The music industry is showing the entertainment industry the way out of the "dark file-sharing tunnel", a key industry figure claims.

Universal Music eLabs business development director Dan Whiley told International Herald Tribune: "Music was the first entertainment industry to go into that dark file-sharing tunnel, so we've taken all the early bruises. Maybe we're first out of the tunnel, and maybe our solutions will set some precedents for other industries that depend on copyright and intellectual property."

Most analysts predict the biggest lesson to be learned will be that of compatibility, with Apple and Microsoft refusing to accommodate each other's digital rights management systems, something that will become even more apparent as more and more download services join the market.

The Music Industry Federation estimates that there are now more than 50 online music retailers operating in Europe. Jupiter Research analyst Mark Mulligan says: "Young people have grown up expecting online music to be free. That isn't going to change overnight. But European consumers finally have a choice of compelling, competing services."

But while competition is a good thing it also brings complications – analysts say the rivals could turn off consumers with an array of incompatible technologies and sometimes incomplete product offerings.

One analyst, who wished to remain nameless, said: "If the rivals choose to battle it out over formats and technology – rather than solve their differences by cross-licensing – they risk losing the bigger struggle against piracy.