After months of speculation, Nokia has finally disclosed that the United Kingdom will be the first territory to offer its all-you-can-eat "Comes With Music" digital music service.

The actual launch date of the service, designed to be in time for the Christmas bonanza, will be announced Oct. 2.

To subscribe, consumers need to purchase a dedicated "Comes With Music" device. The first such handset will be a special Nokia 5310 XpressMusic phone, which will be exclusively available from U.K. retail chain Carphone Warehouse until Dec. 31. Pre-orders start today (Sept. 2), although the actual price is still unavailable.

Bundled with the handset will be a "Comes With Music" voucher and a CD-Rom containing the Nokia Music Store PC software to install on your
compatible computer.

Once both the handset and PC are set up, they give customers unlimited access to the entire catalog on the Nokia Music Store, which features more than 2 million tracks from three major labels (Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group), plus a host of indie labels. Negotiations with EMI Music are still on-going.

Subscribers will be able to download as many songs as they wish to their PCs for one year for free. They are also able to sideload the tracks to their dedicated Nokia phones. All songs downloaded during the year can be kept indefinitely.

At the end of the year, users have various options. They can re-subscribe to "Comes With Music" via Nokia Music Store, but they will need an upgraded handset. They can continue purchasing songs a-la-carte via the Nokia Music Store, which charges £0.80 ($1.46) per track and £8.00 ($14.60) per album. Or they can keep accessing the songs downloaded for free during the one year, but only with the original handset.

The Nokia Music Store launched in the U.K. Nov. 1, 2007 and is also available in Ireland, Germany, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Sweden, Australia and Singapore. Rollout into other Asian and European markets will continue later this year.

"We believe that 'Comes With Music' will transform the way people enjoy music," said Tero Ojanpera, executive VP and head of Nokia Entertainment and Communities, in a statement. "With unlimited access for one year, you can enjoy your favorite artist or delve into new genres without having to worry about individual track or album purchases."

Potential competitors or partners are keeping a close watch on developments. O2 is one of the U.K. wireless carriers with significant interests in the music industry, including its sponsorship of the major music venue the O2 Arena and the Wireless Festival. O2 is also the exclusive U.K. carrier for Apple's iPhone.

Antony Douglas, O2's head of content, said in a statement: "We want to offer our customers a wide choice of options to get the maximum benefit of music through O2 and will be watching Nokia's 'Comes With Music' package with interest. O2's strategy is to ensure we partner with the best companies in the music industry."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print