Music downloaded free from the Internet is encouraging fans to buy more music rather than costing record companies money, according to a study commissioned by the Digital Media Association.

The study says that 59 per cent of people who listen to music on the Web will later purchase it on CD, either online or from music shops.

Online-music experts say the findings support the claim that, rather than threatening the music industry, the free distribution of music on the Internet boosts sales.

The report follows ongoing trouble faced by free music sites – such as Napster and MP3.com – which are facing music-industry lawsuits.

The downloadable-music debate also continues to rage in the US Congress, between the record industry and Web-casters, over the royalty payments.