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Old 02-April-2004, 15:42
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Thumbs up Music fans flock to legal download sites

From Media Guardian
Music fans flock to legal download sites
Click here for the top 40 downloaded tracks

Owen Gibson
Friday April 2, 2004


Outkast: Hey Ya is the most downloaded single from OD2's sites so far this year.

The company that powers music websites for HMV, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Freeserve has sold more than one million downloads since the start of the year with Dido, Peter Andre and Outkast among the top 10 downloaded artists.
The figures provide further evidence of the shift away from CDs towards digital formats and will make encouraging reading for record companies hoping to lure users away from illegal sites towards legitimate downloads.

The top download charts show for the first time that pop is not the only genre that is attracting web users.

Although Outkast's Hey Ya is the most downloaded single, album tracks by George Michael, Guns 'n' Roses and Massive Attack have all made the top 40, suggesting older listeners are also getting in on the act.

OD2, the company co-founded by former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel to provide a link between record labels and online music retailers, today said the number of tracks downloaded legally through its service was doubling every three months.

OD2 has sold more than one million downloads since January, 10 times more than in the same period last year and double the amount sold in the three months before Christmas.

The surge in sales can be attributed to an increase in the range of tracks available, services becoming easier to use, transparent pricing and growing public recognition of the availability of online downloads through high-profile launches such as MyCokeMusic.com.

Campaigns from record industry bodies to convince users that they could be prosecuted for illegal downloading have also started to pay off.

Earlier this week IFPI, the international music trade body, started legal proceedings against individuals in Europe for the first time and the British Phonographic Industry said it was watching with interest.

The OD2 co-founder and chief executive, Charles Grimsdale, said: "This was an absolutely cracking three months for us. Across all our sites, and in all countries where we operate, sales and transactions were ahead of expectations.

"The tide is beginning to turn. It's clear that music lovers have been crying out for a decent, legal alternative to poor quality illegal peer-to-peer networks. We are providing that and now they are turning to our retail partner sites in droves."

The top 40 download sales in the first three months of 2004 follows the singles chart fairly closely with a few notable exceptions.

The appearance of some older album tracks - including Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack and Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns 'n' Roses - appear to bear out predictions that online downloads could boost sales of artists' back catalogues and encourage older music fans to buy singles.

But record industry chiefs are unlikely to be cracking open the champagne just yet. A combination of their sluggish start in developing legal alternatives to peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa and rising physical piracy has caused CD sales to fall around the world, sparking rounds of job cuts.

EMI announced earlier this week that it was cutting a further 1,500 jobs and 200 acts from its roster, blaming piracy.

Record companies hope that high-profile legal alternatives from Napster and Apple's iTunes, which are both due to launch in the UK this summer and eschewed OD2 to build their own relationships with labels, will provide a further boost to sales.

Napster has sold more than 5 million downloads in the US since launching in October, while iTunes said in January it had shifted more than 30 million since its launch last April.

There are expected to be dozens of other launches this year. Sony recently announced its own download service, Connect, would go live in June and offer more than 300,000 tracks from 79p each.

Meanwhile, UK download service Wippit, which predated the launch of the record companies' own services, has added an a la carte download section to its legal peer-to-peer service.

With content from EMI, BMG and 2,700 smaller indie labels, Wippit will offer single downloads from as little as 29p and allow users to pay by text message, opening up the market to youngsters who have mobile phones but do not own credit cards.

Alternatively, users can subscribe to unlimited access for 49.99 a year.
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