A North Carolina State University researcher has written a paper that suggests pre-release piracy actually helps to boost music sales.
The paper, titled "Profit Leak? Pre-Release File Sharing and the Music Industry", was written by Robert Hammond, Assistant Professor at the university.
Using data obtained from one of the largest private BitTorrent trackers for music downloads, with the sample consisting of 1,095 albums from 1,075 artists, the extensive research may be the most detailed yet into the link between music piracy, especially pre-release piracy, and album sales.
And the conclusion is rather startling: "The findings suggest that file sharing of an album benefits its sales."
The opposite has usually been taken as gospel by the music industry, keen to stress the hugely damaging effect pre-release piracy has on music sales, even as artists and some in the industry continue to purposefully leak music for promotional purposes. The industry even went as far as employing the services of Homeland Security to shutter several pre-release blogs, only for the seizure to be reversed a year later due to insufficient legal grounds for the seizure.
While the research was largely limited to pre-release piracy, and album sales, instead of track sales, the lack of a real correlation between piracy and sales may suggest that piracy plays an important role in the promotion of music.
A study earlier in the year for movie downloads also found no correlation between pre-release BitTorrent downloads and box office revenue in the US, but found that artificially imposed release windows in overseas markets did cause harm.