Sony BMG is the latest music company to sign-up with Nokia's "Comes With Music" phone.

The breakthrough will give a shot in the arm for Nokia's mooted subscription service, which effectively embeds the cost of a year's service in the price of the device.

Until the announcement, unveiled today at Dave Stewart's central London business hub The Hospital, only Universal Music Group had come on board the content-bundling initiative, having struck a content licensing deal last December.

Speaking at the launch function, Tero Ojanperä, executive VP and head of the Nokia Entertainment, spoke with almost a philanthropic air about what the service hopes to achieve.

"What we want to do is to drive the consumer," said Ojanperä. "We want to make music a business for Nokia, for our partners, and we want to expand the music industry."

Nokia will launch a range of handsets under its "Comes With Music" brand in unspecified markets during the second half of 2008. Ojanperä would not clarify the likely price points of the phones, although he indicated the costs would be in the premium range.

EMI has been making noises about signing up to "Comes With Music." "We've seen a lot of interest with bigger and smaller labels," Ojanperä said. But there was "no more news on other labels."

Nokia recently denied press reports that the Finnish handset maker was paying $35 to Universal Music Group for each Comes With Music phone sold. The technology firm today gave little in the way of insight into "Comes With Music" business model. "We get paid, and we pay artists," was the response from Thomas Hesse, president, global digital business & U.S. sales for Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Through the new content pact, consumers who buy the device will have a year's unlimited access to Sony BMG's vault, during which time they can download tracks both to their handset, and to their computer through the Nokia Music Store. When the 12-month period expires, users can keep their DRM-encrypted tracks.

Nokia has created a provision which allows users to shift their downloads to a compatible device when upgrades become available.

In other news, the firm said it plans to launch its online Nokia Music Store in a handful of international markets, including France, Spain, Singapore, Sweden and Denmark before the end of the first half, while a branded store went live today in Australia.

"Making devices is not enough," Ojanperä added. "Music is much more than just shipping cool hardware out there. It's about building a much larger music experience."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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