Measuring people’s perception of music piracy

What aspect of music is being measured?

  • Listening to music encompasses various emotions and experiences attached to it.
  • This study aims at measuring people’s musical preferences and perception of piracy.
  • This study also aims to draw the differences between people’s assumption and their actual music-listening habits.
  • By capturing very specific information about users, this study aims at drawing a link between a user’s musical taste and how that informs and influences their ethics in terms of perceiving music as a product versus something that can be downloaded for free.

The Metric and Data Fields

  • A survey was conducted to understand people’s music listening habits.
  • The study aimed at measuring one important metric of people’s experience while listening to music — Behavior
  • Through behavior as a metric, the number of people who actually believe in owning music that are legally downloaded can be measured. Two questions that could have contradicting answers was included on purpose to understand people’s perception of their habits as opposed to their actual music-listening habits.
  • The fields captured through the survey —
    - Age
    - Gender
    - If they play any musical instrument
    - If they prefer Digital music or CDs
    - Their musical preferences
    - Their main source of music
    - How they support bands

The Study

Anomalies Found

  • On comparing data between fields, it was understood that a portion of the people who took the survey had a wrong understanding of piracy or they were not being genuine with their response.
  • This was understood there were two fields that captured data that did not seem to fit for a portion of the people who took the survey.
  • People who had selected that they use Torrents to download music also happened to select that they supported bands by buying their music and merchandise. This was deduced by comparing fields that measure their response to music source versus how they support bands.
  • This data proves to be a clear anomaly as downloaders are not supporting the bands by buying their music. The stats are illustrated in the following page.


  • The study helped in gaining insights about the different ways in which the participants perceived music piracy.
  • The subtle trick in selecting the fields helped in understanding the actual behavior or people as opposed to what they claim.
  • The studies also highlighted that even people who play instruments do not support artists by buying their music directly. But, they claim to do so in the survey.
  • The study also helped understand that cost of music is not the only reason for people who use torrents to download music but a few also believe that artists don’t need support as they are already famous.

The Survey — An Appendix

Link to the survey results —

Thank you for reading

Research by Adhithya — A User Experience Designer and a grad student at Indiana University pursuing Masters in Human-Computer Interaction/design. You can follow me on Twitter — @adhithyarkumar or you could check my work at