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Friday, 21 July, 2000, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Napster 'encourages music sales'
Napster
Napster may be good for the music industry
Users of Napster software, which allows users to share digital music files, are likely to buy more records than non-Napster users, according to a new survey.

The study by American researchers found a strong link between people who use Napster and increased music sales.

"Because Napster users are music enthusiasts, it's logical to believe that they are more likely to increase their music spending in the future," said Jupiter Communications researcher Aram Sinnreich.

"Online music activity drives more purchases, not just online spending, but traditional retailers as well," he said.

Legal battles

The study comes against the backdrop of legal battles between Napster and the music industry trade group Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The industry umbrella group says software and websites devoted to encouraging the exchange of digital music are used to pirate music.

MP3.com
MP3 websites capitalise on the immense popularity of the format
Napster software allows users that are logged onto the internet to locate and download compact MP3 music files stored on other computers.

Napster, which claims to have more than 20 million users, argues its users are not violating copyrights by trading songs for free because they share files for non-commercial use.

Among the arguments the RIAA makes is that Napster is responsible for the decline of music sales among college students, who make up a sizeable portion of the software's users.

But the research suggests that this trend started well before Napster's launch.

The record industry has been slow to develop the online sales market for fear of alienating the retailers, which still account for the vast majority of music sales.

Online selling

Some labels, including Sony Music and EMI, have finally begun to sell music online and others plan to follow suit soon, but their resistance is partly to blame for the success of controversial services such as Napster.

The survey says that music labels have an opportunity to take users away from Napster, if they begin to offer added services and guarantees that file-sharing software cannot.

"We asked consumers what would compel them to pay for a music subscription on the Web," Jupiter's Sinnreich said. "And the two most mentioned features are guaranteed file quality and virus protection. Those really point to the shortcomings of Napster.

"But if consumers know that the Britney Spears song they're downloading won't a) sound like a transistor radio and b) melt their hard drive, or if they have someone to blame if either of those things happen, consumers will want to come over to legitimate channels of distribution."

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | Entertainment
MP3 website fights back
18 Jul 00 | Entertainment
MP3 fans target politicians
18 Jul 00 | Entertainment
EMI launches digital sales
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