A frequent claim among P2P defenders is that file-sharing sites are good for the music industry because they help less popular acts reach a wider audience. That appears not the be the case, if research from PRS for Music is to be believed.

Will Page, chief economist at the PRS, and Eric Garland, head of media tracking firm Big Champagne, looked at patterns of music usage among file-sharers. They found that the most pirated songs tended to be those at the top of the charts.

"After taking into account some geographic differences, the top of the many music charts, from licensed and unlicensed venues, are markedly similar", say the authors, adding that they hadn't seen a big hit on file-sharing networks that wasn't also popular in the real world.

The conclusion the authors took from this was that users are confronted with such a breadth of music that they didn't want to comb through all of it. Instead they constrained their searches to what they saw in the media or what their friends listened to.

However, some have suggested that it indicates that the once "alternative" nature of file-sharing networks has been diluted by the general public. The average file-sharer is now no more interested in obscure acts than the average person on the street.