Most Musicians See No Benefit to RIAA Campaign Against File-Sharers

While the RIAA argues unequivocally that the file-sharing services are hurting musicians, musicians have their own opinions. A new study shows that more musicians feel that file-sharing benefits them than feel that it hurts them. Most musicians feel that the RIAA suits against file-sharing music fans will not benefit either musicians or songwriters.

The new report, from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, suggests that musicians are divided about the impact of file-sharing on the music business. While many felt that file-sharing gained them additional exposure, others were concerned about losing control over their work. Most agreed, though, that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and its lawsuits against file-sharers would not benefit musicians.

Between March 15 and April 15 of this year, 2,755 musicians and songwriters responded to a Web-based survey about the way they use the Internet and their views on a host of public policy questions related to copyright and music file-sharing on the Internet.

Highlights of the report:

  • The Internet appears to be benefiting more musicians than it hurts. 35% of the musicians interviewed agreed that file-sharing services are not bad for artists, compared to 23% that felt that they hurt artists.
  • 7 times as many musicians feel that the Internet has helped them as feel it has hurt them. When asked what impact free downloading on the Internet has had on their careers as musicians, 37% say free downloading has not really made a difference, 35% say it has helped and 8% say it has both helped and hurt their career. Only 5% say free downloading has exclusively hurt their career and 15% of the respondents say they don’t know.
  • Most musicians think file-sharing has had a small or no effect on the piracy of their music. Asked whether online music file-sharing has made it harder to protect their music from piracy, 16% say the Internet has had a big effect in allowing piracy of their music, 21% say it has had a small effect, and 41% say it has had no effect.
  • Most musicians think current laws adequately protecting musicians. 67% say artists should have complete control over material they copyright and they say copyright laws do a good job of protecting artists. Fully 61% of those in this sample believe that current copyright laws do a good job of protecting artists’ rights, but 59% also say that copyright laws do more to protect those who sell art than to protect the artists themselves.

While many musicians seem to see benefits from the Internet, and even file-sharing, they also have concerns about these technologies:

  • Most musicians and songwriters think file-sharing on the Internet poses some threat to creative industries that make music and movies. One-third say file-sharing poses a “major threat” to these industries while one-third say it poses a “minor threat.” Another third say file-sharing poses “no threat at all” and 7% say they don’t know.
  • Most of the musicians and songwriters sampled do not believe current copyright laws “unfairly limit public access to art.” Some 46% disagree with this statement and 21% strongly disagree. However, 15% do agree that current laws unfairly limit public access to art, 8% strongly agree and 10% say they don’t know.
  • Half of the musicians and songwriters surveyed say they would be bothered if someone put a digital copy of their music on the Internet without permission (compared to 37% who say they would not be bothered and 12% who say they don’t know). Some 28% said they had experienced this situation firsthand.

While the views that Pew captured in their research are complex and sometimes conflicting, there seems to be general consensus among musicians that the Internet is a powerful tool for reaching new audiences. 83% have provided free samples of their work online and significant numbers say free downloading has helped them sell CDs and increase the crowds at concerts

As for their own careers, more of these artists say free music downloading online has helped them than hurt them. Fully 83% of those in the survey say they provide free samples or previews of their music online. And strong pluralities say free downloading has a payoff for them. For instance, 35% of them say free downloading has helped their careers and only 5% say it has hurt. Some 30% say free downloading has helped increase attendance at their concerts, 21% say it has helped them sell CDs or other merchandise; and 19% say it has helped them gain radio playing time for their music. Only fractions of them cite any negative impact of downloading on those aspects of their work.

Many musicians and songwriters do not think the RIAA campaign against free file sharing on the Internet will benefit them

The survey shows that many musicians do not think the recording industry efforts to halt the free sharing of music on the Internet will benefit those who create and perform music.

Some 60% of those in the sample say they do not think the Recording Industry Association of America’s suits against online music swappers will benefit musicians and songwriters. Those who earn the majority of their income from music are more inclined than “starving musicians” to back the RIAA, but even those very committed musicians do not believe the RIAA campaign will help them. Some 42% of those who earn most of their income from their music do not think the RIAA legal efforts will help them, while 35% think those legal challenges will ultimately benefit them.

Details and methodology on Pew’s survey are available at their site.

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