Experts say peer-to-peer (P2P) music download services hold a vital ace over iTunes – choice.

Apple claims to have sold 85 million tracks through the US iTunes Music Store – compared to 1 billion a month on peer-to-peer networks.

Eric Garland, CEO of online media-research firm Big Champagne, told TechNewsWorld: "Virtually every song that has ever been popular with any audience, no matter how small, is available at one time or another on P2P networks."

The UK iTunes Music Store has already received criticism for its lack of choice, not helped by its failure to sign up independent labels.

Garland adds: "The available title library on a P2P absolutely dwarfs the paid offerings. In fact, the variety of titles is limited only by the imaginations of every one of the tens of millions of P2P users."

While services like the iTunes Music Store offer exclusives and special releases, according to Garland it is just as easy to find such gems on P2P networks: "The results include at least as many 'rare' offerings – unreleased, live, b-side, outtakes – as legitimately-released studio tracks."

"The paid services simply can't offer 'everything' an artist records. P2P networks make a pretty good run at it. The titles on even the best licensed services constitute a small fraction of what's on P2P networks," he added.

The TechNewsWorld report concedes that the launch of music download services in Europe will cause sales to ensure, "but they'll never be serious, not unless Big Music does what the entire entertainment industry must also eventually do – embrace P2P as the new marketing and distribution vehicle".

During his UK iTunes Music Store keynote Apple CEO Steve admitted that "iTunes only rival is piracy".