Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 715–740 | Cite as

Don’t blame the P2P file-sharers: the impact of free music downloads on the purchase of music CDs in Canada

  • Birgitte AndersenEmail author
  • Marion Frenz


This study measures the extent to which P2P file-sharing activities act as substitutes or complements to music purchases in markets for CDs. The paper breaks with the mainstream economics approach which dominates the music file-sharing discussion. Whereas such models assume relationships at the micro level (e.g. between file-sharing and purchases) based on observations made at the macro level, our evolutionary economics approach measures the direct effects using micro data representative of the Canadian population. The behavioral incentives underpinning free music downloading, novel to this paper, are the multiple effects of: ‘unwillingness to pay’ (market substitution), ‘hear before buying’ (market creation), ‘not wanting to buy a whole album’ (market segmentation), and ‘not available in the CD format or on electronic pay-sites’ (market creation). Although the two first mentioned incentives significantly influence CD album purchases—i.e. there is a negative and significant market substitution effect and a positive and significant market creation effect—on the whole, these two effects ‘cancel’ one another out, leading to no association between the number of P2P files downloaded and CD album sales.


Technological change Consumption Music industry P2P file-sharing The Internet 

JEL Classification

O12 O32 O33 O34 



We are grateful to Industry Canada for facilitating this research (contract no. 5016574), to Prof Petr Hanel for profound comments on an earlier version of the paper, and to Decima Research for suggestions on the questionnaire design. We would also like to thank the anonymous referees for their useful comments. The views in this paper reflect those of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, BirkbeckUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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