core of about 15% said that they wouldn’t stop and they downloaded illegally because they didn’t want to pay.

This doesn’t have to be all negative news for the music industry: in fact, if people are not able to access tracks for free, it may well prevent them from discovering new music in the future.

So what about solutions? Clearly educational improvements are needed, though if the music industry pushes for the 'big stick' approach of overly harsh measures against illegal downloader’s then ironically they might take a hit themselves.

Punitive measures may only be so effective. Curiously and in stark contrast to most other surveys, just 6% fear a fine, 2% fear that their ISP will monitor them and only 3% are worried about being cut-off from their broadband provider.

The two main deterrents to illegal downloading are a lack of knowledge, with 31% saying they do not know which sites are legal and which are not, which prevents them from trying new services. Secondly, 25% of people said that they are primarily deterred by a desire to own the extras that come with a CD.

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