npd_thumbNPD Group has shared some stats from its latest Annual Music Study report in the US, drawing some useful conclusions about Apple’s share of the music downloads market, as well as the (positive) impact that streaming services are having on the sector.

On the Apple front, NPD estimates that iTunes accounted for 63% of paid music downloads in the US in the final quarter of 2012, ahead of Amazon MP3 (22%).

Compare this to NPD’s stats for Q1 2010, when iTunes had a 70% share and Amazon had 12%, and you can see the trend over the last two years: Amazon’s growth may well have come mostly at Apple’s expense, but the latter company remains the 900lb gorilla in the downloads space.

It’s the streaming impact that’s most interesting though. NPD estimates that 44m Americans bought at least one digital track or album in 2012, compared to 45m in 2011. Average per-buyer spending on downloads increased 6% in 2012 though, which NPD puts down to more teenagers buying downloads, as well as more people buying digital albums as well as individual tracks.

38% of US consumers surveyed by NPD think it’s still important to own music, but that RISES to 41% among people using Pandora and other free streaming music services. “There’s a belief that consumers don’t need to buy music because of streaming options, when in fact streamers are much more likely than the average consumer to buy music downloads,” says NPD’s Russ Crupnick.

A reminder: according to the RIAA, 3.4m Americans were paying for on-demand music services by the end of 2012, with all streaming services (free and paid, including Pandora) accounting for 15% of total recorded music revenues in the US in 2012 at just over $1bn.