OK, I’m feeling frisky again. Ever hear that old saying that actions speak louder than words? Well, nothing could be more evident than this than in the case of a recent article on Billboard.com. The article, titled: Study: 86% Would Pay For Legal P2P, is about as big of a crock of you-know-what that I’ve seen on digital music in a long time. Go ahead and read it. Sure the article seems believable since the author does cite and post a recent study that polls a decent sample size of Swedes. However, to take findings off of a Swedish survey of music users and report it as if it were fact, when every ounce of data says otherwise, is bad reporting. It’s a little bit like reporting on foxes who have been stealing and eating chickens from the hen house. “Hey foxes, would you be willing to pay for chicken too?” Well, let’s look at this dilemma with our reality glasses on.
First of all, Scandinavia, with it’s highly educated, wealthy, tech-savvy consumers have a nice long track record of hacking, hosting and redistributing copyright protected material. Sweden, as is noted in the article, is also the home of The Pirate Bay. This BitTorrent web site has been the thorn in the side to record companies, movie studios and legitimate services for years. They are fueling the 100-1 ratio (conservative estimate) of illegal to legal music downloads which has basically crippled the industry. Times change. It is what it is, but now we’ve got to evolve and figure out a way to legally support the rights holders and artists that create what we covet. Simply stating that 86% off people would be willing to pay for legal P2P is one thing. Actually getting people to do it, when convenient illegal services continue to flourish is something entirely different. I’d prefer to trust the statistics that continue to show the year-over-year massive increases in illegal file sharing despite the readily available resources already providing a “for pay” model. Anyone hear of iTunes or Rhapsody for heavens sake? I just checked, they exist in Sweden. If you’re so willing to pay for it, well…why don’t you pay for it?
At the very least, it should be titled: Survey: 86% Of Swedes Would Pay For Legal P2P. Also, if my logic is correct, and we can apply the Swedish survey model to the rest of the world, wouldn’t this number be even higher in other countries? Music fans in other countries that have stronger laws surrounding copyright infringement would be even more likely to pay—right?. Countries that already had legal teams litigating against illegal downloading would have more users willing to pay—right? I mean c’mon, Sweden is known for having a massive government and super high taxes which has created an underground economy that practically everyone uses at some point. Working around the system and getting things off the books is everywhere and part of the culture. Read about it for yourself here. Fact is, it just makes the survey that much less believable, and that much more ridiculous.
Another bone I do have to pick with the author of the article, is the comparison of the Swedish survey to another survey out of England. He writes, “The STIM survey findings are similar to those of a 2008 study of UK music consumers by the University of Hertfordshire and British Music Rights.” But they are not. In fact, there is no mention at all about the British survey asking consumers if they would be willing to pay for anything. Isn’t this the central theme of the article? The British survey, merely discusses the P2P stats of a different demographic (predominately teenagers). It mentions nothing about anyone paying for anything. It does mention that 80% of teenagers would be in favor of legal P2P. To borrow a phrase from my first grader, “well, duh!”
With digital music sales flattening out, and physical sales almost vanishing before our eyes, it doesn’t take a survey of Swedes to tell us what we already know. Actions do speak louder than words, and we here at Qtrax have been on a long crusade to get the labels on board with consumer actions. Finally, they seem to get it. We’re doing our very best to make our service as consumer-friendly as possible. We were criticized in the article for not being “in line with P2P users’ desired product features.” Well, if supporting the artists and rights holders while delivering free and legal music downloads is not in line with users’ desired product features, there needs to be some consumer education on our part. We know that. We’re working on ironing out all the kinks and delivering exactly what consumers want. We get the fact that everyone wants DRM-free music. Artists and right holders want fair compensation. Everyone wants portability. We get it, and hopefully we’ll be able to make everyone’s dreams come true. However, what’s crystal clear here (and why the article reports only half the story) is that the real desired product feature for P2P music is one thing and one thing only–that it doesn’t cost you a damn thing. Sorry Swedes (and I lived in Scandinavia for a long time), it’s a nice sentiment, but I don’t believe you for one second and any real journalist should’ve seen right through that survey for what it was. Actions speak louder than words—especially in Sweden.
To give it some more perspective, we should look at some other outlandish survey ideas that could easily garner equally preposterous results. Think about it. We might be remorseful on paper, but reality is often quite different. Feel free to post some of your own.
1. Let’s ask recently married couples if they’ll ever get a divorce or cheat on their spouses.
2. Let’s ask baseball players to tell us if they’ve ever taken steroids.
3. Let’s ask drug addicts if they’ll ever use again.
4. Let’s ask obese folks if they eat healthy.
5. Let’s ask fund managers if they ever trade on insider information.
6. Let’s ask priests if they’ve ever had sex.
Survey says? People lie. Even ridiculously attractive Swedish people lie. Good intentions are one thing, actions are another.
The follow-up survey to the survey should be this. “Despite what you said on this survey, how many of you will actually ever pay for music again? No, seriously, tell the truth.” Then apply a truth serum and a polygraph, and I think you’ll get closer to the real results. Or, you could simply take a look at what’s been going on over the past seven years and report on that.
86% Would Pay For Legal P2P? C’mon…we’re not that dumb.