The music industry is singing it loud and proud: songs downloaded from online stores such as iTunes and Napster are saving singles from an early death and rejuvenating the Top 40 chart. But only 4% of legally downloaded music is being bought by women.

This is the new digital divide, with a huge survey by market information company TNS revealing that the vast majority of downloading is done by men – a staggering 96% of market share.

People in the UK buy more music per head of population than in any other country, and we already have the highest ownership rates of iPods and MP3 players in the world. So why aren’t digital downloads bringing music to women’s ears?

JoJo de Freq, 27, DJ at London electro club Nag Nag Nag, says: “I’m really shocked at that figure. Mainly because I stopped buying hardcopy music about a year ago, when I realised how fast, easy and cheap – sometimes free – downloading is.

“It does concern me that women don’t seem to take as much of an interest in music as men: I think a lot of female artists suffer for that. But maybe we’re not so interested in the list-comparing culture that you find in a lot of [men’s] magazines. Maybe we prefer the romance of cover art to comparison charts.”

Or maybe some women are just arriving fashionably late to the digital revolution? De Freq admits that it took her a while to change her tune: “Even though I’m a music obsessive, it still took my boyfriend to introduce me to iPods properly and convince me how smart and innovative they were. I just dismissed it as being another expensive toy that would depreciate after the hype.”

The British Phonographic Industry, which published the survey results in its last quarterly report, says the gender bias is thought to reflect this male skew among so-called early adopters of new technology. “The reality is you’ve got iTunes as a major player in the market and you’ve got a lot of tech-savvy males driving it,” says BPI spokesman Matt Phillips.

Unlike tech-lazy women, the argument goes, computer-crazy men love nothing more than a new tech trend to tackle. “New technologies tend to appeal to young males,” says Mark Mulligan, an analyst with Jupiter Research. “We saw exactly the same thing with the internet.”

While gadget sites for girls, such as Shiny Shiny and Pop Gadget, are pulling on the female purse strings, marketing in music magazines is still male-dominated. “There are a few magazines at the moment that actually have sections in the back about downloading,” says De Freq. “And guess what? They’re not Cosmo and Marie Claire. It would be fascinating to get a group of women to design their own music magazine, see how it would be structured and how it would entertain us. I love reading about music but I find most music magazines very blokey.”

More here.