Apple's iTunes Music Store is the most successful digital-music operation in terms of translating public awareness into sales, reports analyst firm, NPD Group.

An NPD report concludes that unlike Apple, the music business has failed to milk the emerging digital-download market: "Companies like Rhapsody and Pressplay boast a longer history in this arena [than Apple], and a broader base of potential users have less brand awareness and very low usage rates."

The report continues: "Based on a survey of over 13,000 consumers conducted in June of this year, the iTunes Music Store reached 20 per cent awareness among all consumers aged 13 and over. Among Mac users, who were the initial target for the iTunes Music Store, consumer awareness jumped to 46 per cent. In addition, 6 per cent of Mac users have actually paid for a song or album via iTunes."

By comparison, Pressplay and Rhapsody have only attracted 14 per cent consumer awareness.

Struck a chord NPD Group VP Russ Crupnick said: "Obviously iTunes has struck a chord among consumers – especially Mac users. iTunes Store usage is higher only two months after launch than that of other music sites that have been around for over a year.

"iTunes also benefits from less competition among purveyors of digital music and file-sharing for the Macintosh operating system, which helped ensure successful entry and higher user penetration for this service at the outset."

Crupnick added: "The usage rates for some Windows-based sites are so low as to put them at a serious disadvantage, especially as well-funded new entries into the paid download market enter the fray.

"Consumers will come to expect ease of use, increased song catalogs, better download quality and a strong price-value proposition; those will be the basic entry points for digital distribution.

"Good fundamentals won't do it alone. The winners in this space will need to build solid brands and engender the kind of excitement, loyalty and equity that Napster and Kazaa built in the peer-to-peer file sharing world, and marketing and PR buzz similar to that currently enjoyed by iTunes."