A GOVERNMENT-backed discount card offering young people half-price music downloads will launch in France tomorrow.
The Carte Musique Jeune aims to lure people away from illegal downloads and get them back into the habit of paying for the music they listen to.
It will be available to 12- to 25-year-olds who are resident in France, limited to a million cards a year.
Web users will pay €25 for the card, which will then give them €50 of credit to buy music through any legal download site taking part in the scheme. The credit is valid for 12 months.
Download providers taking part in the initiative will promote the card on their sites from tomorrow and the scheme will be backed by a national TV advertising campaign.
The scheme will cost the government €25m a year. This subsidy will be capped at €5m per download site to prevent any one provider, such as iTunes, having a monopoly on the discounted sales.
It is not yet clear whether card-holders will be free to pick any track from the catalogue at half-price: a government decree published yesterday says "a substantial proportion" of the tracks promoted under the discount card scheme should be in French or a regional language used within France.
Some music sites are expected to run additional promotions for card-holders, to encourage them to keep up the legal download habit once the credit has run out.
The card was one of the recommendations contained in a report last year by French record label boss and former Virgin France director Patrick Zelnik.
He said: "We believe that, for every track that is bought legally, there are another 20 songs changing hands illegally.
"However, two thirds of illegal downloaders say they would be willing to go legal if it cost less."
The French record industry still makes more than 80 per cent of its revenue from physical sales of CDs - almost €200m in the first half of 2010.
Digital downloading brought in €42.9m in the same period, up 12 per cent year on year, according to the Syndicat National de l'Edition Phonographique.
Sign up online: www.carte-musique.gouv.fr