Legal music-download services could replace brick-&-mortar record shops as points-of-sale for singles within five years, reports the BBC.
The executive chairman of the British Phonographic Industry Peter Jamieson told the BBC that the current singles chart is under threat from the music retail evolution.
UK singles sales have fallen, and in response the UK music industry is preparing to integrate digital downloads in its top 40 chart by next year.
The music industry chief told the BBC: "It's our job to make sure that the charts reflect popular taste and are a sensible marketing tool for the industry."
Jamieson's observations reflect the success of Apple's iTunes Music Store, the first such legal download service to combine consumer rights and choice with protection for copyright holders. The success of Apple's model has been closely watched by the music business, which has taken the success of the experiment to heart.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said the Music Store helps keep consumers honest by providing them with a viable, legal service that combines a wide catalogue of music with the freedom to burn legally-obtained tracks to CD and MP3 players.
Apple's success has sparked a wave of emulators. This week, Buy.com launched its BuyMusic online service, with a wave of advertising seemingly inspired by Apple's own marketing activity for the Music Store.
BuyMusic.com offers a Windows-friendly service, but its variable pricing structure, complex consumer rights system and site navigation have attracted criticism.
Other services – including offerings from Roxio and others – are expected to launch soon. Analyst Phil Leigh Wednesday predicted some announcements would appear as early as Monday July 28.
However, delivering a cross-platform, consumer-friendly music download service in Europe – including the UK – has been hampered by the complexity of the music business' copyright protection structure.
This means vendors must negotiate rights to distribute content on a per-territory basis, increasing their European administrative costs. In contrast, such services are exploding in the US, where service providers need only negotiate with the five major labels in order to deliver content to that huge market.
The BBC's full report is available online.