The US record industry's argument that music sharing on the internet is damaging record sales on the high street has been called into doubt by a survey published this week.
A report from US research firm Yankelovich Partners said the majority of US consumers that have downloaded or streamed music from the internet have later bought the tracks at a retail store.
This contradicts two earlier surveys cited by US recording associations earlier this week which claim that online file sharing has resulted in a decline in album sales, particularly to students. The US recording industry is taking legal action against music sharing sites including Napster and MP3.com over this alleged loss of business.
According to the Yankelovich report, 59 per cent of people that have downloaded music said they later bought the tracks at a music store or retail outlet. Some 48 per cent of the 16,903 respondents polled said they have gone online to access music, but only 48 per cent of those said that this led them to buy an album or CD online.
However, among those that have downloaded or streamed music online, 61 per cent said they are as likely to buy CDs in stores, compared with just six per cent who said they were less likely to do so. The survey did not distinguish between websites with licensing arrangements with record labels and those without.
The survey was released the same week as US record labels increased their attack on controversial online music service Napster. On Monday, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) filed for a preliminary injunction against Napster, arguing that its facility displaces CD sales.
The groups cited a report from research firm Soundscan which suggested that there was a decline in music sales by US students between 1998 and 1999, and another by Field Research of 2555 US internet-using college pupils, which also claimed that Napster displaces CD sales.
Jonathan Potter, commissioner of the Yankelovich report and executive director of the Digital Media Association, which represents companies involved in music digital distribution, declined to comment on the Napster issue, but claimed his survey is the only one that interviewed a cross section of people aged between 13 and 39.
The two surveys cited by the RIAA and the NMPA only concentrated on students with easy access to the internet and who may not be able to afford to buy CDs regularly, said Potter.
A spokeswoman for the RIAA agreed that the surveys were not perfect comparisons but stood firm by the claim that Napster displaces music sales. "There's a huge difference between promotional uses by authors of copyrighted work and wholesale piracy," she said. Unlike music download sites, such as cdnow.com, Napster does not promote new artists, she said. "You have to know what you're looking for."
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