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Study: Subscription services to drive digital music

Digital music subscriptions could outpace a la carte downloads of songs, but CDs are expected to stick around, survey shows.

Subscription-based music services are becoming popular among young adults and will eventually outgrow a la carte song downloads, a new study predicts.

While 16 percent of online adults currently enjoy downloading 99-cent singles, 17 percent have been wooed by subscription services such as Napster and RealNetworks' Rhapsody--and that number is expected to grow, according to a survey released Wednesday by JupiterResearch.

The survey showed that the number of people interested in subscription services increased with age--19 percent of 13- to 17 year olds used the services, compared with 31 percent of 18- to 24 year olds. That number reached 37 percent for "music addicts," defined by Jupiter as those who have spent more than $45 on music in the past three months.

The study was based on a survey of more than 2,300 online adults. Jupiter also compared the results with a survey of more than 2,100 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17.

Jupiter said the survey also showed that CDs won't be replaced by digital music in the next five years. Even in 2009, digital music sales will represent just 12 percent of consumer music spending, the research firm said. Nearly 51 percent of online adults think physical music is more valuable than digital.

"CDs offer higher sound fidelity, aren't burdened with awkward copy protection and are compatible with pretty much every way people listen to music," JupiterResearch senior analyst David Card said in a statement. "MP3 players and portable rentals could turn around that value perception, but it will take time."

The survey found that 41 percent of young adults between ages 18 and 24 burn CDs and 31 percent use file sharing. That compares with 14 percent of people over the age of 25 who burn discs and 4 percent who swap files.