Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 13:52 UK

Google China to push music tracks

Google search with a close-up of an eye
Google is looking to grow its market share in China

Google is offering free downloads of licensed music tracks in China.

Rival search engines in China point users to unlicensed music, which reportedly makes up 99% of all tracks distributed in China.

The firm has just 16.6% share of the search market versus 76.9% for, according to the Chinese Internet Network Information Centre.

Google said it had no plans to expand its music service beyond China.

More than 350,000 songs, from Sony, Warner, EMI and Universal, will be available to Chinese users of Google, which has partnered with music website Google will share advertising revenue with the major music labels.

Lee Kai-Fu, president of Google in greater China, said the fact it did not offer music downloads was the missing piece of its strategy in the country.

"We are offering free, high quality and legal downloads," Lee said. "We were missing one piece ... we didn't have music."

Research showed 84% of people in China used search engines to find music, said Mr Lee.

"This is the first serious attempt to start (monetising) the online market in China. I can't overestimate how important this is," said Lachie Rutherford, president of Warner Music Asia Pacific and Asia chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

The IFPI report that China's total legitimate music market is worth $76m, less than 1% of global recorded music sales.

International users will not be able to listen to or download songs from the Google China music service.

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