Twitter a Boon for Digital Music Sales?

Twitter might seem an unlikely savior of the music industry, but a new study suggests that users of the popular messaging service are much better for business than their non-tweeting counterparts.

Research firm NPD Group polled Internet users and found that Twitter users were on average 77 percent more likely to purchase digital music than those who haven’t yet hopped on the micro-blogging bandwagon.

“Based on their music-purchasing history, active Twitter users are simply worth more to record labels and music retailers than those who are not using Twitter,” NPD analyst Russ Crupnick said in a statement.

NPD’s study is the latest addition to the cacophony of speculation and analysis about Twitter entering the mainstream. The firm offered a statistic about awareness, finding that 52 percent of U.S. Internet users are aware of Twitter, a 22 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2008.

Among users who bought music online, 67 percent said they were aware of Twitter. Twelve percent of music buyers said they had used Twitter, compared to 8 percent of Web users overall.

In its survey of nearly 4,000 Internet users, NPD found that one-third of Twitter users had purchased a CD in the past three months, with 34 percent saying they had bought a digital download. Among overall Web users, 23 percent said they had bought a CD, while just 16 percent said they had purchased a download.

Twitter users reported spending more per average music purchase than people who don’t use the service.

NPD’s study also found a higher level of engagement among Twitter users with online music hubs like MySpace Music and Pandora.

The link between tech-savvy Twitter users and consumers who are willing to pay for music is a ray of sunshine for an industry that has struggled to adapt to the digital age.

The trade association representing the recording industry, the RIAA, has a long and litigious history of fighting illegal file-sharing in the courts. That campaign has produced no shortage of ugly headlines, like the recent $1.92 million judgment against Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a single mother living in Minnesota, for sharing 24 songs on the peer-to-peer site Kazaa.

The RIAA has said it will no longer pursue litigation against individuals once the pending cases, such as the one against Thomas-Rasset, are resolved.

After a campaign that left many in the digital generation resentful of the music industry, developing new business models to support content in an era of effortless distribution remains an unanswered question.

Researchers at the Pew Internet and American Life Project got at that issue in a recent report looking back at the digital music rollercoaster 10 years after Napster burst on the scene.

“What’s clear at this point in the evolution of the music business is that there is no clear business model,” the authors wrote. “In the Internet age, selling recorded music has become as much of an art as making the music itself.”

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