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Is piracy policing contributing to drop in media sales?

Earlier today we looked at a press releases from PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), which jointly announced that they’d been responsible for shutting down thousands of pirated sites, blocking others and even bringing criminal charges to bear against some of those responsible for uploading the content in the first place. It’s being hailed by the authorities as a win, yet you told us that it hadn’t affected your downloading habits at all. The question is, has it had an effect on the legal sales of media?

For a long time now there’s been an understanding among those that look at the facts: piracy seems to have a bigger effect on driving sales of media, especially smaller productions, than hinder them. This is the complete opposite of what we’re told by the media lobby groups and the studios they represent, but if it turns out it’s true that piracy does help sell media, then surely it must go the other way? If piracy is reduced, then so too must sales.

Ignoring for a second that you guys don’t seem to have been affected by PIPCU and FACT’s “crackdown,” any more than usual, if we consider that less tech savvy users might have been, do you think these crackdowns might have been the cause of less media being sold over the past few months?

Spotify and many others believe it’s had the biggest impact on piracy. Far more than legal attacks by lobby groups. 

A look back at this study by Billboard released back in April, shows that in the first quarter of this year, digital sales of albums and singles (and TEA, track equivalent albums where 10 singles equals one album) were down on this time last year. Digital sales actually fell across the whole year of 2013, though this is likely to do with a change in the way that people consume music. As more and more people use streaming services, download platforms like iTunes and Amazon are suffering.

In-fact, that’s likely to be the main cause of music sales dropping over this last quarter, except the stats don’t quite add up, as CD sales dropped considerably as well. This overall drop is the problem, as it’s more than streaming is making up for, despite its popularity.

What becomes obvious from the Billboard study, is that music is still producing hits, with more big name hits than ever before, but it’s the lower end of the spectrum, the not-quite-hits category tracks that seem to be suffering in terms of downloads, streams and CD sales.

KitGuru Says: So what do you guys think? Is this just a general contraction of the music industry, or are anti-piracy efforts having the opposite of the desired effect and actually helping to restrict music promotion that occurs naturally through piracy? 

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