Columbia U survey finds ‘sheep-like downloading,’ participate to get free music downloads

“iTunes shoppers are more likely to download a song if lots of other people have already added it to their digital collections, new research has found,” Simon Aughton reports for MacUser. “Sociologists Matthew Salganik and colleagues at Columbia University in New York, US, monitored 14,000 people as they visited website with 48 songs by relatively unknown bands and listened to songs, rated them and then decided whether to download them.”

“The researchers observed that those who were allowed to see how often a song had been downloaded were more likely to give a higher rating to songs that had been downloaded more often, and were more also more likely to download… You can take part in the ongoing survey at in return for some free downloads,” Aughton reports.

Full article here.

From the Columbia University survey site:

Music Lab is a research project conducted by scientists from Columbia University to learn about how people form opinions about music. If you participate in Music Lab you will have a chance to download free new music.

After answering a few questions about yourself, you will be presented with a menu of songs by cool new artists. Your participation will take between 5 minutes and about two hours depending on how many songs you choose to listen to.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews reader “MacSmiley” for the link.]

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  1. This is full of holes. I must download close to $1000 per year from iTunes. I never check to see what other people have downloaded. If you show me the latest KD Lang song on new music Tuesdays, I don’t care. I don’t care for country music, generally speaking.

    If I notice a Joss Stone song getting high downloads, I’m all over it, not because of the downloads or ratings, but because I like Joss Stone.

    Let’s say I’m into new music though, and I am. At that point, I specifically start looking at ratings.

    People will use the ratings as a filter, that doesn’t make them sheep. That should be obvious to anyone.

  2. “This is full of holes. I must download close to $1000 per year from iTunes.”

    Not full of holes by a long shot. Just because YOu don’t do it doesnt mean that people don’t do it as a pattern of behavior in general. Many psychological studies show that people tend to follow the crowd when it comes to making decisions on which they know little about.

    I can attest to this, as many many people would ask me “what is everyone else buying” when they came to buy an iPod from the store I worked. It was that way for iPods, cases, pertty much anything, even what colors people were buying.

  3. No matter how independent each of us thinks we are, in fact we all at one time or other make choices based on group decisions. This study simply reinforces the concept that we are social animals and we make decisions based on the particular group we are part of. Just look at what product advertising does. It is simply an attempt to convice each of us that since others chose a product that we would be wise to do also. And guess what, it works because it is part of our human nature. The shock value of this report is just that we all like to think we are independant and this study shows otherwise.

  4. We all know there are the followers and there are the leaders in any societal situation. That’s why I followed the link, listened to the music, and downloaded what I felt was worth listening to again.

    What studies like these do is to try to ascertain the percentage of one group in comparison to another. In other words, how successful is a certain marketing strategy going to be based on actual behavioral studies??

    Evidently, I was selected to be one not to know the rating and downloading input of others, which was fine with me. Where music is concerned, I do tend to “go my own way”. There were few questions to answer before listening to any of the songs, and one of which was “How likely are your friends to ask for your recommendations about music??”

    Movies? I look for good reviews in general, before I spend my time and my money going to a theater to see a film. ( After all, Andy Ihnatko and Roger Ebert are joined at the elbow as friendly colleagues, so there’s a connection for me, I guess.)

    Well, I got me some interesting music in the process. And now that I’ve been involved, I would be interested in the results, when they get finished, as well as knowing where I fit into the big picture.

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