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Consumers Are Deleting Large Numbers of Digital Music Files From PCs

(CelebrityAccess News Service) — More than a million households deleted all the digital music files they had saved on their PCs in August, according to new information released by The NPD Group. NPD credits the ongoing RIAA anti-piracy campaign and related media attention as having had a measurable effect on the actions of many consumers in regard to the illegal sharing of digital music. In a related survey of consumer perception, however, NPD found that consumers’ overall opinion of the recording industry is suffering as a result of the record industry association’s well-publicized legal tactics.

In August, 1.4 million households deleted all the digital music files saved on their PC hard drives. Prior to August, deletions were at much lower levels. For example in May of 2003, when NPD first began to track music file deletions, 606,000 households deleted all digital music files from their PCs. Eighty percent of the consumers who deleted files had fewer than 50 files saved; just 10 percent had more than 200 files.

"So far the RIAA’s litigation has focused on users with the largest numbers of files to be shared, but it appears that the lawsuits are also having an effect on those with fewer files, indicating that the message that file sharing is illegal is getting through to mainstream consumers," said Russ Crupnick, vice president of The NPD Group. "There are many reasons why consumers would delete files — from hardware changes to burning their music inventory to CD — but this massive jump in deletions is clearly a reaction to the new environment for pirated music."

Another illustration of how the RIAA’s lawsuits are having their desired effect on consumer music file-sharing activity is exemplified by a continued decrease in file-sharing overall. According to The NPD Group, the number of households acquiring digital music via peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services declined by 11 percent from August to September. During that same time period, the total number of music files downloaded decreased 9 percent.

"While some in the music industry expected a large jump in digital file acquisition as the summer ended when students returned to school, the latest consumer information from NPD belies this expectation," Crupnick said. "It’s apparent that the music industry’s strategy continues to work in the ongoing battle against illegal music file sharing; however, those same tactics also appear to negatively affect the perceptions of the recording industry among consumers."

A MusicLab survey fielded by NPD in September noted that consumers’ overall impressions of the recording industry were negatively affected by threats of litigation. Two-thirds of consumers who had recently shared files on P2P networks reported that the lawsuits caused them to have a "much more" or "somewhat more" negative opinion of record companies in general. Just over 40 percent of consumers who had not downloaded music in the previous four weeks felt similarly.

Perceptions of recent file sharers diverged from their non-sharing counterparts when the question of fairness was posed. When asked if "stopping people from freely sharing copyrighted music files through a file-sharing network is the honest and fair thing to do," just 23 percent of recent file sharers agreed, versus 42 percent of those who had not downloaded music in the previous four weeks.

"The music industry’s success in reducing file-sharing activity has been impressive, but now the real work of winning back the hearts and minds of consumers must begin," Crupnick said. "To capitalize on this success, the industry must re-double efforts to educate the file-sharing public about how illegal file sharing affects not just the industry’s bottom line, but also the artists themselves and the ability of the industry to continue to offer a wide range of new music to consumers. New legal ways to purchase digital music on the Web can work hand-in-glove with these education efforts and help to improve the public’s perception of the music industry." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen