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The music business and its research problems

Music Download Online Research NORTH PaidContent released a bar chart from Nielson that shows what they call Global Music Consumption. Predictably it has been picked up by the media without any serious analysis or questioning. I have a problem with the chart.

Here's why: We are not given the size of the audience that was researched nor are we given any demographic information. We are not even told how the research and polling was done. Were the questions multiple choice or were they presented as shown in the bar chart? If the questions were asked as presented here then I have a problem with the second question - the green bar. I find that a misleading question if there was not a provision for another question related to it - for e.g., Was the song you downloaded given away as a free download by the artist or the copyright holder?

An answer to that question would dilute the suspicion that almost 50% of online music lovers are "stealing music," as the green bar seems to infer. It is critical that a statistic like that is shown in its correct light otherwise it just adds fuel to the fire in the "everyone steals music" discussion. Recording companies could pounce on it as a fact when we actually don't know the real answer.

It doesn't paint PaidContent in a good light if they are willing to just post up this bar chart without any accompanying data.

Two things that appear to point to music fans' online activity are the yellow bar and the last magenta(?) bar. The music industry should pay attention to those two. The yellow bar shows (lack of backup data aside,) that 57% of the audience is happy accessing music via streaming video. And the fact that most people purchase downloads of single songs, not full albums, is by now well know. I'll bet that the music recording industry pays more attention to the green bar though. They'd like the media to still think that people are "stealing" music instead of buying it.

This bar chart doesn't prove that, it just adds to the distortions around the practice, legal or not, of music downloading.

Radiohead: Record Store Day, two free MP3s and the Thank You Economy

Radiohead: Record Store Day, two free MP3s and the Thank You Economy

Dear copywriters - can you help me with this?