April 30, 2004

Preliminary results of survey of musicians

Preliminary findings from a Web survey of musicians and songwriters

Between March 15 and April 15 of this year, 2,755 musicians and songwriters responded to a Web-based survey about the way they use the Internet and their views on a host of public policy questions related to copyright and music file-sharing on the Internet.1

The sample for this survey is not representative or projectable to the entire population of musicians and songwriters. However, it brings many more voices into the debates about copyright laws, the impact of online music swapping, and the long-term prospects for the music industry.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project would like to thank the music organizations that encouraged their members to participate in our online survey of music makers: The Future of Music Coalition, Just Plain Folks, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, CD Baby, the Nashville Songwriters Association, Garageband.com, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and the American Federation of Musicians. The views expressed by those who responded to our survey do not necessarily represent the views of these organizations or their members.

Here are some of the highlights of the survey that will be presented on May 2 at the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit:

Musicians are sharply divided about the impact of file sharing on the music business

An online survey of 2,755 musicians and songwriters shows they are quite divided in their opinions about the impact of music file sharing by Internet users. There is no clear consensus regarding the effects of online file-sharing on artists.

Some 35% of this sample agree with the statement that file-sharing services are not bad for artists because they help promote and distribute an artist’s work; 23% agree with the statement that file-sharing services are bad for artists because they allow people to copy an artist’s work without permission or payment. And 35% of those surveyed agree with both statements.

When asked what impact free downloading on the Internet has had on their careers as musicians, 37% say free downloading has not really made a difference, 35% say it has helped and 8% say it has both helped and hurt their career. Only 5% say free downloading has exclusively hurt their career and 15% of the respondents say they don’t know.

Asked whether online music file-sharing has made it harder to protect their music from piracy, 16% say the Internet has had a big effect in allowing piracy of their music, 21% say it has had a small effect, and 41% say it has had no effect.

Who should be held responsible for illegal file sharing online? The verdict is very split: 37% of the sample said both those who run file-sharing services and individuals who swap files through those services should be held responsible. But 21% said no one should be held responsible. Some 17% said those that run peer-to-peer services should exclusively bear the legal burden and 12% said individuals who swap files should exclusively bear the burden.

Yet, regardless of their personal experiences, most musicians and songwriters think file-sharing on the Internet poses some threat to creative industries that make music and movies. One-third say file-sharing poses a “major threat” to these industries while one-third say it poses a “minor threat.” Another third say file-sharing poses “no threat at all” and 7% say they don’t know.

67% say artists should have complete control over material they copyright and they say copyright laws do a good job of protecting artists

Two-thirds of these artists say copyright holders should have complete control over a piece of art once it is produced. Some 28% say the copyright holder should have “some control” and 3% say the holder should have “very little control.”

Fully 61% of those in this sample believe that current copyright laws do a good job of protecting artists’ rights, but 59% also say that copyright laws do more to protect those who sell art than to protect the artists themselves.

Most of the musicians and songwriters sampled do not believe current copyright laws “unfairly limit public access to art.” Some 46% disagree with this statement and 21% strongly disagree. However, 15% do agree that current laws unfairly limit public access to art, 8% strongly agree and 10% say they don’t know.

Half of the musicians and songwriters surveyed say they would be bothered if someone put a digital copy of their music on the Internet without permission (compared to 37% who say they would not be bothered and 12% who say they don’t know). Some 28% said they had experienced this situation firsthand.

83% have provided free samples of their work online and significant numbers say free downloading has helped them sell CDs and increase the crowds at concerts

As for their own careers, more of these artists say free music downloading online has helped them than hurt them. Fully 83% of those in the survey say they provide free samples or previews of their music online. And strong pluralities say free downloading has a payoff for them. For instance, 35% of them say free downloading has helped their careers and only 5% say it has hurt. Some 30% say free downloading has helped increase attendance at their concerts, 21% say it has helped them sell CDs or other merchandise; and 19% say it has helped them gain radio playing time for their music. Only fractions of them cite any negative impact of downloading on those aspects of their work.

Many musicians and songwriters do not think the RIAA campaign against free file sharing on the Internet will benefit them 

The survey shows that many musicians do not think the recording industry efforts to halt the free sharing of music on the Internet will benefit those who create and perform music.

Some 60% of those in the sample say they do not think the Recording Industry Association of America’s suits against online music swappers will benefit musicians and songwriters. Those who earn the majority of their income from music are more inclined than “starving musicians” to back the RIAA, but even those very committed musicians do not believe the RIAA campaign will help them. Some 42% of those who earn most of their income from their music do not think the RIAA legal efforts will help them, while 35% think those legal challenges will ultimately benefit them.

These are some of the highlights of a large-scale online survey of musicians and songwriters conducted between March 15 and April 15. While the sample for this survey is not representative or projectable to the entire population of musicians and songwriters, it brings many more voices into the debates about copyright laws, the impact of online music swapping, and the long-term prospects for the music industry.

These preliminary results will be reported at the Future of Music Coalition conference in Washington, D.C. this weekend. Additional analysis of this data will be conducted for forthcoming reports.

  1. The total sample includes 2,793 musicians, songwriters and music publishers, however, the data included in this report is based exclusively on questions that were asked of musicians and songwriters (n=2,755).