Friday, April 06, 2007

Gorging on P2P

Note: This post originall appeared at http://hollerif.blogspot.com.

Market research cited in an article in Monday's New York Times says that users of peer-to-peer downloading networks—BitTorrent, LimeWire, and the like—downloaded ten times more songs than users of "legit" download services like iTunes. More than 5 billion songs were downloaded from P2P source in 2006, as opposed to 509 million legal downloads, said NPD Group, a market research firm.

Those numbers didn't ring true to me. Here's my response:


I would guess that 10:1 is seriously understated—I wouldn't be surprised if it's closer to 100:1.

The article doesn't capture how these ratios work out when considering "officially released" content as opposed to "bootleg" content. For example, the torrent site Dimeadozen.org (capped at 100,000 free members) has a strict policy banning any material that is either in official release or likely to become officially released.

On March 21, the files for a full-length Bruce Springsteen concert DVD from Paris 1985 went up. Not just a handheld thing, this was from the monitors, first-generation. 28 songs. 12 gigabytes of data. And many hundreds of people logged on, downloading the whole thing. How many song downloads is that, just for that one show? Well, I'll count: Dimeadozen reports that there have been 769 downloads so far. In addition, a Springsteen-only torrent site called Jungleland has had 956 downloads. That's 48,300 song downloads, just for that one show. In addition, there are currently another 122 people in the process of downloading the show from the two sites (and there are likely other torrent sites hosting it as well), so that'll be an additional 3,416 downloads, for a total of 51,716 downloads, or about 20 terabytes of data. And that's in less than two weeks, for a single 22-year-old concert.

There's a Simon and Garfunkel show from 2003 that's generated more than 130,000 downloads. Bob Dylan's show in Sweden on Sunday had already produced 2750 completed song downloads with 3200 more in process as of Monday afternoon; his club-gig show last Tuesday is nearing 20,000 completed downloads. Pretty much every show he does will do similar numbers—at 3 shows a week, that's nearly 3 million song downloads just for Dylan on an annual basis, just for his new shows. You get the idea, I guess; there's nothing on iTunes or similar services that will be remotely in the same order of magnitude.

Of course, those numbers are global; the Jungleland numbers, in particular, are majority outside the U.S. But the general concept remains (and Dimeadozen is majority U.S., in any event).
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