Social networks are changing the way people consume music at a time when piracy is on the rise and the rate of growth of legal downloads has slowed. Those are the key findings of a new survey conducted by analyst firm Entertainment Media Research.
The survey found that some 53% of people actively surf social networking sites to find music. A further 30% said they went on to buy or download music that they had discovered on a social network site. On popular sites such as MySpace and Bebo, the numbers of people who use sites to find music rises to 75% and 72% respectively. Some 46% of those surveyed wished it was easier to purchase music they had discovered on social networking sites, for instance via a “buy now” button on the site.
John Enser, head of music at the law firm Olswang that co-authored the survey, believes social networking sites could represent a new platform for the music industry. “Surfing these sites and discovering music is widespread with the latest generation of consumers but the process of actually purchasing the music needs to be made easier,” he said.
The survey – which interviewed 1,700 music consumers aged 13-60 – found that music was increasingly key to social networkers. Some 39% have embedded music in their personal profiles. Seventy percent said they did this to show off their taste, with half saying it was a good way of reflecting their personality.
The survey found the number of people claiming that they illegally download music tracks has risen, from 36% in 2006 to 43% in 2007. At the same time, it found that the rate of growth of legal downloading was in decline. Following a dramatic 40% increase in the number of legal downloaders between 2005 and 2006, the survey identifies a much more modest 16% growth in the number of consumers happy to buy digital music over the same period in 2006 to 2007. In addition, 22% of legal downloaders admitted that they had not paid for a track in the last six months, while the same number said that they had only ever downloaded one legal track.
The survey identifies some reasons for this. Firstly, it found that those surveyed are less concerned that they will be prosecuted for illegally downloading music than last year. Falling CD prices have also played a part in eroding people’s perceptions that digital downloading was a cheaper way to purchase music.
Russell Hart, chief executive of Entertainment Media Research said the findings represented a new era of “democratisation” in the way consumers interacted with music and artists. “Social networks are fundamentally changing the way we discover, purchase and use music,” he said. “While there is no direct link between piracy and music on social networking sites, it is a new discovery platform and if it isn’t integrated with a purchase function, people will go elsewhere, including illegal downloads, to get the music they want.”
My comments: How very true. I’m finding myself more and more exposed to music – through social networking sites, through speciality sites such as LastFM, LivePlasma and Pandora, through friends at work who use the same platforms, or other platforms, to broaden their own tastes, and by proxy, mine. And the easier it is to purchase that music, the more I’ve found myself likely to buy it there and then. Broadband really has changed the face of music – more artists, more music, more access. I’ve also found myself getting music off my friends, and purchasing it if I like it – I believe that downloading music (legally or illegally) opens up choice, and allows artists to reach a wider audience than if it didn’t occur, if that audience are willing to purchase the music they like legally. Whether they do or not is the big question…