Former EMI boss says Limewire users were major iTunes customers

Douglas C. Merrill used to work for record label EMI, one of the biggest members of the RIAA. He was forced out just a year later, but now he's sharing information from inside the company. And some of that information points to an interesting conclusion about music pirates: they often end up being some of the music industry's best customers. Speaking at a conference in Sydney, Merrill said that a profile they'd conducted of users of the LimeWire music sharing service portrayed them as some of the biggest spenders on iTunes. "That's not theft, that's try-before-you-buy marketing and we weren't even paying for it," Merrill said at the show, "so it makes sense to sue them." That last part is sarcasm, we're pretty sure.

Of course, most record companies saw illegal downloading as purchases that just didn't happen, and thus lost revenue. But this conclusion hints that "pirates" aren't taking away from music sales -- they're just download music to fill out their already big purchased collections.

That's the kind of premise that the upcoming iTunes Match seems to be banking on, where users will be able to pay a subscription fee to verify any music downloaded outside of iTunes as official iTunes purchases. It would certainly end up being ironic if it turned out that the very same customers the RIAA attacked and sued back during those early days of filesharing were some of the same customers ringing in the digital music age that's now keeping record companies afloat.

[via Boing Boing]