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iTunes Europe Sales Top 800,000 in First Week

Music fans in Britain, France and Germany downloaded more than 800,000 tracks from Apple Computer Inc’s iTunes online music store in its first week of operations in Europe, the company said on Wednesday.

The strong start makes the much-heralded download service already a top player in Europe’s brutally competitive music download market.

“In the UK alone, iTunes sold more than 450,000 songs in the last week – 16 times as many as OD2, its closest competitor,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement issued on Wednesday. Apple launched iTunes in France, Germany and the UK on June 15 to much fanfare.

Battered music executives are pinning hopes on services such as iTunes, Roxio’s Napster and Wippit to convert Internet file-sharers into customers and reverse the slump in recorded music sales.

European music fans have been able to buy music downloads from a variety of services for the past three years, but demand has only recently perked up and remains well behind the North American download market.

Apple reported earlier this year its U.S. iTunes store sold 3.3 million downloads in its peak week and over 85 million since launching in April, 2003.

In contrast, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) reported download sales for all industry-backed UK services topped 500,000 in the first five and a half months of 2004.

Meanwhile, Europe’s nascent download market is already showing signs of shaking out.

British-based OD2, Europe’s most established download service, was acquired by Seattle-based digital media firm Loudeye Corp for roughly $38 million, the companies said on Tuesday.

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