Almost as many consumers are buying music from stores such as iTunes as are illegally downloading music, according to research.

Entertainment Media Research found that 35 per cent of music consumers were downloading their music legally, compared to 40 per cent who had pirated music.

The report cites that fear of prosecution, Internet viruses, and inferior quality are the main deterrents against illegal downloading.

Entertainment Media Research chief executive Russell Hart told Hollywood Reporter: "The findings indicate that the music industry is approaching a strategic milestone with the population of legal downloaders close to exceeding that of pirates."