The number of legal music downloaders in the United Kingdom is growing so rapidly that they could soon overtake the amount of illegal users, new research suggests.

The number of legal music downloaders in the United Kingdom is growing so rapidly that they could soon overtake the amount of illegal users, new research suggests.

According to the 2005 Digital Music Survey from U.K.-based Entertainment Media Research and British law firm Olswang, legal downloaders account for 35% of the country's traditional music buyers. This compares with 20% in last year's survey.

The proportion of respondents who used unauthorized Web sites was 40% this year, down from 64% last time.

"That isn't saying that the number of legal downloads is catching up with the illegal downloads, but the incidence of legal downloading is definitely catching up," Russell Hart, Entertainment Research Media's CEO tells Billboard.biz.

The study draws its results from a survey of 4,000 consumers between 13-60 year olds who were selected at random from a database of British 250,000 music buyers.

Immediacy was given as the most popular reason for making legal digital purchases, according to 63% of the respondents. Roughly 43% said they preferred legal purchases because they were cheaper than CDs.

Some 66% of those interviewed said they had reduced downloading from unauthorized sites from a year ago. In comparison, 29% said they illegally downloaded at the same rate. Fear of litigation was the most-cited reason for cutting back on illegal file-sharing.

"The findings show consumers are embracing digital music on the PC, and less so on the mobile," Hart notes. "(Consumers) regard the PC as a central repository in which they can store their music, whereas the mobile is still considered disposable."

The British Phonographic Industry last month reported that more than roughly 17 million digital downloads were sold already in 2005, up from 5.7 million in 2004. Sales of individual downloads regularly top 500,000 each week, the BPI said.

Tagged