EMI has struck a deal with a UK file-sharing network to offer its entire digital music catalogue online.
Robbie Williams' back catalogue is available to download
It means customers will be able to inexpensively download thousands of songs by artists such as Coldplay, Robbie Williams and the Rolling Stones.
Subscribers to London-based Wippit.com pay a flat annual £30 fee.
For this amount they can potentially legally download about 100,000 songs from EMI's vast back catalogue, which also includes Pink Floyd and Radiohead.
Wippit said it was "delighted" with the deal, which will take effect from the middle of November.
Chief executive Paul Myers told BBC News Online: "I'm very happy. It's been a long time coming." No one at EMI was immediately available for comment.
Wippit already offers its 5,000 subscribers 60,000 tracks from 200 independent labels, including Richard Branson's V2, Telstar, Domino and Grand Central. New signings include Stereophonics, Craig David and Liberty X.
It has another 165,000 registered users who can download as many as 30 tracks at any time for free.
Mr Myers, a former songwriter and producer with credits for artists such as Betty Boo, said the record industry still had a "dinosaur" attitude towards digital distribution.
"Everyone gets it but no one actually does anything about it," he said.
He said Wippit had probably succeeded in its venture with EMI because it paid as much as £1.12 per download back to the label.
"We have got a reputation for giving exceptional royalties," he said. "We pay more than they would sometimes get for a track on a CD."
Wippit splits its revenue 50-50 with the labels, making its profits from a combination of subscription and advertising.
Subscribers can pay either £30 a year or £3.99 a month, tied in for 12 months.
Downloadable tracks often work out far cheaper than in record stores
Mr Myers said by keeping its margins small it was enjoying an advantage over higher profile competitors.
"We are determined to become the number one in the UK and Europe."
The EMI deal excludes artists such as The Beatles whose music has not been made available for downloading.
Mr Myers said Wippit was hopeful of signing deals with another two of the four major record companies. They are Universal, Warners, Sony and BMG.