Few Canadians prepared to give up free downloads, even for $1 per song

The numbers appear only to back up what those who pay attention to the Internet already know: Free file trading services aren't going away any time soon, sanctioned alternatives and 99-cent downloads be damned.

The numbers appear only to back up what those who pay attention to the Internet already know: Free file trading services aren’t going away any time soon, sanctioned alternatives and 99-cent downloads be damned.

Those are the findings of the latest Strategy/Decima Research poll, which finds Canadians of all ages reluctant to switch to legit music download services, even at very low price points. Free is still cheaper than a buck or two, and it looks like marketers have some serious work ahead of them to change attitudes, especially among younger demos.

Overall, almost 36% of 2,000 respondents surveyed said they would continue using free services even if they could legally purchase digital music elsewhere for $1 per song.

When broken down by age, close to 60% of those in the key 18-to-24 demo said they would continue using free services. In the 25-to-34 demo the number was about 42%.

Men showed more reluctance than women to stop using free services, with 38% saying they would continue, compared to 34% of women.

‘Males are more likely to adopt new technology more quickly so they’re probably using more MP3s and are more proficient at downloading,’ says Peggy Richardson-McKee, SVP at Toronto-based Decima Research. This may make them slightly more resistant to pay-for-use services.

Richardson-McKee adds: ‘There’s still a big percentage of people out there who are going to continue [downloading]. This is pretty much what we expected.’

Kaan Yigit, partner at Toronto-based youth consultancy Solutions Research Group Consultants, agrees. ‘In terms of the pay-per-download pricing, irrespective of what happens to CD prices, it’s still too expensive,’ says Yigit.

Still, Yigit says he expects legal downloads to eventually account for 5% to 10% of the total music market.

‘I don’t want to make the argument that there isn’t any room for paid downloads. Of course there is. The issue is that the expectations are far greater for what that market means vis-a-vis what the reality will show for the next six months to a year.’

The poll also found that only 8.6% of respondents don’t know what MP3s are, although almost 19% responded they don’t know/refused to answer. Not surprisingly, only 0.6% in the 18-to-24 demo, say they don’t know what MP3′s are.

Decima conducted the poll on behalf of Strategy via its monthly telephone omnibus, for which data was collected from 2,000 consumers between Oct. 17 and Oct. 26. Each month a random sample is generated and quotas for each region are disproportionately allocated. The data is weighted in tabulation to replicate actual population distribution by age and sex within regions, according to census data.

For more information, contact Decima Research at (416) 962-2013.