Following the publication of a Harvard study last week that suggested that illegal file-sharing does not hurt music sales, further reports have appeared indicating that illegal file-sharing may not be to blame for declining album and single sales.
The Harvard argument is that most people who share music files would never have bought the albums. This claim is counter to the British Phonographic Industry's (BPI) claim that downloaders purchase few albums as a result of file-sharing.
The BPI believes that there are eight million illegal file-shares in Britain stealing music. It notes that among these music downloaders, album spending was down 32 per cent last year, and 59 per cent less was spent on singles.
However, according to Digital Music News, recent data indicates that CD album sales in the UK and Australia actually increased in 2003. This could be on account of reduced album prices, or as the Harvard study suggests, file-sharing may actually increase album purchases among people who wouldn't normally have bought music.
Both the BPI and the Australian Record Industry Association (Aria) note falling CD single sales, but according to reports in the UK and Australia CD album sales have reached record numbers. Britain sales album sales increase 5.6 per cent and Australians bought 7.85 per cent more CD albums last year, according to The Register.
In Australia single sales fell 16.5 per cent, and according to the BPI single sales here in the UK fell 30.7 per cent. The Register suggests: "What's happening in both territories is that one-song sales are becoming less attractive".
The Register points out that the BPI offers an alternative reason for the declining single sales: "Price-cutting means 62 per cent of single CD albums now sell for £9.99 or less."
According to research, downloaders are generally targeting individual songs rather than whole albums – although Apple maintains it sells more albums than singles via iTunes. The Register suggests that file-sharing services are "more akin to the radio than the record store, just with a greater degree to programme your own playlist."