Indie label music is already being made available through Apple's iTunes Music Stores in Europe, Apple has confirmed.
The company began adding new independent-label material within hours of reaching a deal with the Beggar's Group, Sanctuary Music and V2. The deal reached also forms a template for all of Europe's indie labels to sign up with Apple in future, fixing a serious omission in the service as it launched.
An Apple spokesman confirmed: "A lot of independent label music is already available and is being featured. More will be flowing in over the next few weeks - for example, most of the V2 and Beggar's catalogues are available. Sanctuary will be next."
Apple is currently featuring indie act Underworld on the Music Store. Given the vitality of the independent music market in Europe, it's likely Apple will offer good profile to artists from the sector in future. The independent sector accounts for 25 per cent of UK music sales.
This news means that iTunes-using music fans can imminently expect to find tracks from artists including Peaches, The White Stripes, Basement Jaxx, Dizzee Rascal, Travis, Feeder, Franz Ferdinand, Paul Weller, Grandaddy, Sterophonics, Elbow, and the Libertines on Apple's store.
However, when tested this morning few of the artists mentioned had music available on the UK store, though this is very likely to change: "We're adding thousands of tracks to the stores every day, major labels and indies combined," the Apple spokesman said.
The music industry is very optimistic about new legal services. Association of Independent music (AIM) chairman and CEO Alison Wenham told Macworld UK yesterday: "I hear Apple is a very good partner in terms of marketing and promotion with iTunes," she said, adding: "I feel we will begin to see imagination at work in terms of music marketing".
Since legal download services launched in the US the market there has seen the reversal of a three-year decline. Nielsen Soundscan this month reported that album sales in the first half of 2004 are running 7 per cent ahead of last year.
This is additional to the near-54 million tracks that were legally bought digitally in the first six months of 2004 in the US.
Europe's music market suffered less than the US, partially because broadband adoption was not as advanced – so the potential for the industry is huge, agreed Wenham.
"The UK is going to be a very interesting market to watch, because we lack the habit of piracy. We have legitimate music-lovers here," she said.
"I think we are at the edge of a new golden age for independent music," she added.