MusicMatch and Radio Free Virign are planning to add paid digital downloads to their services within the next nine months. The change will make MusicMatch and Radio Free Virgin, “direct competitors with iTunes Music Store, Music Net and the current pressplay, among other services,” reports Lauren Barack for The New York Post. “Music Match and Radio Free Virgin claim to have unique listeners in the millions. Radio Free Virgin cites 2.8 million unique listeners in a month, and Music Match claims to have an estimated 2 million unique listeners for the same time period.”

Barack continues, “That is a significantly larger user base than the 200,000 – 300,000 people who use all of the digital music services combined, said Phil Leigh, a digital music analyst with Raymond James. ‘What they want to do is emulate as close to Apple as they can,’ said Leigh.”

“Apple’s iTunes Music Store is the new standard most consumers want – and the direction analysts and industry experts claim the rest of the digital music arena is heading… iTunes, however, is only available to Macintosh users – which make up just 3 percent of all computer users – and may be why the five music labels agreed to offer a less restrictive service. Some analysts doubt whether the five labels will allow the same lack of restrictions to a service that will reach a larger user base – and therefore put their content at more risk for copyright infringement,” Barack reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Macintosh users make up more than 3% of all computer users. Barack incorrectly quotes recent market share figures, presumably from IDC, instead of taking into account the Mac installed base, estimated by Apple to number around 25-30 million users. It would be more accurate to quote estimates of upwards of 10 million Mac OS X systems that can use the iTMS.