Top of the Pops safe from MP3 - for now

Six of the U.K.'s current top ten singles are available on the Internet for free -- compliments of MP3 -- but despite the popularity of the format, experts say it poses no threat to mainstream music, yet.

The BackStreet Boys, Jennifer Lopez and Will Smith all have MP3 versions of their work live on the Internet today. But while surfers drool over the savings MP3 brings, music companies are still escaping relatively unscathed.

As an example Baz Luhrman's 'Sunscreen' -- the 3 minute guide to a fruitful existence -- was hotly tipped to stay at number one for an extended period: top DJs at Radio One and London's Capital Radio championed the tune. Chris Tarrant reckoned the song was "an inspirational guide to living life" and tipped the tune to reach the top slot and stay there.

It was number 1 for a single week.

Despite an MP3 version being available on the Net weeks before the song was officially released and MP3 sites claiming it was a very popular download, one music industry insider said that there was no link to its rapid demise.

She may be right: spokespeople for Capital and Radio 1 did not know what MP3 is and didn't think the majority of consumers would either.

Tommy Udo, a reporter for NME, said: "MP3 will probably not affect mainstream music mainly because of lack of material but also because people don't really know about it." He added: "In the long term, however, it could have a drastic effect on sales."

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