Downloads soar tenfold as 5.7m get music online

Sales of legally downloaded songs soared in Britain last year, from virtually nothing to 5.7 million.

Globally, digital music sales shot up more than tenfold, with 200 million tracks bought in the US and Europe, a report showed yesterday.

The increase is being driven by popularity of mobile music players such as the Apple iPod. Experts say digital music could account for a quarter of all sales within five years.

About 25 million portable players were sold in 2004, 10 million of them iPods. More than a million songs are now available to buy on legal websites, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Federation boss John Kennedy said ‘At last the threat has become the opportunity.’

Legal downloads from the 230 online music stores generated £175 million for the music industry and IFPI expects that figure to double this year.

The report said: ‘Legitimate online music services have done what some thought only a year ago was unthinkable – they have proved that they can take on the authorised fee alternatives.’

Britain is Europe’s most advanced digital market, with more than 30 legal download sites such as iTunes, MyCokeMusic, Napster and our own Metrotunes.

However, the US still leads the way, with 140 million legal downloads last year, up from 20 million in 2003.

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