Myths, beliefs, and attitudes towards music piracy: findings from qualitative research

Steven Caldwell Brown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book


Claims from industry bodies that music piracy harms the music industry tend to centre on the economic losses incurred from illegally sourcing copyrighted works, despite no readily observable evidence to support this. Individuals on either end of the debate who consider music piracy to be good or bad appear to demonstrate confirmation bias, favouring information which supports their
beliefs. Noting a major absence of qualitative research into music piracy, this paper discusses the results of a series of studies using varied qualitative methodology to explore the roots of both pro and anti-piracy attitudes. Significantly, music piracy was found to be woven into everyday life, with little regard for the potentially negative consequences it may have on the recorded music industry. Notably, so-called ‘music pirates’ consistently denied that music piracy was wrong, relying on a pattern of justifications to make sense of their behaviour; the most common was the notion that musicians are “filthy rich” and that this justifies procuring their music illegally. There was also a widespread perception that music is too expensive. Importantly, those individuals engaging in music piracy were found to vary widely in their beliefs and motives. The research highlights the benefits of adopting qualitative methodology, with its novel findings enriching the literature to date by offering insight into how different groups can reach different conclusions when evaluating the same phenomenon. Discussion focuses on the policy implications of appeasing shifting consumer preferences and how to better educate consumers on industry realities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Ninth Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM)
EditorsJ. Ginsborg, A. Lamont, M. Phillips, S. Bramley
Place of PublicationManchester
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventEuropean Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music - Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 17 Aug 201522 Aug 2015
Conference number: 9


ConferenceEuropean Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music
Abbreviated titleESCOM 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • music industry
  • music piracy
  • consumer behaviour
  • moral justification


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