The first large-scale surveys of the internet’s impact on artists and musicians reveal that they are embracing the Web as a tool to improve how they make, market, and sell their creative works. They eagerly welcome new opportunities that are provided by digital technology and the internet. At the same time, they believe that unauthorized online file sharing is wrong and that current copyright laws are appropriate, though there are some major divisions among them about what constitutes appropriate copying and sharing of digital files. Their overall judgment is that unauthorized online file-sharing does not pose a major threat to creative industries: Two-thirds of artists say peer-to-peer file sharing poses a minor threat or no threat at all to them. Across the board, among those who are both successful and struggling, the artists and musicians we surveyed are more likely to say that the internet has made it possible for them to make more money from their art than they are to say it has made it harder to protect their work from piracy or unlawful use. Surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project show there are 32 million Americans who consider themselves artists and about 10 million earn at least some level of compensation from their performances, songs, paintings, videos, creative writing, and other art. The report includes special analysis of “Paid Artists,” those respondents who are musicians, writers and filmmakers and earn some income from their art. A Project survey in November and December of 2003 finds that substantial numbers of these artists use the internet to gain inspiration, build community with fans and fellow artists, and pursue new commercial activity.

  • 77% of all artists and 83% of all Paid Artists use the internet, compared to 63% of the entire adult population.
  • 52% of all online artists and 59% of Paid Online Artists say they get ideas and inspiration for their work from searching online.
  • 30% of online artists and 45% of Paid Online Artists say the internet is important in helping them create and/or distribute their art.
  • 23% of all online artists and 41% of Paid Online Artists say the internet has helped them in their creative pursuits and careers.
  • 3% of all online artists and 6% of Paid Online Artists say the internet has had a major deleterious effect on their ability to protect their creative works.

    “Some in the policy community and in media companies have feared that the internet would bring financial Armageddon to musicians and other artists,” said Mary Madden, Research Specialist who authored a new report on the Pew Internet Project findings. “What we hear from a wide spectrum of artists is that, despite the real challenges of protecting work online, the internet has opened new ways for them to exercise their imaginations and sell their creations. To many, this feels like a new Digital Renaissance rather than the end of the world.”

    These results emerge from a nationally representative survey of 809 self-identified artists in December 2003. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

    Artists are divided in their overall assessment about online file sharing:

  • 47% of all artists agree with the statement that “file-sharing services are bad for artists because they allow people to copy or use an artist’s work without getting permission or compensating the artist.”
  • 43% agree that, “file-sharing services aren’t really bad for artists, since they help to promote and distribute an artist’s work to a broad audience.”

    Some other major findings on copyright and file sharing:

  • 52% of all artists and 55% of Paid Artists believe it should be illegal for internet users to share unauthorized copies of music and movies over file-sharing networks, compared to 37% of all artists and 35% of Paid Artists who say it should be legal.
  • 64% of all artists and 67% of Paid Artists think that the copyright owner should have complete control over the use of a work.
  • 28% of all artists consider file-sharing to be a major threat to creative industries and 30% of Paid Artists say this.

    In another part of this research, the Project administered a non-random online survey of 2,793 musicians, songwriters and music publishers distributed through musician membership organizations that was conducted on the Web. Analysis in the report focuses on the 2,755 musicians and songwriters in the sample. The sample was self-selecting and not projectable onto the entire U.S. population of musicians, but this extensive and wide-ranging survey brings thousands of new voices from a broad range of experiences and levels of income into the debate about online file-sharing.

    The online musicians who responded to our survey have integrated the internet deeply into their musical lives and are beginning to take advantage of wireless access. The vast majority of these musicians have their own website and are selling their music online. Most offer free samples of their music on the internet.

    “For independent musicians, in particular, this newfound ability to bypass traditional distribution outlets and geographic boundaries has been liberating,” said Lee Rainie, Director of the Project.

    Most of these musicians report that the internet has had a positive, if only minor, impact on sales. Nearly all of the respondents cited improvements in their connections to others in the music community and two out of three musicians in our survey note that the internet has had a big effect on improving their connections to fans and allowing them to reach a wider audience.

    The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit, non-partisan organization funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to assess the social impact of the internet.