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Free Web Music Sees Traffic Boom; Napster's Legal Setbacks Fuel Rise

26 Apr, 2001 By: Press News

The traffic in free music on the Internet has boomed since last summer -- no doubt causing the recording industry to worry more about compact disc sales. But don't tell Mike Redmond that.

``Sales have been very strong,'' said Redmond, general manager at a Tower Records store located a few blocks from the White House.``People are still coming in for whole records.''

But that doesn't mean that fans of music-swapping services like Napster are buying records as well. Only ``every now and again'' does a music downloader come in asking for a whole CD, Redmond said.

``For some people, they sample the music and go out and buy it,'' said Pew Internet and American Life Project director Lee Rainie. ``But for a lot of people, they don't go out and buy it.''

According to a new Pew study, a lot more people are sampling -- though a future study will find out if they're not buying. Thirty-seven million Americans have downloaded free music from the Internet since lastsummer, a 40% increase since then, according to the study.

Napster's legal setbacks seem to have fueled the increase, which spans all Internet users regardless of their experience, age, prosperity or race, Rainie said.

Twenty-nine percent of American adults say they have downloaded music online. That figure was only 22% in late July 2000, when the recording industry won its copyright infringement suit againstNapster.

``The level of sharing and downloading closely tracked the court case,'' Rainie said. In July, the average Napster user shared about 130 music files. That jumped to 200 in January, when Napster's case went to anappeals court, but lately that number has diminished to about 80.

Napster officials declined to comment on the study, other than to say the recent drop in shared files shows that their filtering efforts are working.

More older Internet users are downloading music, according to the report. Fifteen percent of Internet users over 50 said they have gottentunes from the Internet, up from 9% in July.

``It's always been the case that this wasn't just for people under 30,'' Rainie said. ``There are a lot of music files that people who are 50 and over grew up with.''

Still, it is largely a young person's activity. Just over half of adult Internet users under 30 and three-quarters of boys aged 15 to 17 said they download songs from the Internet.

The report is based on three telephone surveys, both using random-digit dialing and having an error margin of plus or minus 2 to 4 percentage points, depending upon the survey portion. The surveys polled a total of4,205 adults and 754 children.

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