Crazy for Chart-Topping Downloads

Feel that? It's the foundation of the music industry shaking beneath your feet. And, once again, you can thank downloads for the disturbance. According to Wired News, "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley became the first track to reach No. 1 on the British charts based solely on download sales.

The pop CD went on sale Monday in U.K. stores. In the past, it would have been at least a week before a single was eligible for the charts. But recently the Official UK Charts Company began to count downloads for chart-topping consideration as long as CDs would be in stores within seven days of digital release. So, when "Crazy" went crazy online last week, booking more than 31,000 downloads, it opened this week No. 1. Even as I write, the U.K. version of the iTunes music store still lists the song as the top download.

Given this news, I can't help but think that more digitally made hits are on the way. It just seems inevitable now that iTunes has sold more than 1 billion downloads. Furthermore, the ironically named International Federation of the Phonographic Industry last week reported that digital record sales nearly tripled to $1.1 billion during 2005.

No doubt all this brings some cash to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) bottom line. Maybe distant rivals RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK  ) and Napster (Nasdaq: NAPS  ) will profit as well. Less obvious, however, are those operating behind the scenes, creating custom music stores for brand holders who want in on the mobile content business. (What? You don't know about the P. Diddy phone?) For them, telephony and software development expertise isn't easy to come by. And that's where Openwave (Nasdaq: OPWV  ) comes in. It provides the software and tools to bring content to any mobile phone, including music. And it isn't the only one.

Though we're now several years removed from the dot-com era, it's worth remembering that the great ideas behind eBay, Amazon, and the like would have gone nowhere without backstage players such as Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) , Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , and dozens of other infrastructure providers. Accordingly, and as digital music reaches its own fever pitch, it's worth remembering lurkers like Openwave. Their value is only beginning to be fully realized.

Don't miss a beat of related Foolishness:

  • Want a packaged download deal? iTunes has one for you.
  • XM (Nasdaq: XMSR  ) also wants a slice of the download pie.
  • More music lovers are going legit daily.

Microsoft is aMotley Fool Inside Valuerecommendation. Openwave and XM are bothMotley Fool Rule Breakersselections.Find out which other stocks are powering the portfolio to 30% average annual returns by asking us for a30-day all-access pass. It's free and all you have to lose is the prospect of richer returns.

Fool contributorTim Beyerswould download more music if he had an iPod. Tim owns shares of Oracle. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.

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