Digital music distributor The Orchard has formed an alliance with Japan's principal independent music company, Avex, which is a key shareholder in Japanese mobile content joint venture, Label Mobile. The news was announced today (Jan. 19) on the second day of music trade show MIDEM in Cannes, France.

The partnership will see Orchard clients marketed to digital and mobile services by Avex's local retail service teams.

Both companies will also collaborate to develop programs suited to their collective repertoires, the first of which is U.S. R&B star Ashanti's new album, "The Vault." It will be available in Japan as a PC download, ringtone and full-track mobile download from Jan. 21, weeks before its physical release in February.

Japan is the second-largest music market in the world and, according to IFPI reports, has a mobile music market that represents around 90% of digital music sales.

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