Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. Mike Allgrunn

Second Advisor

Dr. David Carr

Third Advisor

Dr. David Moskowitz


music industry, recorded music revenue, economics, piracy, file sharing, technology


At its height, the U.S. recorded music industry brought in annual revenue of $20 billion. Since the turn of the 21st century, there has been a dramatic decline in recorded music revenue, to a level of $7.6 billion in 2016. What has been the cause of this sharp decline? In this paper, I hypothesize that technological advancement and the rise of music piracy via file-sharing technologies have been the primary instruments of this decline. I find empirical evidence that technological advancement is associated with downward pressure on recorded music revenue but find ambiguous results to the impact of music piracy. I reconcile these findings with a summary of a growing expanse of literature that suggests on net, music piracy has a negative impact on aggregate recorded music revenue, though the literature is inconclusive as to the magnitude of this effect. I conclude with suggestions of future research directions to determine the full effects of digitization on musician and consumer welfare.



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