Music fans who download tracks from the same online store could be paying hundreds of pounds a year too much.

For full info on how to find the cheapest iTunes gift cards, see the main website's Cheap iTunes gift cards guide.

Research from the MP3 comparison site, developed by, shows the huge cost of loyalty for those who buy tracks from likes of iTunes and HMV.

Key findings

  • Sticking to one retailer can add £1,000 to annual costs. Download all of 2009's top 40 albums from the cheapest retailer each time and it'd cost £1,980 (avg £4.85 per album). Yet stick to Amazon and it would've have cost £490 more, £601 more at Tesco, £864 more at iTunes and £1,031 more if downloaded from HMV.

  • People overpay 30p per single at iTunes. iTunes dominates the singles market (70% of it) but the average price of all 2009 top 40 singles there is 88p, whereas buying each from the cheapest supplier is just 58p. The gap is bigger when it comes to the year's number 1s with iTunes averaging 93p compared to 58p at the cheapest.

  • iTunes can be over treble the price for massively popular tracks. The biggest differentials are common on very popular tracks, eg, the current number 1 by Joe McElderry is 29p at the cheapest retailer and 99p at iTunes. Michael Bublé's number 1 album is £5 at the cheapest and £7.99 at iTunes.

Downloads are now big business. They account for 98.6% of all UK single sales and around 15% of albums, according to the British Recorded Music Industry. Many iPod and iPhone users download tracks from iTunes even though they are able to do so from most other stores.

Total price of downloads (avg price in brackets)
Retailer All 2009 top 40 Singles - 387 in total All 2009 top 40 albums - 408 This week’s top 40 albums This week’s top 40 singles's cheapest (1)
£226 (58p)
£1,980 (£4.85)
£201 (£5.02)
£22 (55p)
£308 (80p)
£2,470 (£6.05)
£235 (£5.88)
£32 (80p)
£368 (95p)
£3,011 (£7.38)
£289 (£7.23)
£37 (93p)
£342 (88p)
£2,844 (£6.97)
£313 (£7.83)
£37 (93p)
£267 (69p)
£3,235 (£8.22)
£316 (£7.90)
£26 (65p)
£399 (£1.03)
£3,109 (£7.62)
£305 (£7.63)
£35 (88p)
£303 (78p)
£2,581 (£6.32)
£251 (£6.28)
£32 (80p)
£266 (69p)
£3,188 (£7.81)
£268 (£6.70)
£28 (70p)
£374 (97p)
£2,621 (£6.42)
£262 (£6.55)
£41 (£1.03)
Correct 29 Dec 09. Where prices were missing the retailer's average price for singles or albums was used. (1) Shows the result if you downloaded each single/album from the cheapest place as shown by

Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert creator, says: "The music industry needs to wake up and embrace price competition. it's facing annihilation from illegally download tracks, yet there are still remnants of an attitude that price doesn’t make a difference.

"If it promoted cheaper, legit music it'd mean fewer illegal downloads.

"It needs to start explaining how music downloads really work. Far too many people wrongly think if they've got an iPod or iPhone they need to download from iTunes. That's nonsense, there are no longer any barriers to buying from elsewhere. Just buy from the cheapest retailer and you can easily upload to your iTunes library.

"You need to admire Apple for how it's clung on to this perceived customer lock-in. The sheer genius comes from the fact its music store and upload software are the same thing.

"They'd be jumping for joy at it on Dragons' Den, getting customers to pay possibly £100s a year extra when they don't need to.

"Yet times are changing. Since we launched the a month ago we've had 400,000 users, an indication there's a real appetite to download music at the lowest price."

Further reading/Key links

Cheap music: