7digital CEO Ben Drury says the firm's new BlackBerry application can help it crack the American download market.

U.K.-based 7digital -- which already operates stores in 12 European territories -- goes live with its U.S. store today at us.7digital.com, and has also announced the launch of its MP3 Music Store application for BlackBerry smartphones.

"We could have launched in the U.S. earlier," Drury tells billboard.biz. "But we wanted to wait for BlackBerry -- launching with them on board gives us an angle, because you'll never see iTunes on a BlackBerry."

The application is initially compatible with three BlackBerry smartphone models and is available in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Spain, with other models and countries to follow soon. The application enables users to wirelessly browse and purchase DRM-free MP3 tracks from 7digital's music stores, with Drury expecting BlackBerry's penetration into consumer markets to particularly boost sales at the new U.S. store.

Standard pricing at 7digital's U.S. operation will undercut iTunes, with single tracks retailing for 77 cents, and albums at $7.77, although variable pricing will be available. All four major labels and most indies are on board, with 7digital now carrying a catalog of 8 million tracks, according to Drury.

However, Drury declined to name a market share target, saying he had "modest expectations" of the launch.

"It's a large potential market but it's also very important for us to be in the U.S. so we can become the partner of choice there for other companies that want to do things," he says. "Companies like BlackBerry need to take on global deals."

7digital also runs a B2B digital media delivery business on behalf of many label, artist, retail and brand partners, including Last.fm and Spotify. The company is now 50% owned by U.K. entertainment retail giant HMV (Billboard, Oct. 3), which Drury says is "fully supportive" of the moves.

"It's important for both of us to be in North America," says Drury. "We have to be international because we're competing with companies with huge scale."

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