We have heard many complaints from the music industry about P2P music filesharing causing financial damage to creating and performing musicians, composers, songwriters, singers, instrumentalists, etc. To quote the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI): Unauthorised use of music „has hurt sales of music worldwide, causing artist rosters to be cut and thousands of jobs to be lost“ (IFPI 2004, p. 10). But have you ever heard the musicians‚ own voice on peer-to-peer file sharing, DRM and online music? If you have met musicians face to face you will probably understand why they seldom raise their voice in these matters. Generally speaking, musicians are sensitive individualists, scarcely organised, and often show little interest in dealing with economic affairs. Some indications what musicians think can however be derived from the two surveys we present in the following.

NEA Survey of the worklife of jazz musicians
In 2000 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the United States commissioned a study of jazz musicians in four U.S. metropolitan areas (Detroit, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco). The aim of this conventional survey was „to enhance the quality of statistical information, which will be used to help devise strategic ways to further the work of jazz artists“ (Jeffri 2003, p. 4). The survey was conducted in 2001 in cooperation with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). 1,900 persons responded. The survey results were published in 2003 under the title „Changing the beat. A study of the worklife of jazz musicians“ (Jeffri 2003). Besides a host of questions dealing with demographics, income, health-care, jazz styles of the musicians, there were some queries addressing copyright issues, which we pick up here.

First of all, copyright is in fact a matter that is important for jazz musicians too. This is not self evident as we can imagine many jazz musician earning their living by gigs and jam sessions – not by composing, arranging, or recording. Following the survey results however, four of five of the responding jazz musicians (79 %) reported that their music has received airplay (sometimes), three of four (75 %) have (some) of their work been recorded by a professional recording company, more than half of the musicians (55 %) have recorded works themselves, nearly half (48 %) hold copyright in some of their artistic work, and 35 % said that their music has been broadcasted over the Internet (in the year 2001).

The latter group of „Internet broadcasters“ was asked how they feel about people downloading their music without paying. Their answers (multiple answers possible) were as follows: 63 % want to be paid, 52 % object downloading their music, but 37 % like the exposure they get, and 29 % do not mind downloading. In other words one of two musicians do not raise objections against downloading, and one of three appreciate the promotional side of downloading for their works.

PEW Survey of musicians and songwriters
A more recent study has been conducted by the PEW Internet & American Life Project. Preliminary results were published in May 2004 (Rainie and Madden 2004). The Web-based survey was conducted in March and April 2004. The aim was to know more about the way musicians and songwriters use the Internet, and about their views on copyright and file sharing.

Before presenting the data we have to send ahead two methodological remarks: First, although 2,755 persons responded, the sample can not be regarded as representative for the entire population of musicians and songwriters, because of the bias due to „self selection“ of participants in this web-survey. Second, the percentages we present are calculated irrespective of the answers „do not apply“ and „don‚t know“ in order to draw a more accentuated picture based on the knowledgeable answers.

Impact of file sharing and downloading
There are 72 % musicians who believe in the promoting function of file sharing. They either agree with the following statement: „File sharing services aren‚t really bad for artists, since they help promote and distribute an artist‚s work to a broad audience“, or they say that file sharing has a positive as well as a negative side for them. Only 24 % of the respondents say file sharing services are bad for artists because they allow people to copy or use an artist‚s work without permission and without compensation for the artist. 3 % disagree with all of these statements.

While 57 % see no effect of free downloading on sales of own CDs, 35 % claim that sales of their CDs have increased by free downloading, and only 8 % claim their sales have decreased.

53 % of the respondents see no effect of the Internet on protection of music from piracy and unlawful use. 27 % say the Internet has a small negative effect on the protection of music from piracy or unlawful use, while 21 % see a big effect.

In general more musicians say that free downloading has a positive effect on their career. Here are the figures:
44 % Free downloading has not really made any difference in my career
41 % Free downloading has helped my career
9 % Free downloading has both helped and hurt my career
6 % Free downloading has hurt my career

A similar picture appears when respondents were asked about their overall opinion on file sharing: 33 % agree with the statement that file sharing is no real threat to creative industries like music and movies, 34 % say file sharing is a minor, 32 % a major threat.

First conclusion: Musicians doubt the negative effects of downloading and file sharing, and point out the opportunities of file sharing to promote their work. This result underlines the findings of the NEA investigation. Figure 1 depicts those statements of the different questions, which were strongly supported.

Fig. 1: Impact of file sharing and downloading (most supported items of different questions)

Source: Own calculations from PEW Internet & American Life project, see Rainie and Madden (2004)

Copyright law and copy protection
The majority of 75 % respondents support the view, that copyright laws do more to protect those who sell art than to protect the artists themselves. 68 % agree or strongly agree with the statement that current copyright law does a good job of protecting artists‚ rights (31 % disagree).

A remarkable majority (73 %) does not believe that RIAA‚s (Recording Industry Association of America) legal action against individual downloaders will benefit musicians and songwriters (27 % welcome these actions). Assuming that someone has broken or disabled the copy protection mechanism on a CD or DVD after purchase, 57 % of the surveyed musicians do not want prosecution of those individuals, while 43 % want it.

More than the majority (68 %) want complete control as copyright owner of their work, 29 % want some control, 3 % very little control. We see a clear dichotomy between proponents and opponents of copy protection. 50 % say „yes“ and 50 % say „no“ to the following statement: „Current technology makes it possible to Œcopy-protect‚ digital forms of music such as CDs and audio files so that unauthorized copies cannot be made. If you had the choice, would you want your music to be copy-protected so that digital copies could not be made without your permission?“

Second conclusion:
The responding musicians don‚t feel protected best by copyright law and RIAA‚s legal actions against individuals and their prosecution. They want more or complete control as copyright owners of their own work, and dislike the influence of the music industry, which presently exerts the greatest control. Figure 2 depicts the most frequently chosen answers to the different questions on copy protection, copyright law and prosecution.

Fig. 2: Copy protection and copyright law (most supported items of different questions)

Source: Own calculations from PEW Internet & American Life project, see Rainie and Madden (2004)

Bottom Line
We have looked at musicians‚ responses addressing file sharing, copyright and DRM based on two surveys. The surveys revealed a huge divergence of opinions among musicians. Nevertheless, the majority acknowledges the opportunities of the Internet and file sharing. Only a minority gives more importance to the risks. While it is neither surprising that musicians want to be paid by those who consume and use their works on the Internet, nor that they are in favour of better control of their files, it is indeed surprising that the majority does not want more severe prosecution of individual downloaders of music. Maybe this mixed view is due to their double role of creators and consumers of music using the Internet themselves to satisfy their needs. Another result of the survey is that musicians don‚t see their interests represented best by the music industry, which often claims to act in their interest. In the view of musicians it is often more important to make their works widely available than to have them well secured, but nobody listens to them.

We warmly welcome pointers from readers to other surveys of creative workers on Internet use and DRM issues, and would also appreciate statements by artists and artists' organisations.

  • AFM (American Federation of Musicians), New York, NY
  • IFPI (2004): IFPI online music report 2004. London: International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI)
  • Jeffri, Joan (2003): Changing the beat. A study of the worklife of jazz musicians. Volume I: Executive Summary. Washington D.C. (NEA Research Division Report #43) . The raw data of this study are available from CPANDA, the Cultural Policy & the Arts National Data Archive at
  • NEA (National Endowment for the Arts), Washington D.C.
  • PEW Internet and American Life Project, Washington D.C.
  • Rainie, Lee; Madden, Mary (2004): Preliminary findings form a Web survey of musicians and songwriters. PEW Internet Project Data Memo, May 2004. Washington D.C.: PEW

About the Author: Ulrich Riehm is sociologist, performing and leading Technology Assessment projects in the field of IST since 25 years at ITAS. Recently he led a TA project on E-Commerce and its political, economical, and social implications on behalf of the Deutsche Bundestag (German Parliament). Currently he is involved in the EU foresight project FISTERA and INDICARE.

Status: first posted 06/08/04; included in INDICARE Monitor Vol. 1, No 3, 27 August 2004; licensed under Creative Commons