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Streaming Music Can Lead to Stealing Music

Published: May 18, 2017
Karla Borja, associate professor of economics, and Suzanne Dieringer, assistant professor of economics, addressed that question in a study titled “Streaming or Stealing? The Complementary Features Between Music Steaming and Music Piracy.”
Karla Borja, associate professor of economics, and Suzanne Dieringer, assistant professor of economics, addressed that question in a study titled “Streaming or Stealing? The Complementary Features Between Music Steaming and Music Piracy.”

Student in-class discussion led one UT professor to a music question based in part on the increased availability of tunes during the last 10 to 15 years. Does music streaming serve as a deterrent of consumer music piracy or does the ability to listen to many musical artists through streaming services lead to an increase in music stealing?

Karla Borja, associate professor of economics, and Suzanne Dieringer, assistant professor of economics, addressed that question in a study titled “Streaming or Stealing? The Complementary Features Between Music Steaming and Music Piracy.”

That effort involved a questionnaire that was distributed to 1,052 students at two universities. Borja and Dieringer then tested a handful of hypotheses, which included examining the effect of peer pressure, the role of risks and penalties and the role that perceptions about the music industry and artists play. Their findings were published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.

Borja noted that students' ability to download many items from websites for free plays a part in their attitudes toward illegally downloading music. “Students who are 18 to 20 years old were born with the Internet (being accessible),” Borja said. “Being online, they are used to downloading things for free. Moving from downloading a document to a song is not a big jump. There is no big difference for students.”

Another factor is the different retail surroundings provided via an Internet connection compared to being in a brick-and-mortar establishment where a guard or electronic product sensors may be present as security components. “You are not out of the house and not in a physical store,” Borja said. “The environment is different, but the act is the same.”

Through those 1,052 questionnaires and a logit model, Borja and Dieringer found music streaming increases the likelihood of piracy by about 11 percent. When examining various age ranges, the authors also determined that younger individuals are more likely to pirate music than their older counterparts. Negative views about the music industry as a whole are also a predictor of music piracy.

“My initial hypothesis was that streaming would push aside piracy, but it has not happened,” Borja said. “It will take time for the schools and the government to get active (in educating kids), but the research community has been very active. It is my hope that by the end of 2017, we can reach out to groups and high school organizations.”

As the music streaming options available to kids and older college students expand through multiple platforms, Borja noted there are other aspects of the “streaming or stealing” question that could be explored further. “A second paper could explore gender issues and that breakdown,” she said. “Maybe we could study a younger generation and see are the results different than in college. We have two or three ideas that we want to address.”

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This story initially appeared in the alumni magazine. Read more like it in the Spring 2017 Journal.