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That MySpace is fast becoming a default destination for digital music was reinforced this week by a recent Ipsos Insight that found 54% of U.S. music downloaders older than 12 named MySpace as a recognized digital music provider. That’s up from 16% last year.

MySpace beats Yahoo Music (barely, at 53%), and is not far behind Napster (68%) and even iTunes (66%).

Yet MySpace president Tom Anderson at SXSW said music retail is not a big priority for the company, almost shrugging off the idea of operating a digital music service. Trying to convert MySpace into something it was never designed to be is a mistake, and Anderson & Co. know it.

The way to utilize MySpace as an effective tool for selling music would be for the music industry to conform to the realities of MySpace. Think, about it...MySpace was able to achieve greater brand recognition in the music space than Yahoo without even trying. They did it by offering what consumers want rather than what they'd like to sell.

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Someday, maybe, the industry will quit screwing around with the availability of tracks on digital music services. It's manipulative and annoying, and shows that some segments of the business still apply old media strategies to new media services.

The latest flap was over the availability of Fergie's "Glamorous" single. It was available as a per-track download ever since the album dropped, but then her label suddenly made it an "album only" track on iTunes. It was an obvious chart manipulation play that irked all manner of Fergie fans blogging about the situation.

Interestingly, it worked. For the week ending Feb. 11, "Glamorous" had 83,881 digital downloads, while the album sold 1,169 digital copies. Two weeks later, after the track became "album only" on iTunes, sales of the Glamorous single fell to 7,198 while digital sales for the album jumped to 5,022.

Then, the song became available as a single again, and for the week ended March 11 shot up to 165,919 downloads, while the album fell back down to 1,925 digital copies.

I expect these kinds of things to continue so long as the album remains the dominant format for releasing music -- both physically and digitally. But once digital replaces the CD -- coming in 2012 if you believe David Byrne -- then all bets are off. The album will die and artists will start releasing new songs on a regular basis throughout the year, rather than amassing them all into a 15-song compilation every year-and-a-half.

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