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David Baxter

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The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music

P2P networks permit members to transfer digitally-stored information to one another over the Internet; popular examples include BearShare, LimeWire and eMule. Using representative survey data from the Canadian population collected by Decima Research on behalf of Industry Canada, we attempt to quantify this economic relationship, while accounting for other factors that influence music purchasing. We undertake a variety of econometric estimations for the population of Canadians who engage in P2P file-sharing (P2P "downloaders"), as well as for the whole Canadian population. To our knowledge, this is the first study on P2P file-sharing that analyzes original and representative microeconomic survey data from the Canadian population. Few previous studies have analyzed representative microeconomic data, for Canada or any other country.

The existing literature identifies two competing effects associated with the P2P music file-sharing: the sampling and substitution effects. The sampling effect is characterized both by individuals downloading music in order to listen to it before buying it as well as by individuals downloading music that is not available in stores, while the substitution effect is characterized by individuals downloading music instead of purchasing it. In this paper, we further disentangle the sampling effect by adding a market segmentation effect, characterized by individuals engaging in P2P file-sharing because they do not want to purchase the entire bundle of songs on a CD.

Our review of existing econometric studies suggests that P2P file-sharing tends to decrease music purchasing. However, we find the opposite, namely that P2P file-sharing tends to increase rather than decrease music purchasing.

Among Canadians who engage in P2P file-sharing, our results suggest that for every 12 P2P downloaded songs, music purchases increase by 0.44 CDs. That is, downloading the equivalent of approximately one CD increases purchasing by about half of a CD. We are unable to find evidence of any relationship between P2P file-sharing and purchases of electronically-delivered music tracks (e.g., songs from iTunes). With respect to the other effects, roughly half of all P2P tracks were downloaded because individuals wanted to hear songs before buying them or because they wanted to avoid purchasing the whole bundle of songs on the associated CDs and roughly one quarter were downloaded because they were not available for purchase. Our results indicate that only the effect capturing songs downloaded because they were not available for purchase influenced music purchasing, a 1 percent increase in such downloads being associated with nearly a 4 percent increase in CD purchases.

We find evidence that purchases of other forms of entertainment such as cinema and concert tickets, and video games tend to increase with music purchases. It has been argued in the literature that the increase in the number of entertainment substitutes has led to a decline in music purchasing, but our results do not support this hypothesis. As expected, we find that reported interest in music is very strongly associated with music purchases. Finally, our results suggest that household income is not important in explaining music purchases.
 

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