Record companies could be wrong trying to kill off music downloads according to a recent survey from Music Research and Programming.

Its research amongst 500 'music loving' 13-45 year olds, a sample culled from its database of 35,000 users, showed that downloading tracks encourage album buying, rather that putting people off paying for music. It found that of the 91 per cent of users to downloaded individual tracks, 87 per cent went on to buy the whole album.

But while the record labels may be pleased with this piece of news, it isn't such good news for singles sales, as only 13 per cent of those who downloaded tracks went on to buy songs in that format.

Try before you buy It appears that most of the respondents viewed downloads as a sort of try before you buy trial, as while 41 per cent said they were heavy downloaders, taking 100-plus tracks from the net, only 38 per cent said they were actually buying less music than before.

This is backed up by some of the reasons given for downloading music, as 66 per cent of those asked said that they copied tracks "to help decide whether to buy the CD".

Despite being available onlt to US-based Mac OS X users, Apple's iTunes Music Store has seen more than five million downloads since its launch this spring. Over 46 per cent of tracks were purchased as albums, and over 80 per cent of the available songs in Apple's catalogue have been purchased at least once.

However, some bands - including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and MP3 grumblers Metallica - are upset that the distribution of their music lets people cherry-pick good tracks and leave others behind.