September 9, 2003, 12:00 AM

A small number of users download the most music, a new survey shows

An NPD Group survey of households with web access shows that 64% have at least one digital music file on their computers; 56% have 50 or more while only 8% have 1,000 or more.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

The music industry’s strategy of aiming suits at a small group of Internet users who download music from web sites is sensible because only a few users possess a huge amount of digital music, says new research from the NPD Group, which provides sales and marketing information on consumer products.

A survey of households with web access shows that 64% have at least one digital music file on their computers; 56% have 50 or more while only 8% have 1,000 or more. “There clearly are a small percentage of users who have taken advantage of file sharing services to compile massive libraries,” said Russ Crupnick, vice president of The NPD Group. “The RIAA’s focus on those sharing the most files makes sense, because this group provides the most egregious example of one of the music industry’s most pressing business issues-–copyright infringement.”

The Recording Industry Association of America filed suit this week against hundreds of alleged heavy downloaders of music.

Preliminary data findings from MusicWatch Digital from The NPD Group also show that two-thirds of all digital music file acquisition can be attributed to file sharing. The remainder is mainly attributed to copying tracks directly from CDs. Among the most popular P2P services, according to NPD, was Kazaa (21% usage) and WinMX (5% usage).

In the make-lemonade-from-lemons department, Crupnick added: “There’s a silver lining in the file-sharing cloud. There are now tens of millions of consumers who are primed for digital music; the challenge is finding the right combination of features and pricing to effectively monetize this behavior. Half the file sharers are college aged or younger, which represents an opportunity for the recording industry to keep pace with younger consumers.”

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