Consumers' embrace of legal online music downloads grew ever larger in 2005, and with all the buzz about MP3 players' continued popularity, it's no surprise that legal downloads achieved a new record in the week between Christmas and New Year's.
According to Nielsen SoundScan data, legal downloads nearly hit the 20 million mark in that key holiday week -- almost three times the number of tracks downloaded in the same period the year before. The market research firm said that this new record smashed the previous weekly peak of 9.5 million tracks downloaded -- and that record was set a mere week beforehand.
It goes without saying that Apple
As the Reuters article citing this data pointed out, downloads from peer-to-peer networks may still greatly overshadow legal download numbers. In addition, older data about CD sales suggests that they're still a trouble point for the music industry. Still, the momentum for legally downloaded music seems destined to grow, provided it remains convenient and attractively priced. The time frame in question may have also helped the surge in legal downloads; it's likely that many iPods were unwrapped under the tree or by the menorah, not to mention a flood of gift cards being redeemed for services such as iTunes.
The increasing momentum in legal music downloads helps to explain why so many companies want to get in the groove. Napster
For me, the most significant element of this story is the amazing and continued success of Apple's iPods and iTunes. There's still plenty of opportunity for rival download services to gain market share, but for now, Apple still seems to be the name to beat.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.