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There’s long been a discussion about the economic impact of file-sharing on the artistic community, but there’s been precious little data to actually have a real discussion about the potential effects of P2P networks. Instead, the technorati and media companies have staked out polar opposite positions, dug in their heels, and screamed at each other since 1999.

There is a new study called P2P, Online File-Sharing, and the Music Industry that sheds some light on the phenomenon, although the researchers are quick to point out that there the results are derived from limited data. One interesting finding from the summary introduction:

the ‘bottom’ 3/4 of artists sell more as a consequence of file-sharing while the top 1/4 sell less

The first point is basically what those of us who have been following the phenomenon would expect: unknown musicians derive more popularity from having their work on these networks, and are exposed to more consumer; while popular musicians, who have a multitude of tracks available to a huge public, are losing sales.

What this creates is a much more complex question of how these networks should be monitored or controlled, since – if we believe that musicians, whether popular or not, should all be protected equally regardless of status – there are differing effects on artists. Adding to the complexity of the issue is this: there is a societal formula in this study, which measures the social impact of these networks delivering music and compares that with the economic loss of the music industry.

Thanks to BoingBoing for the heads-up.

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