Soundscan has tracked retail music sales for about a decade; it compiles data from 17,000 stores in the United States to create charts of the industry's top-selling artists. While music downloads have so far sold poorly, Soundscan is taking steps to stake its claim on the Internet as a sales medium.
For their part, online retailers hope that more complete sales-tracking data will help legitimize digital music distribution.
Despite ongoing concerns about online piracy and lawsuits targeting companies such as Napster and MP3Board.com, which allegedly encourage illegal copying, major record labels are beginning to embrace digital distribution.
Some legal tracks are already available, but few are from top-selling contemporary artists. That's about to change.
EMI Recorded Music is scheduled to begin making tracks by its top artists available online July 18 as part of partnerships with Amplified, Liquid Audio and Supertracks. Sony Music Entertainment has so far made about 50 tracks available for download on its Web site at $3.49 each. Other major labels are also talking about creating pay-per-download services.
In addition, several sites such as MP3.com and EMusic are struggling to sell downloadable tracks.
Tomorrow's deal will extend Soundscan's existing relationship with Amplified, which distributes digital content through a network of online retailer partners. Amplified's partners can access Soundscan's services to track sales of their physical music products online. Those services have expanded to include sales of digital products such as albums, singles and custom compilation CDs.
"This relationship furthers our commitment to providing a wide array of value-added fulfillment services and reflects the growing significance of digital music," Jim Swindel, president of Amplified, said in a statement.
In April, Soundscan signed Reciprocal as its first online sales tracking partner. Reciprocal provides so-called digital rights management services to protect content from piracy and manage royalty payments to record labels and artists, among other services.