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Music downloads on the up

Surfers still keen to swap free tunes despite flouting copyright laws

Despite confusion among many internet users as to what is and isn't legal when it comes to music downloads, more than 32 million people across the world logged on to music sites during August this year.

The latest research from analysts at Nielson/Netratings showed that regardless of the host of legal challenges stacked against music download sites by industry bigwigs and artists, triggered by the highly publicised collapse of Napster, traffic to music sites has continued to grow.

"With more than 32 million unique visitors surfing music sites in August 2002, there's no question that there's an audience hungry for online music services," said Carolyn Clark, senior internet analyst at Nielson/Netratings.

"And while attracting visitors is key, converting surfers to paid subscribers will become even more important. Determining appropriate price points and settling legal disputes with the free sites must be done before online music can be considered another pay-model success story," added Clark.

But the music industry may face an uphill struggle to achieve this. According to analysts at Jupiter Research most users would rather take the risk of downloading illegal but free tunes.

The company's latest research revealed a massive 44 percent of surfers did not want to pay for online music.

"The digital music industry in Europe is in danger of being stillborn," said analyst Mark Mulligan.

The general feeling among analysts is that the record industry needs to become more involved with online music sites in a bid to create a real alternative to illegal peer-to-peer services. Only a fraction of song titles and albums are currently available online.

OD2, which organised Digital Download Day, branded the event "a poke in the eye for illegal sites" after millions of visitors swamped its site to take up the offer. But what OD2 fails to take into account is that it was offering a free trial, so it is no proof that users would pay for the same tunes.


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