Good news for Israeli music lovers: Nine years after it began offering music over the Internet, Apple's online iTunes music store is officially available as of Tuesday to Israeli consumers.
After years of employing various ruses to shop for music, Israelis can draw from the 20 million items in the iTunes catalog - both local and international songs - and pay for them in shekels.
International credit card holders can now download Israeli music as well, following a deal between iTunes and ACUM, the organization representing Israeli musicians.
Israel is one of 52 countries which Apple announced on its website yesterday could now join the iTunes universe, including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. That nearly doubles the global total to 199 countries.
Full availability of Israeli music will take several more days. In addition, iTunes' library of electronic books, films, television series and podcasts will not be available to Israelis for the time being - just individual songs and albums.
Apple has been working for the past two years to bring iTunes to Israel, and in the last few months its efforts began to bear fruit in the form of agreements with local recording companies that hold the rights to Israeli music. The final element was ACUM's consent, which was given yesterday.
ACUM said albums would be priced at NIS 29.90, and songs at three levels: NIS 1.99, NIS 2.99 and NIS 3.99. That is lower than in the United States, where prices range between 69 cents (NIS 2.63 ) and $1.29 (NIS 4.93 ) a song, and $12 (NIS 46 ) for an album.
Apple's direct competition will be Walla Music, the music store of the popular Walla website. In addition, Pelephone and Cellcom Israel both offer services (see box ).
"The entry of iTunes will increase public awareness of the need to buy music legally. ... The Israeli music market will only profit from this," said Liat Freeman, content manager at Pelephone's Musix service.
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