US legal music downloads up 187%

CDs ripped, so online buying starting in earnest?

US music downloaders paid for 158m songs during the first six months of 2005, almost three times the number acquired legally in H1 2004.

However, the figures, from Nielsen SoundScan, reveal that the growth in legal downloads has yet to compensate the music industry for falling CD sales. Sales of albums were down seven per cent year on year, to 282.6m units, the researcher said.

Factor in downloads and the decline is down to 2.5 per cent, falling from 309m units in H1 2004 to 301.2m in H1 2005, SoundScan's numbers show. It puts the number of downloaded albums at the equivalent of 17.6m units, up from 6m in H1 2004.

During the first half of 2004, US music buyers downloaded 55m songs. UK-based listeners downloaded 10m songs in H1 2005, the UK music industry body the BPI said earlier this week.

The 187 per cent year-on-year increase in US download activity comes as no great surprise given the music industry's high-profile legal campaign against music sharers, but the ongoing growth in portable music player sales has probably had a greater effect. Adecdotal evidence suggests digital-music player owners are moving beyond ripping their existing CD collection and starting to buy more songs online. Others are doing so to acquire favoured songs from albums without having to buy the entire package. Growing online song catalogs are helping too.

The recent defeat of the P2P industry in the US Supreme Court is going to have an effect too, but it won't have impacted the H1 2005 figures at all. ®

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