File-sharers get a better breadth and catalogue of tracks from legitimate download service iTunes than they do on illegal P2P music services such as Limewire, new research shows.

The research is revealed in the music industry group the IFPI's latest Digital Music Report, published today. The report details third-party surveys which report up to 80 per cent of all ISP broadband capacity is taken up by filesharing, and urges ISPs to begin to take responsibility for the content internet users are downloading from the internet.

Researchers at PI conducted research with a sample of 70 acts, mentioned by focus group participants (aged 15 to 25) in the UK throughout 2007. These ranged from underground bands to mainstream artists, including names such as Cherry Ghost and Jack Peñate.

The research examined the availability of songs from these artists on iTunes and Limewire. It found a large number of duplicates and misleading file names on the P2P networks, as well as many files that were not available to download.

Legal music services

The IPFI commented: "Legal music services such as iTunes offer a wider selection of songs than P2P networks like Limewire. In 95 per cent of searches the artists requested had more songs available on iTunes than on the leading P2P service."

Otherwise, this year's report confirms 2007 to be another banner year for digital music. While digital sales haven't yet made up for the decline in CD sales, they are climbing and show the industry a way forward toward a new business plan.

Music sales via online and mobile channels have risen from zero to an estimated $2.9bn - 15 per cent of industry sales - over the past five years, making music more digitally advanced than any entertainment sector except games.

The report confirms online single track downloads to be the most popular global digital format, accounting for 30 per cent of overall digital revenues. Estimates claim 1.7 billion tracks were legitimately downloaded in 2007 - and that's 53 per cent higher than sales in 2006, the IFPI said.

Digital album sales

The move to digital is beginning to impact on digital album sales, which grew by more than 40 per cent globally in the first half of 2007 and accounted for 15 per cent of the digital market’s value. In the US, digital albums now account for 10 per cent of total album sales and five per cent in the UK, the IFPI explains.

The UK also saw 77.6 million tracks purchased online in 2007, a 47 per cent increase on 2006. Sales during the 2007 Christmas week were double the previous year’s sales. More than 90 per cent of all UK single sales are now digital, and more than 200,000 different titles are sold each week. The top 40 accounted for just 10 per cent of all single track download sales in 2007.

The first-ever global music download sales chart is topped by Avril Lavigne, who sold 7.3 million track downloads of her song Girlfriend across the world in 2007.

Introducing the report, IFPI chairman and CEO John Kennedy once again moved to urge the IFPI's new strategy to combat file-sharing - that of forcing ISPs to police what content their customers download, saying: “A turning tide of opinion is one thing – a concrete programme of action is another. There is only one acceptable moment for ISPs to start taking responsibility for protecting content – and that moment is now."