Consumers could be able to download music tracks from radio stations as they hear them under groundbreaking new technology being investigated as part of the launch of digital radio in Australia in 2009.

The digital music download service would allow consumers to buy tracks in real time over special mobile phone handsets.

Joan Warner, chief executive officer of industry body Commercial Radio Australia, said the technology was being trialled in the UK and was proving to be very successful.  Matthew Honey, the managing director of Unique Interactive, a division of the UBC Media Group plc who have developed the technology and are behind the Birmingham trial, will be presenting the research findings to the industry at the Australian radio conference in Sydney on October 13.

'Radio is the first place people usually hear new music, so combining radio with the convenience of being able to download your favourite tracks instantly could have a lot of appeal for consumers,' Ms Warner said  'It's a very exciting development.'

One hundred listeners in the UK trial purchased an average of seven tracks per week at a price of £1.25 (equivalent to about A$3).  Tracks were downloaded and purchased on impulse as the songs were broadcast on digital radio through Chrysalis Radio’s 100.7 Heart digital service.  This triggered a high download rate of both classic tracks and new releases.

Digital radio music downloading differs from 3G mobile music download services as it offers the ability to interact directly with radio broadcasts, rather than having to search and download tracks proactively.

Ms Warner said 83 per cent of the triallists said they were keen to use the handsets in the future, with downloading appealing strongly to women.  UBC Media Group is expected to announce the full consumer launch of the music download service in the UK later this year.

In Australia, commercial radio stations are preparing for the launch of digital radio in 2009. The industry believes digital radio, which offers near CD quality sound and potential new features such as screens allowing the broadcast of pictures and text, will boost the medium's ability to compete against new technology.

Digital radios can allow listeners to pause and rewind live radio and view images or information while listening to the audio program, such as news highlights, artist bios, gig schedules and other content. (source cra)