US legal digital music downloads tripled in the first half of 2005, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

While album sales (excluding downloads) fell by 7 per cent, US music lovers downloaded 158 million songs, the majority of which came from iTunes. There were 55 million such sales in the year-ago period.

Song downloads now represent 6 per cent of overall music sales, up from 2 per cent a year ago, Reuters reports.

The news follows last week's UK music industry figures which showed the UK digital music market to have doubled, year-on-year.

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson then said: “The record industry has enthusiastically embraced the new legal download services since their emergence in the mainstream little more than a year ago and now we’re beginning t