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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A music download is the transferral of a song from an Internet-facing computer or website to a user's local computer. This term encompasses both legal downloads and downloads of copyright material without permission or payment if required.

Popular examples of online music stores that sell digital singles and albums include the iTunes Store, Napster, Zune Marketplace, Amazon MP3, TuneTribe, Kazaa and eMusic. Paid downloads are sometimes encoded with Digital Rights Management that restricts making extra copies of the music or playing purchased songs on certain digital audio players. They are almost always compressed using a lossy codec, reducing file size and therefore bandwidth requirements. However, this may cause an apparent loss in quality to a listener when compared to a CD, and cause compatibility issues with certain software and devices.

Digital music sales now generate around $2 billion in revenue, with tracks available through 500 online services located in 40 countries, representing around 10 percent of the total global music market. Around the world in 2006, an estimated five billion songs, equating to 38,000 years in music were swapped on peer-to-peer websites, while 509 million were purchased online.[1]


Music downloads offered by artists

Some artists allow their songs to be downloaded from their websites, often as a short preview or a low quality sampling. Others have embedded services in their sites that allow purchases of their singles or albums, as demonstrated by Metallica's and J-pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki's official websites.

The band Bomb The Music Industry! released all five of their albums as free downloads on their website.

Solo artist Tom Fox has racked up over one million mp3 downloads since deciding to give away his music on the internet.

Other music artists, most notably Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, have offered their music to listeners for free, sometimes in defiance of their record labels. In 2005, Nine Inch Nails released the full-length album With Teeth on their MySpace page prior to its official in-store release date. More recently, the band leaked various tracks off their album Year Zero

Challenges to legal music downloads

Even legal music downloads have faced a number of challenges from artists, record labels and the Recording Industry Association of America. In July 2007, the Universal Music Group decided not to renew their long term contracts with iTunes. This legal challenge was primarily based upon the issue of pricing of songs, as Universal wanted to be able to charge more or less depending on the artist, a shift away from iTunes' standard 99 cents per song pricing. Many industry leaders feel that this is only the first of many show-downs between Apple Inc. and the various record labels[2].

The RIAA against illegal downloading

The Recording Industry Association of America launched its first lawsuits on September 8, 2003, against individuals downloading illegal music files from the Kazaa FastTrack network. At first, the RIAA's campaign to sue illegal downloaders looked like a bad idea to many critics, however two years after the start of it, the campaign had survived at least one major legal challenge and began to pick up speed. The RIAA says that it files 700 to 750 suits a month against individuals downloading music files without paying for them in hopes of putting an end to Internet music piracy. Many say that it is unfair for the RIAA to choose certain individuals to sue out of millions, but the RIAA dismisses the charge that the suits are unfair comparing them to those who get targeted for speeding tickets. The RIAA hopes their campaign will force people to respect the copyrights of music labels and eventually minimize the number of illegal downloads that happen every day.[3]

Chart inclusion


United States

Legal music downloads were first compiled by Billboard in 2003, but they did not gain mainstream acceptance in the United States until around February 2005, when digital sales for singles started to be included in the Billboard Hot 100 and other Billboard charts. In the year before, the Hot 100 chart was similar to the Hot 100 Airplay chart, because only minor CD-single sales affected the chart. The inclusion of digital singles has immensely helped many songs chart and peak higher, in some cases in the absence of a radio release.

Single certifications were introduced in February 2005. Songs that sell a certain number of copies are often certified by the RIAA with the permission of the artist and the record company.

United Kingdom

The UK Official Download Chart was launched on 1 September 2004, and included any Permanent Digital Download track, under 10 minutes long, being sold for a minimum price of 40p (0.4 GBP). In January 2005, downloaded tracks outsold physical singles for the first time in UK music history, prompting The Official UK Charts Company to begin to incorporate downloads for the first time into the UK Singles Chart on 17 April 2005, at which time Radio 1 stopped broadcasting the separate download chart, although the chart is still compiled. Initially this was on condition that the song must have a physical media release at the same time; this rule was fully lifted on 1 January 2007 meaning all download sales are now eligible in the chart.

Sales records

United States

In November 2005, the record for the best-selling digital single in the United States was held by Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl", which has sold over one million downloads, making it the first song to achieve platinum download status. The highest week sales was held by Kanye West with the single "Gold Digger", and is now held by Flo Rida with "Right Round" when the single sold 636,000 downloads one week in February 2009.


The highest selling digital single in Japan, and the world, is "Flavor Of Life" by Utada Hikaru with 7.7 million legal downloads.[4] 40% of Japanese internet users access a music website, and Japan has the highest penetration of iTunes software users in the world.[5]

See also



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