Legal music downloads in America and much of Europe more than tripled in the first half of 2005, according to a report released Thursday by the international recording industry.
The report, from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, came just three days after Apple Computer Inc. announced that downloads from its iTunes online music store had topped 500 million.
The federation said that in the U.S., England, Germany and France, 180 million music tracks were legally downloaded in the first six months of this year, compared with 57 million tracks in the first half of 2004. The group credited the 13% worldwide growth in broadband Internet access with fueling the downloading boom.
Music executives were cheered by news that the number of tracks available on file-sharing networks, which are frequently illegally downloaded, only increased 3% over the same period, suggesting that growth of legal downloads is outpacing digital music thefts.
However, downloaded music still remains a small part of the music industry. In the U.S., music companies sold 293 million non-digital albums in the last six months, an 8% decrease from the same period the year before, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Apple, which recently announced a fivefold increase in profit in the last quarter, sponsored a contest to encourage consumers to push the downloading total higher. This week, Amy Greer, of Lafayette, Ind., won 10 iPods, a credit for 10,000 songs and a trip to see the band Coldplay after she downloaded the 500 millionth song: Faith Hill's "Mississippi Girl."