Page last updated at 23:08 GMT, Sunday, 12 October 2008 00:08 UK

Music fans back legal downloads

Man using computer, PA
More people are turning to legal downloads suggests research

Music pirates can be deterred by warnings from their internet service provider (ISP), suggests a survey.

Almost 75% of music pirates would stop if told to by their ISP, the survey of 1,500 UK consumers found.

The research looked at the digital habits of consumers and found that the abundance of online music services was convincing many to go straight.

Just over half of those questioned said they got music from legal subscription sites, or those supported by ads.

Older fans

Conducted by Entertainment Media Research (EMR) the survey aimed to find out what kinds of digital media consumers like and also how media sellers can make it more palatable.

The research revealed the effect of the campaign against persistent pirates conducted by the music industry.

Acting on information supplied by music industry groups many ISPs have contacted customers to tell them they are suspected of illegally downloading music.

"It is quite evident that an ISP-led strategy has bite, because illegal downloaders are fairly convinced that ISPs are currently monitoring their activities and are more likely to act against them than the courts," said Russell Hart, chief executive of Entertainment Media Research in a statement.

YouTube homepage, Google
YouTube has become an important destination for music lovers

The research found that younger net users tended to be the most persistent pirates. In the 13-17 age bracket, 58% said they had downloaded illegally. It also found that 61% of those questioned who admitted to being illegal downloaders were convinced that their activities were being monitored by net firms.

Fierce competition among online music stores meant that few needed to illegally download in order to listen to the music they wanted.

For the first time in the five years the EMR survey has been produced, a majority of respondents - 51% - received their music via legal downloads.

After years of snail's-pace innovation by the music industry, consumers suddenly have an embarrassment of choices when it comes to legal digital services
Rory Cellan-Jones
BBC technology correspondent

In the last month firms such as Nokia, MySpace and Play have unveiled digital music stores.

But, noted the survey, much of that growth was coming from older music lovers with more than 40% of over-35s buying downloads at least once per month.

"The survey shows that despite the ubiquity of free music, there's a real willingness by consumers to pay for music products if the package is right," said Alexander Ross, music partner at media law firm Wiggin which collaborated on the research.

The survey also highlighted the importance of social media and networking sites to music fans. Many now use YouTube, MySpace and Facebook to find new bands or talk to other fans of established acts.

Video was becoming an increasingly important part of music consumption, it found, with 41% saying YouTube was their preferred social networking site. By contrast only 25% said MySpace was their favourite site for music.

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