Apple, Napster and other key players may soon be able to join the battlefield for legal music downloads in Europe. Music publishing company EMI predicts that a single royalty agreement that covers most of Europe's publishing collection agencies will be settled within the next three to four months.

Apple vice president for applications and Internet services Eddy Cue told The Argus: "Apple plans to offer its iTunes Music Store in Europe some time this year. Different prices in different countries, different release dates; these are obstacles we are still sorting through. They're not insurmountable."

Roxio CEO Chris Goro said: "We debuted with over half a million tracks in the US, and we'd like to start with the same in Europe. The music studios are rolling out the red carpet, but the primary obstacle now is getting agreements from music publishers that represent songwriters, country by country. Our approach to the market will be to create local, national services reflective of the culture."

According to music executives at Midem, an international music conference, the online music industry is hungry for the European market. Forrester Research reports that Europe is the world's second-biggest music market behind the United States with sales of about $11 billion. But European download sales accounted for just €24 million (£16 million) last year.

Regarding its music-download package for the European market, Cable and Wireless executive Andrew Wilding said: "From our analysis, there's plenty of business to be done."

Following its launch last week, Coca-Cola's Internet-based music downloading service in Britain attracted 10,000 downloads in its first 24 hours.

Coke has said it has no plans to expand the service beyond Britain and Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff does not expect Coke to be a long-term player in the market.

Bernoff said: "This is not part of Coke's core business. The connection to music is valuable to them, but it doesn't make sense to me that a soft drink company would be the leading download site in Europe."