Legal downloads rising

Online music biz tripled in first half of year

HOLLYWOOD — Legal online music still trails far behind piracy, but record companies are latching onto the relatively good news that iTunes and its ilk are growing faster than the illegal competition.

The Intl. Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a global trade group, revealed in a new report that downloads of legal tracks tripled in the first half of the year to 180 million.

Meanwhile, the org reports, the number of illegal tracks available online grew only 3% to 900 million.

Because many illegal tracks are downloaded hundreds or thousands of times, though, stats indicate that piracy is still exponentially bigger than legit music sales online.

Nevertheless, digital downloads are clearly the fastest-growing part of the music biz, outpacing the growth rate of CDs and illegal piracy.

Legal downloads in the first six months in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany all outpaced total digital sales last year, when total track sales reached 157 million.

Of the legal downloads this year, 159 million, or 88%, came in the U.S. British music fans downloaded 10 million tracks, while Germany and France accounted for 8 million and 4 million, respectively.

Other countries apparently recorded an insignificant number of legal downloads or simply weren’t included in IFPI’s totals.

News comes as iTunes recently announced it sold its 500 millionth track worldwide since launching two years ago. In addition, subscription music stores like Rhapsody and Napster, which let users listen to an unlimited amount of music for a monthly fee, now have 2.2 million subscribers, according to IFPI.

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