Marketing Professor Blames Downloading for Music Industry’s ‘Downward Spiral’

Daily Pennsylvanian
University of Pennsylvania

Marketing professor Peter Fader knows more about popular music than most of his students.

While speaking to students Friday, he asked them to name OutKast’s new album. As it turns out, he was the only one familiar with “Idlewild.” But that’s his job.

Fader has studied the music industry extensively and served as a key defense witness on behalf of peer-to-peer music-sharing service Napster.

In a lecture to about 85 students, he discussed the impact that new technologies like file sharing and downloading have on music purchasing.

He began by warning his audience that some of his points would be “purposely provocative.”

Fader told students how he adapted his explorations of purchasing patterns to study CD sales.

Though skeptical music executives argued that there were no patterns in their industry, Fader rose to the challenge, using his models to predict CD sales.

Discussing Napster, he amused his audience by recalling that the first song he ever downloaded was Blink 182’s “All the Small Things.”

In 2000, Napster’s defense attorney asked him to use his expertise in the field to prove that Napster did not hurt CD sales, but rather helped them.

Fader cited 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” album as a perfect example. Though it leaked onto Napster before its official release date, it went on to become the biggest debut album in history.

Fader believes that high school and college students are always going to steal music and that new technology is just allowing them different means to do so.

He also admitted to stealing records from music stores when he was younger.

Speaking from personal experience, Fader joked, “High school and college students steal music. That’s what they do. That’s what God put them there for.”

He also discussed iTunes and other online music-business models.

“Downloading is a very bad business model. Downloading is a cause of [the music industry’s] downward spiral,” he said.

After the lecture, audience members continued to discuss the topic with the professor.

“I liked how he was very grounded,” Wharton junior Sasha Furmansky said. “He didn’t speak like a professor, but more like one of us.”

“He can really capture his audience,” Wharton and College sophomore Archita Banerjee said. “Everyone was laughing.”