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Study: File sharers spend more money on music

A survey in the U.K. suggests that file sharers spend 75 percent more on music than those who claim to be scrupulously honest. Why might this be?

I know that many, especially those associated with making money out of music, feel that pirates who share files should be made to walk the plank to the rhythm of Fiona Apple's "Criminal."

However, a survey commissioned by the professional cogitators at Demos in the U.K., suggests that just because one might download illegally, it doesn't mean one never spends money on music.

Indeed, according to the Independent, this survey, performed by the omeletteheads at Ipsos MORI, showed that those who share files spend 75 percent more on music than those who have allegedly clean hands.

Another omelettehead, Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research, told the Independent that those who share files are simply more interested in music.

He added: "They use file sharing as a discovery mechanism. We have a generation of young people who don't have any concept of music as a paid-for commodity."

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But perhaps it's not quite so simple. I'm still not entirely convinced that file sharers are only those who delight in technology's ability to let them obtain product for nothing. I'm not entirely convinced that technology has made free-fighters of us all.

Wandering around Alcatraz on Saturday (how else is one supposed to celebrate Al Capone on Halloween?), I was struck by how everyone who wanted a little guide book happily volunteered to slip a dollar bill in the slot provided. People still accept the quaint idea of exchanging money for something of an appropriate value.

Isn't the real philosophical heart of file sharing the idea that real, honest people simply felt they had been gouged by the music industry for a little too long? File sharing allows them to alter the imbalance between the listener and the music producer.

It doesn't mean they will never spend money on music. They will simply spend what they feel is the right amount of money on music they think deserves it.

This survey found that 10 percent of the respondents, age range 16-50, admitted illegal downloading. But what might have been instructive would have been to learn just how much music people bought for their average of 77 pounds (around $120) per month and how they made their choice as to what should be bought and what should merely be, um, borrowed.

The music industry is adjusting because it has no choice. And its goal, long-term, may well focus on the ability to earn more from those who love music, rather than from those who are rather more indifferent.

Perhaps the most important word in that thought is "earn."