Delay for UK pop chart downloads

Digital downloads of hit songs will not appear in the official UK Singles Chart when originally planned in March because the industry fears independent record companies would be harmed by making the move so soon.

Downloads were set to be included in the charts as of March 20, but the British Phonographic Industry, the sector's trade group, said on Monday they will be delayed until April 17.

"For a multitude of reasons, the current chart representation of independent repertoire at the major download outlets is poor," BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson said.

The group said it is planning to explain the new combined format, which is the biggest shake-up for the charts in decades, to independents in the coming weeks.

The four major music companies -- Vivendi's Universal Music, Sony BMG, EMI Group and Warner Music -- account for about three out of every four albums sold worldwide.

Sales of physical singles have plummeted in recent years, falling 14 percent in 2004. But the arrival in Britain of popular online music stores, such as Apple's iTunes, resulted in a record 5.7 million downloaded singles.

In the final week of 2004, online singles outsold their traditional counterparts for the first time.

Worldwide music downloads still represent just a fraction of total sales for the industry, but are growing quickly.

The Official UK Charts are a 50-50 joint venture between the BPI and the British Association of Record Dealers.

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