Digital Top Stories

Spotify report says streaming services help battle piracy

By | Published on Thursday 18 July 2013


With interesting timing, given this week’s Nigel Godrich/Thom Yorke-initiated debate about the pros and cons of streaming music services for the artist community, Spotify has published a new research report called ‘Adventures In The Netherlands’.

It looks at the streaming service’s three years operating in the Dutch market, the accompanying fall in piracy and growth in recorded music income in the region in that period, and whether there are links. The digital firm has long claimed, of course, that it turns former pirates into music consumers in a way download stores alone never could.

The report, seven months in the making, has been put together by Will Page, the former number cruncher for collecting society PRS For Music, who joined Spotify as Director Of Economics last year; a hire presumably designed to give research published by the streaming firm more credibility, even if it bigs up the firm’s own business model.

And while cynics may be suspicious of the motives behind reports like this – even though Page told Music Ally he really hopes they won’t be – the kinds of data the company is sharing in this document, and some of the conclusions as to where improvements can be made, are useful for all. Especially when made available to the wider music community.

Although stressing that you can’t always be certain about cause and effect, Page’s report looks at sales and file-sharing stats for the Dutch market (supplied by GfK and Musicmetric respectively) around four major album releases, two of which put their music on Spotify alongside download release, two of which held their content back from the streaming services for a time.

Page says that there is no indication that the two artists who had concurrent download and streaming releases – records from One Direction and Robbie Williams – suffered in terms of record sales because of their presence on streaming services. Moreover, the ‘sales to torrent’ ratio (so how many copies were sold versus how many were illegally shared) was better for those two albums, compared to Rihanna and Taylor Swift records that were kept off Spotify et al for a time.

Says Page: “There is no evidence in the four case studies showing that streaming on Spotify hurts sales… The most popular album on Spotify had the highest sales to piracy ratio. One Direction’s ‘Take Me Home’ was available on Spotify on its release day; it had the highest weekly Spotify stream count and sold the second largest volume of albums in its release week”.

The research doesn’t attempt to deal with any of the royalty issues raised in the big Spotify debate this week, though, of course, the impact of streaming services on piracy and download sales is of direct relevance to the bigger picture consideration when discussing the monies Spotify pays rights owners. It’s possible Page’s reports poses more questions than it answers, though presumably Spotify hopes that by asking those questions it is participating in the debate that Godrich and Yorke say should be ongoing.

Music Ally has more detailed analysis of the report here.