Apple’s iTunes Music Store is about to get some competition in Europe. US digital music download service eMusic has launched in all 25 EU countries, challenging iTunes which the market leader. EMusic has no deals with major record companies but has a library of 1.7 million tracks from 8,500 independent labels. It hopes to make inroads by selling songs for as little as a quarter of what iTunes charges. With 1.6 million customers and about 13% of the US market share, eMusic is ahead of Napster but remains a distant second to iTunes’ with ten million subscribers worldwide and a 60% share in the US. EMusic’s other advantage is that it uses the MP3 format, which means their tracks can be played on any portable music player, whereas iTunes can only be used with an iPod.
The major record companies have refused to supply songs to eMusic because of the digital rights protection issue from the MP3 format. CD sales are coming under increasing pressure; the Universal record label has just launched an online music store and Microsoft plans to do the same.