Illegal file-sharing three times as popular as iTunes

Study finds that free songs more attractive to youngsters than paid-for music.

Illegal downloads are still beating legal online music in Europe, analysts have found.

A report from analyst house JupiterResearch discovered that consumers are three times more likely to get their digital music from illegal file-sharing networks than pay to download the tracks from online song shops such as iTunes and Napster, with 15 per cent of consumers using P2P sites and five per cent using the legitimate online shops.

The taste for illegal music is strongest amongst the young. Of those consumers between 15- and 24-years-old, 34 per cent are illegal file-sharers and, according to the report, have little concept of music as a paid commodity.

Mark Mulligan, analyst at JupiterResearch, told that despite the growth in legal sales from services like iTunes, as well as legal actions against uploaders, illegal file-sharing is here to stay.

"The momentum is with the legal services, there's nothing to suggest legal file-sharing is going to go away," he said. "It's a firmly entrenched behaviour and the fact it's free makes it more difficult."

However, the problem is not purely a digital one - young people are happy to get their music illegally whatever format it's available on.

JupiterResearch found that 43 per cent of younger consumers prefer copying CDs to buying them and 40 per cent believe that CDs aren't value for money.

According to Mulligan, the music industry needs to rethink how it deals with young file-sharers. "There needs to be a sea-change in approach," he said. "Instead of [the industry] paying lip service to legal services... there needs to be a whole new layer of free legal services," such as ad-supported downloads, he said.

Jo Best of reported from London.