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A music download is the digital transfer of music from an Internet-facing computer or website to a user's local desktop computer. This term encompasses both legal downloads and downloads of copyright material without permission or legal payment. According to a Nielsen report, downloadable music accounted for 55.9% of all music sales in the US in 2012.[nb 1] As of January 2011, Apple's iTunes Store alone made $1.1 billion of revenue in the first quarter of its fiscal year.
Online music stores
Popular online music stores that sell downloadable singles and albums include the iTunes Store, Amazon MP3, fairsharemusic, eMusic, Google Play, CD Universe, Nokia Music Store, TuneTribe, and Xbox Music. Paid downloads are sometimes encoded with Digital Rights Management that restricts copying the music or playing purchased songs on certain digital audio players. They are almost always compressed using a lossy codec (usually MPEG-1 Layer 3, Windows Media, or AAC), which reduces file size and bandwidth requirements. These music resources have been created as a response to expanding technology and needs of customers that wanted easy, quick access to music. Their business models respond to the "download revolution" by making legal services attractive for users.
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 decision 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—at the time—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.
Music downloads offered by artists
Some artists allow downloading their songs from their websites or an online music store, often as a short preview or low-quality sample. As an example, iTunes allows listening to a short preview of any song to listen to it before buying. This replaces listening to music in a store before purchase. Others embed services in their sites that handle single or album purchases.
According to research by the website TorrentFreak, 38% of Swedish artists support file share downloading and claim that it helps artists in early career stages. The Swedish rock group Lamont has profited from file sharing.
RIAA against illegal downloading
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) oversees about 85% of published music production, distribution and manufacturing in the United States. They work to protect musicians while supporting the First Amendment rights. Their stated goal is to support artists' creativity and help them not be cheated out of money by illegal downloading. The Recording Industry Association of America launched its first lawsuits on 8 September 2003, against individuals who illegally downloaded music files from the Kazaa FastTrack network.
Two years after it began, the campaign survived at least one major legal challenge. The RIAA said it filed 750 suits in February 2006 against individuals downloading music files without paying for them in hopes of putting an end to Internet music piracy. The RIAA hopes their campaign will force people to respect the copyrights of music labels and eventually minimize the number of illegal downloads.
The Official Charts Company began to incorporate digital downloads for the first time in 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.
In November 2005, the record for the best-selling downloaded single in the United States was held by Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl", which sold over one million downloads, making it the first song to achieve platinum download status. Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" marked the most downloads in a first week by a female artist in 2011, beating the previous record held by Taylor Swift's "Today Was a Fairytale" (2010). The current record is held again by Swift, with her 2012 single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" selling 623,000 downloads in its first week. It also holds the record of biggest download sales week ever for a song by a woman in history, overtaking Kesha's 2010 hit single "Tik Tok" which overall has sold 13.6 million legal downloads worldwide. As of June 2012, the record for the best-selling downloaded single in the United States on the iTunes Store is held by The Black Eyed Peas's "I Gotta Feeling", which has sold over 8 million downloads.
- "All music sales" refers to albums plus track equivalent albums. A track equivalent album equates to 10 tracks.
- Lunden, Ingrid (January 4, 2013). "Download Me Maybe: U.S. Music Market Up By 3.1%, Fuelled By 1.3B Digital Track Sales In 2012, Says Nielsen". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
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