Piracy is Good for Live Music Tickets, Bad for Cinema Box Offices Says New Study

By Tom Pritchard on at

The idea that people who pirate won't pay for things should have gone out of the window a long time ago. Multiple studies have shown that pirates are willing to pay money if they can, but it doesn't completely stop their habit. Now a new study has looked at how piracy can affect ticket sales, and came out with the obvious conclusion. Piracy is bad for the cinema box office, but it is beneficial for live music attendance.

It's a bit difficult to come to definitive conclusions about the prevalence of piracy and its effects, since accuracy relies on being able to traces the many instances of it and for people to be honest about their illegal habits. But the more is done the better understanding we have of the impact of piracy, and the latest report is 'The Global Online Piracy Study', published by the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Information Law.

It's a follow-up to a report the EU Commission tried to suppress last year, but this time it was funded by Google - something the authors seem quite pleased with.

The research is a consumer survey, which collected data from 35,000 respondents, including over 7,000 minors, in 13 countries, and then combined with similar data from 2014 to see what changes are happening to pirates' habits. As it turns out piracy is down across the board, and the only country where it's seen an increase is Germany. The results also found that some 95 per cent of pirates also consume content legally, reiterating past research that they're not all in it because they don't want to pay.

As ever reasoning given by the pirates was the convenience factor and the fact they don't have unlimited budgets to buy access to content. The study also showed that piracy rates did have an impact on media sales, but only amongst the adults who actually have disposable income to spend in the first place.

“This study confirms earlier studies in finding statistical evidence that illegal consumption of music, books, and games displaces legal consumption.

“However, the displacement coefficients are surrounded with substantial uncertainty. Separating these results between minors and adults suggests that displacement occurs for adults and not for minors.”

That said piracy isn't all negative. There's a correlation between music piracy and purchasing tickets to music gigs, with every 10 illegally downloaded albums corresponding to an extra three tickets to shows of festivals. Music streaming remains completely unaffected, though piracy does seem to cause a drop in physical and digital music sales. As for film piracy surprisingly doesn't seem to affect home video sales, both physical and digital, but it does have a negative impact on the box office and online streams. According to the results every 10 illegally downloaded films means four lost cinema visits.

The good news is that the authors don't believe stricter copyright laws are the way to deal with piracy-related issues.  Instead they're advocating for better access to legal services, and for a reasonable price. Telling TorentFreak:

“In terms of policy, obviously hunting down the industry’s largest customers is not the best of ideas. Rather, push for better availability, affordability, and findability of legal content. Affordability of large platforms in lower-income countries is certainly an issue.

“If you must do something in terms of enforcement, website blocking seems to be a much better strategy than going after consumers. There is some solid looking evidence for effectiveness in the UK.”