The UK recording industry group BPI has released Digital Music Nation 2010, a new 39-page report with research from both Harris Interactive and UKOM/Nielsen that provides a comprehensive picture of the legal and illegal digital music landscape in the UK. While the UK's digital music market continues to expand, the report says, record levels of illegal downloading present a serious threat to the country's online music future.

Harris conservatively estimates that 1.2 billion tracks will be illegally downloaded in 2010, which is equivalent to a stack of CDs some 74 miles high. When compared to BPI's prediction of 370 million tracks in total across singles and albums bought legally by the end of this year, it appears that illegal downloads represent three quarters of all music obtained digitally.

The UK now boasts 67 legal digital music services, spanning streaming, la carte, subscription, bundled, and mobile offerings. Britain is believed to have the most options for legal digital music in the world, offering more options than Germany (42), Spain (29), France (27), Italy (27), and the US (20). Nevertheless, the total number of people in the UK illegally downloading music on a regular basis is 7.7 million, and could be even larger given other methods by which music can be illegally obtained, such as e-mail, instant messaging, and newsgroups.

"Digital music is now mainstream in the UK, with much to be proud of nearly 70 legal services and a further increase in the numbers of digital singles and albums set to be sold online in 2010," Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive, said in a statement. "Yet this growth is a fraction of what it ought to be. Illegal downloading continues to rise in the UK. It is a parasite that threatens to deprive a generation of talented young people of their chance to make a career in music, and is holding back investment in the fledgling digital entertainment sector."