In a study by Luis Aguiar and Bertin Martens, it was found that there is no correlation between pirating music and digital music sales. In fact, it leads to more sales. The study additionally found that licensed music streams also don’t affect digital music sales, which is somewhat surprising. It goes to show that actually owning something, whether it be physical or otherwise, is still important in today’s society.
The study focused on clickstream data over 16,500 different European consumers. In the conclusion, Aguiar and Martens state that they found no evidence of displacement. Additionally, they found that there was a two percent overlap between licensed and unlicensed websites:
If this estimate is given a causal interpretation, clicks on licensed purchase websites would have been 2% lower in the absence of unlicensed downloading websites.
Aguiar and Martens say that without pirating, music downloads would drop by two percent. Given that music sales have been falling since the arrival of the MP3, two percent is a number that would likely get the attention of music executives everywhere.
They go on to say that consumers view streaming as a compliment to music purchasing, rather than an alternative. It will be interesting to see if that remains the case as the tail end of the Millennial Generation grows up. Many of them never experienced physical music, and soon some will not have experienced MP3s.