Here are some links to articles summarizing academic research on how the cultural sector, including the music business, has fared in the file sharing era.
First, three studies on the music business in various member states:
- Sweden 2000 – 2008: More Charts The Record Labels Don’t Want You To See: Swedish Musicians Making More Money
- Norway 1999 – 2009: Artists Make More Money in File-Sharing Age Than Before It
- UK 2004 – 2008: Record companies lose, artists gain from file sharing
The three studies all paint the same picture: The revenues for the record companies have dropped by about half in the last decade, but at the same time, revenues for artists have gone up. The links above are to short articles summarizing the studies. In each case, the article contains further links to references.
An article in the Economist from last year, ”What’s working in music”, references studies from several countries, and concludes that although record sales are down, revenues from live performances have increased dramatically, in a way that more than compensates for the drop in sales of recorded music.
The Dutch study Ups and downs – Economic and cultural effects of file sharing on music, film and games (2009) takes a combined look at different cultural genres. It shows that between 1999 and 2007, revenues have increased for all of them, except music recordings. For the music industry, this study only looks at recorded music, and does not examine income for artists from other sources, such as concerts. This means that the study only confirms the negative trend for recorded music in line with the Swedish, Norwegian, and UK studies above, but leaves the part of the music sector that has made up for this outside the scope of the study.
A Harvard study from 2009 takes a look at the wider implications of file sharing for society, and finds that since the advent of file sharing, both the number of music albums and films released per year have increased. Canadian law professor Michael Geist summarizes the study under the heading Harvard Study Finds Weaker Copyright Protection Has Benefited Society.
Ten years ago, when file sharing on a massive scale on the Internet was a relatively new phenomenon (Napster came in 1999), it was not at all self-evident if and how the cultural sector would survive financially in the new era. But now we have more than a decade’s experience of a world where anybody who wants can download whatever they want for free, and where a large portion of the population routinely does.
We now know from experience that the cultural sector is financially sustainable despite rampant p2p file sharing. What may have appeared to be an insoluble problem a decade ago, has turned out not to be a problem at all, but in fact a huge opportunity for artists and creators, and a boon for sustainable cultural diversity.
It is still very difficult to make a living as an artist, it always has been, and it always will be. But at least it has become a little bit easier than it was before the Internet and p2p file sharing. In the music business, total revenues have increased slightly, while the big record companies are getting a smaller piece of the pie. This has left more money for the creative people who actually make the music (rather than just distribute it).
File sharing is not a problem that needs to be solved. It is something that is positive for both artists, consumers, and society as a whole. All we need to do now is to get copyright legislation in line with this new and positive reality.
By reforming copyright to legalize p2p file sharing that is done without direct commercial intent, we can put an end to the criminalization of an entire generation, while at the same time improving conditions for a vibrant cultural sector in Europe.