By Jason Theodorou

HMV has launched an online store, which debuted yesterday, in a bid to expand beyond their high street shops and compete with online music stores including Apple's iTunes Store. The new online store will sell Top 40 chart singles for 40p per song, and already features an archive of ten million songs.

Several albums are available on the site - HMVDigital - from £4.99, and newly registered users can pick out five free songs. The site has a powerful internal search engine and allows users to pre-order digital albums.

Melanie Armstrong, head of music at HMV, said: 'Some people still tend to think of us as a traditional retailer, but the fact is we've completely transformed our business'.

'The launch of hmvdigital means we now also have a world-class music download platform that creates a really engaging consumer experience and a genuine alternative to all the other digital music services currently out there'.

Competitors to the new music site include Tesco Entertainment, Apple's iTunes and 7digital. Amazon offers singles for as little as 29p in some cases, while iTunes usually retails popular songs for 99p. HMV is expected to raise the price of music downloads after an initial trail period comes to an end.

HMV acquired a 50% stake in specialist site 7digital in September 2009. 7digital has partnered with music-streaming site Spotify to enable users to buy any song with a 'one click' process.

Digital sales increased to 48% in 2009, according to Forrester - making up £53 million in digital sales growth.