A recent study done by UK consumer advocates Consumer Focus finds that 40% of UK residents can’t name a single legal digital music service.
The same study, which finds that 85% can only name iTunes and Amazon, has come under fire from the British Phonographic Institute (BPI), whose Chief Executive, Geoff Taylor, counters in this ZeroPaid article that the survey could have included “people who don’t even have an Internet connection or interest in music.”
It’s tough to imagine there are too many people who fall into the latter category, but the former accounts for some 17 million people, over 20% of the British population, most of whom, many experts say, are poorer for it.
Taylor also pointed out that a related BPI study found “awareness of legal music services among internet users is almost universal,” and that the Digital Economy Bill, which threatens to deny the Internet access of repeat offender file-sharers, goes a long way toward “encourag[ing] illegal downloaders to move across to those legal services.”
Billboard’s Glenn Peoples points out that most of the download services available are relatively recent, and few, aside from subscription services like Napster and Rhapsody, have any kind of mainstream profile at all.
But if close to 17 million people in the UK don’t even have the option of using iTunes, and if 93 million people in the US (~30% of the population) don’t have the bandwidth for streaming services like Last.fm or Pandora, then labels and digital outlets alike should take Consumer Focus’s findings as a good thing. iTunes and Pandora have already begun turning a profit despite this relative anonymity, and once they eventually get access to those massive, untapped markets, the benefits for everybody involved will be tremendous.
Except, possibly, country music producers. Hard to tell what’s going to happen to them.
Max Willens is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in XLR8R, Paper Magazine, Death + Taxes, Electronic Beats, HOOP, and The Village Voice. He lives in Brooklyn. Max currently serves as WAMM’s primary editor.