August 25, 2009 - 10:27

We have observed an interesting change of user behavior in peer-to-peer file sharing networks after the unexpected death of the legendary King of Pop Michael Jackson on June 25.

Michael Jackson P2P Downloads

Our diagram shows the download behavior in popular P2P networks in Germany of Michael Jackson's discography (red line) and albums (all other lines) starting from July 1 until August 24. The data are normalized to a maximum number of file transfers.

In the first few weeks after his death, there was a characteristic flash crowd behavior of downloaders. This boom was very much limited to the complete Michael Jackson discography (with all standard edition albums) and did not affect the downloads of individual albums including his special editions — not the expected standard user behavior anymore. Those latest downloads of the discography are not representative of the usual behavior of fans thanks to the tremendous media attention.

At the beginning of July, the peak of the discography download shows a three times higher value than individual album downloads, which reflect the normal user behavior even during that time. The traffic drops back to normal levels approximately two weeks after the boom, which coincides with a time period Michael Jackson’s death was making big headlines in the press.

I guess the focus on discography downloads illustrates the appetite of thousands of downloaders just to have it, and how this appetite was satisfied rather quickly. This is a good example of different motives of downloaders.


Dear Frank,

Thanks for the interesting article.

I am slightly confused by your last sentence: “This is a good example of different motives of downloaders.” Different motives? I have spotted one motive only - “just to have it”. If you can call it a motive at all. To me it seems like an unmotivated activity caused by an incidence. Did I miss some facts?

Could you share the other motives with me?!

Looking forward to your reply, Maja

Maja (not verified)


Dear Maja

I’ve read different classifications of P2P file sharers regarding their motives in scientific articles. From my point of view the most relevant system consists of:
- (rough) collectors, who download as much as possible as fast as possible (preferably only at one time), mostly extensive collections of albums, movies or TV series;
- hunters, who are looking for rare, special or sold out editions, mostly real fans of an artist trying to get the “last piece”;
- explorers, who are browsing the Net for new and unknown artists, often just the step before buying the CDs, DVDs, or books.

The huge amount of traffic I described in the blog was caused by the first type, by collectors downloading as much Michael Jackson music as possible at one time - attracted by the media hype after his death. The other downloaders (the non-red lines) were mostly hunters, looking for special editions of a certain album.


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