Study Says File-Sharing Should Be Legal, Even Though It Leads To “Fewer New Artists”…

A new study, Empirical Copyright: A Case Study of File Sharing and Music Outputhas been published by Glynn S. Lunney, Jr., Professor of Law at Tulane University. This study examines the relationship between hit music and the age of file sharing, which started with Napster in 1999. The top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100 was used to measure success.

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The study found that there was a sharp decrease in first appearances from artists in the top half of the Billboard Hot 100, A.K.A. less artists became successful. From 1985 to 1999 there was a 51.8 percent average of new artists. From 2000 to 2013 41.6 percent of artists were new. Figure 4 clearly shows an overall downward trend.

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The number of new songs in the Billboard top 50 also shows a slight downward trend. However, there was an all-time low starting in 1994 and then a sharp rise in 1999, the year that file-sharing took off. There was an average of 181 new top songs a year in the pre-file sharing age and 164.5 after that.

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Figure 7 shows a sharp rise in the average number of hits from new artists. This means that artists who make it onto the Billboard charts are now more likely to stay there, causing a decrease in artist diversity. From 1985 to 1999 artists on the charts had 3 hit songs on average, after 1999 this number rose to 4.8 hit songs.

Overall there were more hit songs created in the post file-sharing age, but these songs were created by fewer artists. Piracy doesn’t kill creative output, it makes it harder for new artists to climb to the top, and successful artists are becoming even more successful. This could be the music industry version of the ‘rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer’. However, resources for indie artists in the digital age are not touched upon in the study.

The conclusion says:

“[File-sharing] led to fewer new artists, as some individuals, given the lower returns available in music, decided to devote their time and creativity elsewhere. Second, it shifted output along the work-leisure margin and led to more new music from existing artists, as the lower returns led existing artists to substitute work for leisure.”

Then the conclusion says: “file-sharing, at least with respect to music, should be legal under copyright law“, because it “promotes the widespread dissemination of existing works” and is “associated with an increase in the creation of new hit songs“.

This seems like a ludicrous conclusion, why would the industry need more of the same popular music saturating the charts?

39 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    lol, and here’s another one of Lunney’s loony studies:

    THE DEATH OF COPYRIGHT, 87 Virginia L. Rev. 813 (2001)

    Not to worry, though — copyright is alive and very well in the real world… :)

  2. A-J Charron

    Yep, another study certainly done by someone without an agenda. Here’s what we should do: instead of receiving royalties for the work we do: composing, writing, arranging, recording, producing, etc. to make a product no other person in the world can make, let’s pay people to listen to it.

    Because everybody knows it costs absolutely nothing to make an album. It’s now all digital, just illegally download software, beats, etc and blend them together. That’s all we do, right?

    Spending 50 000+ $ on instruments and hardware and software is ridiculous when you can get everything for free. And the time spent on the work? (30 000 hours of musical practice, 5 thousand on composing and writing, more thousands on arranging, thousands again on recording and producing). Well we’re artists after all, it’s what we do. We should not get paid for it. Like the guy who did this “study”. He’s a lawyer, it’s what he does, he shouldn’t get paid for it. Doctors should work for free. It’s all service to the people, after all.

    Then again, at least he does something worthwhile for society, we don’t; we just make music. Who cares?

    I don’t know who is clearly behind this, but lately, on the web, there’s an appeal against copyright laws covering music, a sort of call to action to have the laws changed giving us no more rights to our creations. Notice that nobody is asking for Disney to not get paid for their work. Oh, but they’re a corporation, not the same. By the way, Disney is responsible for the fact that copyright laws become more rigid. Look it up.

    There’s my rant for the day…

    • TuneHunter

      1/4 billion cash injection to Spotify assuring your bright future. Expect more news in next few months.
      Time to pull out sickle and hammer banners and celebrate!

    • Dom

      I couldn’t agree with you even more. The articles whole opinion has absolutley no base. If the author of that study is a lawyer, he is a pretty shitty one. People like me have to find really good tools nowadays to actually get started as a musician.

  3. Yves Villeneuve

    Don’t believe this guy has any worthwhile credentials… He’s a clown, as the academic crowd would call him.

      • Yves Villeneuve

        He is still a clown. He doesn’t realize that contrary to his beliefs of “fair competition” he is promoting oligopolies by restricting participants from engaging in fair business practices(selling music creations) in a free market economy with some industry regulations to keep the markets fair for everyone. Saying that he is against “unfair competition” in his profile doesn’t make it true.

        • Anonymous

          Maybe you should learn from him. You’d probably be a lot better as a clown then you are as a musician.

          • Dom

            Please explain your reasons for agreeing with this persons argument. His whole reason for believing this is because of one spike in new hit songs the year napster started. How does he correlate one with the other, He doesn’t. Firstly, everyone wasn’t using napster in 1999 and secondly, it was a big year in music. Charts of new hit songs are the same as a chart for the stock market. It is not something that can be estimated upon because of one variable alone.

      • Yves Villeneuve

        Moreover, it is absolutely natural/obvious for existing musicians to have more songs in the Billboard Top 50 when there is a reduction in competition(new artists)… Don’t need a study to tell you that when your competitors are eliminated, your market share will automatically increase.

        This study’s worth is in the conclusion that piracy kills the popularity of new artists and their music because it keeps them off popular music charts.

  4. Anonymous

    I agree with the idea that there is too many chefs in the kitchen when it comes to music. Less musical acts would be a good thing.

      • Anonymous

        Well, it’s just an opinion…

        I think it’s positive that Nina and the rest of the anti-music crowd are so open about their views.

        • Anonymous

          I’m personally anti-bad music, which is unfortunately 99.9% of the noise that “musicians” today make. Bunch of posers in this industry who think they are rockstars after some guitar lessons paid for by their mommy.

  5. Wurd

    Without including the effects of the 1996 telecom bill and subsequent radio consolidation / playlist shrinking then this study is essentially worthless

    This would be like comparing weight gains in college freshman by looking only at their studying habits.

    Waste of bits and pixels

  6. Marina

    If Digital Music News is worried about its credibility among readership, you should take care as to which you share in your page.

    This study does not present any formal modeling and does not mention where the author takes out his conclusions from. It would take me an entire day to number the flaws of this work, that finally takes conclusions that were already demonstrated on other work, but with (real) scientific methodology. For example, it has been shown that there were some erosion on the stardom in music, but there is a number of factors for that.

    As of the “falling revenue of music industry”, he would be supposed to specify to which industry he’s talking about: records, digital industry, concerts etc. Just to mention two of the I don’t know how many flaws I could mention just scanning rapidly the “study”.

    Bottomline: it cannot be taken seriously. At all.

    If you are interested in the matter, you should read this instead:

    And here you have a number of documents that you should be exploring, if you are really interested on copyright vs piracy…

    Please, if you are going to “play journalists”, you should at least obey the number one rule: check whatever you are publishing to your readers.

    • TuneHunter

      Very productive links.
      Marina, as copyright oriented person, do you have an answer if we have chance for “new fair use doctrine”.

      If we can tweak this one, to force Shazam and other ID providers to mandatory music sales, we will have 100 billion dollar industry in less then five years.

      I just do not see it as a “FAIR USE” to have in the data base and process 30 million tunes, have active system to collect all new tunes and in 90% of cases direct for free any freeloader to free music! Just bug off from my property!
      As they betray musicians ( billions x/year) they attempt to generate some advertising income with not a single penny going back to musicians!
      Worse, in 13 years of keeping music open and on demand accessible to pirates they always lost money.
      How it can be a “fair use”?

    • 21stCE

      As a matter of fact, you are leading people to biased studies performed by people who depend on copyright to make a living (“researchers on intellectual property”). Besides you are defending an artificial form of scarcity and an archaic economic model that ignores the new technologies that are being implemented. Additionañly, you are ignoring the fact that lack of availability in other countries, licenses and other limitations are actually harming the industry. Current copyright terms summed to studies sponsored by the corrupt record labels is what hold your arguments in place, thus your links are as valid as the study presented

  7. Will

    Fewer artists doesn’t mean that there is less music. I means there is potentially less bad music.

  8. Dom

    Let me just say that I download music but would push forward to make it illegal. It has harmed music in a really disastrous way. This study is completely bogus in my opinion, just because hit new songs went up in relation to the year napster came out is not a good justification that it doesn’t harm new creative possibilities. It could have been that it was just a big year in music. The first chart is more accurate as it shows a clear decrease in new artists. NEW ARTISTS IS WHAT DRIVES THE MUSIC BUSINESS. The increase in availability of file sharing has prevented record companies from having the power they once did. This is not to favor a record company, but think of it this way: A record company was able to invest alot more in musicians who were starting out and trying to make it than they are today. Nobody is signing anyone unless they have a hit song and can mathematically make them money at this point. Record companies used to throw there money at 10 artists and if one of them made it they would make all their money back and then some. The downloading has really crippled a musicians ability to sustain life and try to get somewhere. The quality of music today is actually horrendous in my opinion. The only thing good coming out of my speakers are coming from overseas.

      • Dom

        lol how many years have you went to jail for it. Stopping illegal downloads wouldn’t be hard to do, I don’t think people should go to jail for it but to stop people from doing it is definatley possible.

  9. Dom

    Any musicians on here that need some help getting their name out there?

  10. Yves Villeneuve

    I’ve made this argument in the past in an international forum:

    If legally selling music is such a bad thing then make it criminal and call the act “profiteering” (look up its definition).

    To my knowledge, no one has accepted my recommendation.

    I think they get it.

    • GGG

      The live industry profiteers all the time, and that doesn’t count as criminal, so not sure it would change anything anyway.

      • Yves Villeneuve

        How is the live industry getting away with making illegal profits? Do you have evidence?

  11. Versus

    Completely nonsensical “conclusion” to this study. First of all, “hits” are not the only desirable outcome. There are other goals, like producing art, as well as musicians being able to make a living from their work.

    Even if one accepts the narrow standard of hits, the conclusion makes no sense:

    If file-sharing were legal, how could there possibly be more hits?

    If file sharing were legal:
    Legal file sharing -> NO SALES = NO HITS.

  12. hippydog

    Quote ” Piracy doesn’t kill creative output, it makes it harder for new artists to climb to the top, and successful artists are becoming even more successful.
    However, resources for indie artists in the digital age are not touched upon in the study.

    well, lets be clear..
    Piracy broke the current model of selling shiny disks..
    and THATS why less money was risked (by those who made the disks ) on artists that may not produce a hit

    so again,
    Piracy may be the underlying cause of why this happened, but its not the direct cause..
    The direct cause is the music industry unwilling to change its model to follow how music is actually consumed.