Downloading use on the up

Music companies will have to rethink the way their music is sold, according to recent research into the future of digital audio technology.

Pan-European research carried out by Market & Opinion Research International (and commissioned by Creative Labs) about the impact of digital music and the Web on the lives of Europeans, says almost one in ten adults (seven per cent) already downloads music from the Internet. This represents about 22 million people in Europe.

Sweden and the Netherlands lead the uptake of digital music with about one in six adults downloading music from the Web.

However, due to their relatively small populations, the largest percentage of downloaders are in Germany and the UK. While more than 2.5 million British adults are already downloading music, there are about 8 million downloaders in Germany.

According to the study, the reason why more Europeans are downloading their music from the Internet is because Europe is an increasingly digital society, with almost half of all Europeans having a mobile telephone and more than a quarter using the Internet on a regular basis. The other obvious reason is because it is a cheap way of owning music.

Technology is hugely popular in the UK, says MORI. More than 70 per cent of British adults now own a mobile phone, and the use of PCs or laptops, the Internet and digital television is among the highest in Europe.

Perhaps this is also the reason why words such as MP3, music downloads, digital audio players, and portable record collections are no longer solely used by the techno-geeks, but are more commonplace. The research suggest Europeans are entering the second stage of digital music – moving from theory to every day reality.

Almost three-fifths of all Europeans surveyed envisage themselves downloading or streaming music in the future, and half would like to store music on a portable device – particularly a mobile phone, digital audio player or Walkman. At present, only a fifth of downloaders store downloaded music on a portable to listen to while travelling.

Within the next five years, about one-third of adults are expected to buy bits and pieces of albums and make their own compilations rather than buying full length albums. One in five say they might stop buying CDs altogether.

More than half foresee people posting music collections on personal websites, swapping compilations with friends via e-mail or broadcasting music over the Internet. Most importantly, three-quarters of downloaders anticipate that music companies will have to change the way music is sold. A significant proportion envisage either buying albums by download, subscribing to music streaming services, pay-per-play music tracks over the Internet or renting tracks by downloading them for a limited period.

For most downloaders the incentives to download are that it is a cheap way of building their record collection, it allows them to listen before buying and is a way of finding music that is otherwise unavailable.

For one in five, it is a way of rebelling against the music industry. The MORI research found the drive to consume music by download or streaming will be led by the youth market – one-third of those aged under 25 expect to be doing so in five years.

All Swedes registered dissatisfaction with CDs and said they would prefer not to tolerate any of the listed negative features of CDs in the future. The Russians (interviewed in St Petersburg and Moscow) were similarly impatient with CDs and about two-thirds (69 per cent) of Russians are already looking to new methods of obtaining their music.

The findings also show that although Poland has the most modest number of Internet users in Europe, those who do are acutely aware of the advantages of downloading music.

More than a quarter of those from the UK and the Netherlands expect to store their music on compact portable electronic devices soon.

Some 90 million adults across the ten countries surveyed have access to the Internet and about 65 million adults in Europe are looking towards storing their music collections on portable devices.

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