Researchers tell us that, in the UK market, there were some 1.5 billion 'legal' music downloads last year. That's covering all bases, different devices and download services, but discounting the illegal file sharing trade. The Goddess alone knows how big the figure would be if you factored in dodgy P2P business and back bedroom file swapping. However, the point is that one research firm, TNS Technology, now reckons that it doesn't matter as the real big numbers will come from mobile phone music downloads via the Sony Ericsson and Nokia portals. How does 2.1 billion downloads of 'mobile music' in the UK grab you?

The idea that partnerships such as that of Sony Ericsson with Omnifone and PlayNow Plus, together with services such as the Nokia 'Comes With Music' all you can eat unlimited music downloads will revolutionise the music market when they go live real soon now.

Indeed, TNS Technology research suggests that more than a quarter of all consumers are keen to adopt such a system of unlimited mobile music downloads. Which is good news for the mobile phone networks and bad news for the CD business which is already feeling the squeeze from computer based digital downloads, mainly thanks to the undeniable presence of Apple and iTunes in the musical marketplace. Some 45 percent of people who currently but CDs have said they would buy less if the mobile music schemes take off.

While Apple is probably happy enough with its mobile music downloading offerings, other computer-based services might also feel the pinch. A bigger pinch than the CD folk in fact, with 47 percent of those people buying music for the desktop saying they would reduce the amount they download as a result of buying via their mobile phones.

Perhaps the most surprising figure to emerge though, is the one which suggests that people currently downloading pirated music, or at least 38 percent of them, would pirate less.

The TNS survey involved over 1000 consumers between the ages of 16 and 64, with that 2.1 billion number being arrived at by multiplying the number who expressed an interest in signing up to mobile music services by the average number of tracks they would download each month and then scaling that total up so as to apply to the entire UK population.

The Managing Director of TNS Technology, Amy Cashman, says “This research clearly underscores the powerful latent consumer demand for mobile music availability - which if successfully fulfilled will transform the way that people buy music as well as reducing illegal downloads. No doubt the industry will be watching closely to see if Nokia and Sony Ericsson will be able to move the goalposts substantially forward.”

About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...