As a consequence of a discussion about peer-to-peer file sharing on the Tech-House Mailing List, I became aware of a study completed by Felix Oberholzer of the Harvard Business School. The document investigates the impact that peer-to-peer networks such as Napster etc have had on album sales in the US.
Apparently, illegal downloads have had virtually zero impact on album sales in the US. In fact, it is suggested that downloads actually help encourage sales. Those who download tracks and don’t buy the respective album, would not have bought it anyway – apparently.
Oddly, I don’t think of this as positive news for recording artists. With the current setup of the music industry, it’s only the labels that make any money.
Theoretically, the internet provides a great distribution method for any artist – and besides the marketing muscle; it’s only the distribution that a record company really offers the artist these days. With the development of PC based recording and production software, the traditional, expensive recording studio is increasingly obsolete.
Still – you make your tracks; and you could theoretically get them to millions of users. But – how do you get noticed or paid? Without the marketing clout of the industry heavyweights, I wonder how much demand there is on Kazaa for tracks from artists such as Flicker? Even if there was a huge demand – would downloads have any effect on the sales of vinyl (CDs rarely being produced by smaller labels in this genre)?