MP3 Libraries Limited, Downloading Increases

Separate research studies revealed some interesting data about online music habits: collections average only a certain number of songs, yet more are swapping. The findings from a Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) indicate that those high-capacity MP3 players may be overkill – many music aficionados max out at about 1,000 songs.

According to the report, 90 percent of consumers who maintain a music collection on their PC have a maximum of 1,000 songs in their collection. Furthermore, 77 percent of consumers interested in purchasing a portable media player would want a portable music player with a capacity of 1,000 songs.

Jupiter Research vice president and research director Michael Gartenberg found that vendors who sell 4 to 5 gigabyte units are among the most successful, while devices that hold considerably less have not sold as well. “As the 4 and 5 gig players keep dropping in price more of the market will adopt,” Gartenberg predicts.

Apple Computer capitalized on the 1,000 song limit with the introduction of its 4GB iPod Mini, a unit that holds far fewer tunes than its 15GB, 20GB, and 40GB counterparts. Collectively, the iPod family registered 900 percent year-over-year growth for Apple. Further success comes from iTunes, Apple’s paid music site, which comScore Media Metrix estimates reached more than 2.3 million Americans in March 2004, adding nearly a million unique visitors since October 2003.

Despite the demand for smaller MP3 units, more Americans are downloading music and sharing files, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, in conjunction with comScore. Based on the responses from 1,371 adult Internet users in early 2004, 18 percent have downloaded music files.

While this percentage reflects a measurable increase since late 2003 when 14 percent were downloading, it is also significantly lower than findings from a spring 2003 survey when a peak 29 percent reported downloading music.

The download slowdown could be the result of lawsuits brought against music file-sharers by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). One-third of the former downloaders Pew surveyed cited the lawsuits as the reason for stopping the practice; and 38 percent of current downloaders say they are doing less of it. Of those who’ve never downloaded music files, 60 percent said the lawsuits would prevent them from using that method to obtain music.

The largest portion (one-third) of music downloaders say they use peer-to-peer networks to swap files, while 24 percent share through email and instant messaging, and 20 percent get the files from music-related Web sites. The paid sites are starting to catch on, as 17 percent of those that are currently downloading say they are using these services, while 7 percent of Internet users overall have bought music from a pay site.

Lee Rainie, director, Pew Internet & American Life Project, believes that paid services will eventually overtake the free music sites at some point, but there will continue to be a place for gratis files.

“At the same time, it’s important to stress that one thing that will likely change over time is that even the biggest record companies and biggest music acts will feel compelled to give away at least some material for free as part of the standard marketing of new material. Another thing that will happen is that some smart hackers/crackers will keep finding ways to allow people to swap files for free,” said Rainie.

“So, free downloading will never go away. But I’m pretty confident the market will respond smartly enough to entice people to pay for music downloads through a combination of relatively inexpensive downloads and bundling of free and paid files that will be attractive to download,” he concluded.

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