Music fans who are into the MP3 download scene buy more CDs that listeners who don't, according to a new survey from the Gartner Group.
We say 'new', but the research actually took place back in February, long before the Napster controversy achieved the widespread coverage it's been getting over the last couple of months or so. In fact, given the survey's title, Is Napster Hurting Music Sales? we suspect a degree of cashing in on Napster's fame here.
Anyway, Gartner asked 40,000 US households about their online listening habits. Some 41 per cent of those who use MP3 said they download files to sample music before shelling out for the CD.
In conclusion, Gartner Group’s Sujata Ramnarayan said: "It’s clear that the segment of consumers that is purchasing significantly more CDs is also more receptive to digital distribution."
That's likely to boost Napster's own argument that its MP3 sharing service encourages sales of CDs as opposed to hampering them. Of course, for all the folk who download a track, like it and buy the album to get the other songs, plenty will simply stick with the tracks they've got. Gartner's numbers suggest that the former are in the majority, though given the dodgy issue of music piracy, we suspect that a number of people surveyed would say they plan to buy more CDs even though they ultimately won't.
In any case, Gartner's findings don't invalidate the Recording Industry Association of America's assertion that Napster's sharing service contravenes US copyright law. Breaking the law is breaking the law, whether the results of it are ultimately beneficial. But it does highlight the fact that the RIAA case against Napster is to a degree about control of the music sales channels.
Gartner's numbers back up the conclusions drawn from a similar survey from media researcher Jupiter Communications, published last month.
Meanwhile, the RIAA's legal action against Napster is due to begin tomorrow. ®
Check out our full coverage of the Napster controversy