Songs from top acts available online for first time.

Apple's iTunes Music Store tomorrow (Feb. 8) will begin selling Chinese-language pop music through a partnership with Universal Music Southeast Asia. The major says it is "the first time that this volume of Chinese repertoire will become available online legally outside its region of origin."

iTunes customers will be able to choose from more than 1,000 tracks by Universal's roster of Chinese artists, as part of a campaign that coincides with the Chinese Lunar New Year tomorrow. Included are tracks in Cantonese ("Canto-pop") and Mandarin ("Mando-pop") by some by the most popular artists in the region, such as Jacky Cheung, Sam Hui, Andy Lau, Faye Wong, Hacken Lee, and Alan Tam.

The repertoire will be featured permanently in iTunes' stores in 15 countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. Universal says the offering will be augmented in the future with new Chinese releases and select catalog titles.

The initiative is aimed primarily at the overseas Chinese population, who previously could find this type of music only in physical form through limited specialist retailers -- often as pirated product.

"The new deal is a fantastic development for everyone," Universal artist Kelly Chen says. "Fans everywhere can keep up to date with our music, while artists are respected and protected on a copyright level."

Harry Hui, president of Universal Music South East Asia, says, "I can't think of a better partner to catapult the consumption of our Chinese catalog than this alliance with Apple iTunes. Also, this new outlet for digital music is a perfect promotional avenue for our younger stars."