Home > Analysis, Copyright, Piratey Stuff > P2P Hurts UK Music Sales?

P2P Hurts UK Music Sales?

… or so we’re told.

There is a belief, that music sales are being harmed by the internet. MP3’s and peer-to-peer (p2p) networks have made swapping music easy, ever since Napster burst onto the scene in 1999. There is even a section on the BPI’s website that deals with it (strangely titled “File-sharing FAQ’s

Why is it a problem; does filesharing damage music sales?
Aside from the fact that filesharing infringes and undermines the rights of the creators and investors in music, it’s enormously damaging to music sales.

Is is true though?

Well, according to figures from the UK music industry themselves, the answer is No.

I have already published this info once, in my recent consultation response submitted to the UK government. What I didn’t do, however, was show what those figures look like. After all an arcane group of numbers might look like anything, what’s needed are some illustrations.

Without further ado, let’s get to the data then.

The data is provided from two sources. The data comes from the Official UK Charts company information pack, And the BPI “Top market lines” publication. Also, as the BPI notes, digital album data was only collected from Q2 2006 onwards, so prior to that, any sales were unrecorded.

Lets’s start with Albums. First, the raw figures (figures are in millions of units)


And likewise the singles figures (again, figures are in millions of units)


This might look like boring data, so lets add the graphs.
Album sales look like this

While singles sales look like this

Doesn’t look all that damaging to sales to me.

One last test though, let’s look at all those sales numbers combined, see just how much the sales have been ‘hurt’ over the last 10 years by P2P.

Anyone want to point me to where the sales are damaged?

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  1. ...
    January 16, 2010 at 21:38

    Might also be nice to have some figures over amount of albums/singles released?

  2. January 18, 2010 at 23:00

    Thanks for the post. Posting the data is very helpful. However, are units of albums comparable to units of songs? It seems to me that you need to divide the number of song units by about eight or ten to compare them to the number of units of albums.

  3. Kadai
    January 19, 2010 at 20:26

    I agree… the more the data collected, the better.

    I know that actually the downloading does not hurt, but instead promotes and enhances sales in derivative ways and traditional ways (aka Concerts, sub-products like t-shirts, collector boxes and even loyal costumers)

    But, having a comparative of how many bands, songs, albums and singles released might be interesting to compare and to better understand the numbers, alongside with a chart of (if available) actual perceived downloads -vs- sales.

    Because there is a positive co-relation that can be so easily demonstrated.

  4. March 31, 2010 at 14:51

    This seems to support the anecdotal experience that people are buying individual tracks digitally rather than whole albums, as they used to have to before iTunes etc. The industry may not be making so much money as a result – but that obviously has nothing to do with piracy.

    • ktetch
      March 31, 2010 at 15:01

      Indeed, the only ‘casualty’ has been the filler tracks that used to pad out an album (although some album-only tracks are better than the singles chosen). Quality and demand will out.

  5. April 6, 2010 at 12:56

    I’m curious whether the picture would change if you looked at millions of pounds instead of millions of units?

    • ktetch
      April 6, 2010 at 12:57

      It might do, but I don’t have, and I’m not sure if they publish, the actual sales totals. I can have a looksee and see what happens

  6. May 8, 2011 at 12:09

    I’m curious whether the picture would change if you looked at millions of pounds instead of millions of units?

    I was wondering the same thing. Perhaps a more accurate picture would arise?

  1. April 6, 2010 at 12:54
  2. August 11, 2010 at 04:31

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