New research shows that 10 million Americans paid to download music in 2003, nearly three-times more than the previous year.

According to global market research organization Ipsos-Insight, 2003 witnessed a "veritable explosion of fee-based digital music service introductions and a nearly three-fold increase in paid downloading due to experimentation among American downloaders". In winter 2002, just 8 per cent of US downloaders had paid a fee.

Ipsos-Insight’s quarterly tracker of American digital music behaviours TEMPO reveals that the majority (62 per cent) of fee-based downloads were burned to a CD. More than half (56 per cent) were added to a custom playlist, and 26 per cent were transferred to a portable MP3 player.

The research also found that downloaders are burning an average of two separate copies of the digital music they have purchased online.

Director for Ipsos-Insight's Technology & Communications practice, and author of the Tempo tracking research study Matt Kleinschmit said: "In the past year, high-profile litigation by the RIAA towards high-volume individual file-sharers coupled with the launch of several new consumer-friendly fee-based online music services has prompted many downloaders to experiment with paid downloading for the first time.

"This is the clearest sign yet that American music enthusiasts are becoming increasingly dependent on digitally formatted and distributed music, and as a result, are sampling many of the recently launched fee-based online music services to find a legal means of online music acquisition. The next order of business for fee-based online music services is to both continue to lure new consumers to their respective services, as well as retain users who may be visiting for experimentation purposes only."

Online digital music experimentation is primarily fuelled by American downloaders aged 25 to 54 (25 per cent among 25 to 34 year olds; 26 per cent among 35 to 54 year olds). Male and female American downloaders are roughly equally as likely to have paid to download digital music off of the Internet (21 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively).

Kleinschmit added: "While these downloaders do appear to require the ability to burn files and transfer music to portable devices at their leisure, it is interesting that few of these consumers are doing so in excess. Given the relatively adolescent stage of consumer experimentation with these services, it will be important to closely monitor fee-based digital music file usage activity in order to anticipate the impact of any modified usage limitations on user satisfaction and retention."