The US and Europe bought 200 million tracks online last year…

Sales of legally downloaded songs have increased more than tenfold in 2004, with the US and Europe buying 200 million tracks online.

The digital music industry has “taken off” in the last 12 months, according to the global music industry.

The International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) boss John Kennedy said: “At last the threat has become the opportunity.”

A report byIFPI has revealed that a million songs are now available to buy through legal sites, though the organisation has said that music piracy on the Internet is still “a very significant problem”.

This month, there are still 870 million illegal music files available on the Internet, down from 900 million 12 months ago.

According to BBC News, Kennedy said: “The biggest challenge for the digital music business has always been to make music easier to buy than to steal. At the start of 2005, as the legitimate digital music business moves into the mainstream of consumer life, that ambition is turning into reality.”

Legal downloads from sites such as Napster and iTunes were worth $330m (£175m) to the music industry in 2004, according to the IFPI’s Digital Music Report 2005.

The report also predicted that the figure is expected to double in 2005, with some analysts saying that record companies could make 25% of their income from digital sales in five years time, compared with 1-2% now.

The last 12 months also saw 20-25 million portable players sold, including ten million iPods.