File-Sharing: The Saga Continues

Maybe you’ve heard and maybe you haven’t, but there’s a study out now by some business professor types that seems to say file-sharing doesn’t really hurt music sales. The study—which involves a lot more than simple surveys (e.g., “do you buy fewer albums now because of file-sharing?” etc.)—also points to the numerous weaknesses of “studies” so far that have purported to reveal the impact of file-sharing on music sales.

Unsurprisingly, the RIAA has taken exception to this study.

Says Amy Weiss, RIAA senior VP of communications, the study is “counterintuitive.”

Amy Weiss also says:

“We look forward to what other academics will have to say about since it has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a journal. … We also look forward to understanding what the authors actually did in the study, since the text of the analysis is incomprehensible to the layman.”

“We look forward to understanding”? Apparently, the RIAA has no statisticians or economists on its payroll. Which is also counterintuitive, considering that the RIAA’s been claiming that file-sharing has had a serious impact on its income. If the RIAA can’t understand any studies that aren’t in the parlance of the layman, how can it “understand” whether or not file-sharing has had an impact on its profits?

Curiously, a similar problem has arisen recently in the cream cheese industry.

Said the PR mouthpiece for the international Cream Cheese Council (ICCC), “it’s preposterous to think that a decline in cream cheese sales could possibly have anything to do with the quality of our product or the economy. No, I’m afraid it’s patently obvious that the cream cheese industry is hurting because of illegal cream cheese communes, and any study that contradicts this isn’t looking in the right places.” [note: not an actual quote or organization]

[Another note, which I’d intended to add earlier: I’d like to point out that I think it’s completely reasonable for Amy Weiss (and/or or any of her colleagues at the RIAA) to object to the findings of the Oberholzer-Strumpf study; PR isn’t exactly the sort of thing where you can demand absolute objectivity. It is the sort of thing, however, where you can seriously question the validity of any ostensible ‘facts.’]

(via “The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales An Empirical Analysis” by Felix Oberholzer and Koleman Strumpf; and also via Reuters: “RIAA Says Study Falls Short” by Bill Holland [April 9, 2004])