The BBC reports that people who use "illegal" p2p file trading services, are music fans who spend considerably more buying than the average music fan. Specifically, the article says that the average music fan spends £1.27 ($2.21) per month, where as the people who use P2P services spend £5.52 ($9.62) per month.
The key question, I believe, is whether use of P2P by music fans causes them to buy more or less music. This study shows that P2P users are active music buyers, probably forming a core "music intelligentsia" which the music industry should want to win over, since they probably are trend-setters. It may be that P2P functions as "trial-ware" for these people, causing them to evaluate and buy more albums. Or, P2P may be a substitute for buying some number of albums.
The BBC story does mention this issue, with this quote from BPI: "The consensus among independent research is that a third of illegal file-sharers may buy more music and around two thirds buy less. That two-thirds tends to include people who were the heaviest buyers which is why we need to continue our carrot and stick approach to the problem of illegal file-sharing." If this is truly the case, and the 1/3rd who are buying more aren't making up for the 2/3rds who are buying less, then the music industry clearly loses with P2P. But, I also suspect that people are using P2P because of the ease of finding music and (vitally) the lack of DRM.
My own hunch is that music is like other collectible items -- it's hard to have too much of it. And with downloads not using up shelf-space like CDs do, it's easy and desirable to have several thousand albums in your collection. iPod users I've spoken to tend to want a much larger collection of music in their iPods than music fans of a decade ago, because they're **listening to their music more of the time**.
The BBC story refers to a report authored by Paul Brindley, director of "The Leading Question", an music industry research firm. I've met Paul before, as he runs Musically, which publishes an excellent industry newsletter. I was surprised and heartened when I met Paul upon arriving to the UK a year ago, finding him unusually clue-full about the state of the music business and the Internet. Then again, he told me at the time that I was unusually open in disclosing how Magnatune worked, which he found refreshing.
I corresponded privately with Paul Brindley, and he wanted to clarify his position:
"Our point was not that file sharers buy more music than most music fans but
that those file sharers who are buying less CDs than they were before
because of p2p also happen to be spending much more on legitimate digital
music than most music fans." (n.b. - he gave me permission to reproduce this email paragraph in the blog)