A recent study by NPD Group on Twitter and music buyers highlights the need for logic in online discussions. Commentators too frequently draw the wrong conclusions from a press release that is carefully worded as to not allow people to draw incorrect conclusions.

In recent years, reporters and pundits would misinterpret the results of studies that said P2P users bought more music than non-P2P users. “P2P Increases Music Sales,” proclaimed one errant headline after another. That’s like saying car owners go through the drive-through window more often than people who do not own cars. P2P use is indicative of a certain level of interest in music that exceeds that of people who don’t care enough about music to download, install and use a P2P application. That’s really not surprising, and it does not mean P2P increases music sales. Instead, the headlines should have read, “P2P Users Buy More Music Than Non-P2P Users.” That’s all.

On to Twitter. NPD just released some findings about Twitter users. Key to the findings is that Twitter users are more likely to buy music online – both CD and digital formats. It’s best to take that information literally and not read too much into it. It’s wrong to assume Twitter use has a causal effect on online music purchases. All NPD has done is found a correlation between Twitter use and online music consumption.

The fact that Twitter users are more likely to buy music online than non-Twitter users means one thing: Twitter users buy more music online than do non-Twitter users.

Things the NPD study does not mean:
- Twitter is helping the music industry. It may help, or it may not. NPD’s study offers no information that could lead to such a conclusion.
- Twitter increases sales. It may increase sales, or it may not. NPD offers no evidence that Twitter posts resulted in incremental gains in purchases. Fans of certain artists will find out about new releases through Twitter, email conversations with friends, blog posts and a wide range of other awareness media. What impact Twitter has – only Twitter, not Twitter in addition to every other way an artist communicates with fans – is not known.

What NPD’s study does mean:
- Twitter users are far more comfortable spending time on online, buying online and communicating online.
- People who spend that much time online are going to be more likely to buy music online.
- Since there is a correlation between time online, Twitter use and likelihood to buy music online, Twitter may be a very good tool with extracting sales from the most likely purchasers.
- Twitter usage is one way to discern between more valuable consumers from the less valuable consumers.
- Twitter has a lot of potential to cheaply and effectively increase sales – when done right.