Though record labels have often claimed that piracy threatens artists, a new study suggests that unauthorized file-sharing via BitTorrent might not hurt music sales: in fact, it might boost them.
Economist Robert Hammond, of North Carolina State University, gathered data music album download data from a BitTorrent tracker between May 2010 and January 2011. He paired this info with the albums’ sales stats, as to assess any causal links between piracy and sales.
“File sharing of an album benefits its sales,” he said in his paper. “I don’t find any evidence of a negative effect in any specification, using any instrument.”
Hammond looked at 1,095 albums by 1,075 artists, all of which hit the web before their official release. Recording honchos want to curb these leaks, claiming that pre-release piracy is a particular priority for the recording industry.”
He claims that this type of release might actually work to market the music and says that increased downloads prompt a slight increase in receipts. But this is mainly for well known artists: lesser-known musicians don’t experience any net benefit.
Now, a couple of things should be mentioned. There has been some conflicting data on the BitTorrent-benefit link among all media, but those uncertainties almost entirely dealt with studies that didn’t use torrent trackers. Also worth noting: Hammond is hardly the first guy who has attested to the positive relationship between piracy and sales. Two quick examples that come to mind (among countless others)? First, there’s the Japanese government-coordinated research suggesting that piracy pushes up anime sales. Even a Forbes writer has changed his mind and decided that piracy might be “the new advertising,” especially in the publishing realm.