Brussels-based pan-European label group/distributor PIAS has struck a global deal with with Apple Inc.'s iTunes service that will see more than 44,000 tracks added to its DRM-free iTunes Plus service.

The tracks come from PIAS' own labels' rosters and from 200 independent labels it represents, which include Domino (Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys), Fat Cat (Sigur Ros), Independiente (Embrace, Travis) and Palm Pictures (Sly & Robbie, Baaba Maal).

PIAS Entertainment Group director of digital & business development Adrian Pope stresses that the new pact "is a global deal, [but] applicable to the rights we have for each label or artist by territory." In the case of Franz Ferdinand, for example, U.S. rights lie with Epic/Sony BMG, so stateside buyers would not be able to access their PIAS-sourced repertoire.

iTunes Plus is Apple's free software update for iTunes which makes songs and music videos available in a high quality, DRM-free digital format compatible with most digital music players. A feature in the preferences section of the iTunes Music Store web sites allows users to chose whether or not to enable iTunes Plus. If it is enabled, songs purchased will automatically be purchased in the high quality, DRM-free format where available.

PIAS Entertainment Group’s own labels include PIAS Recordings, with a roster of direct signings such as Soulwax/2Many DJ's and Junior Jack, plus licensed acts like Editors, Morcheeba and Nouvelle Vague. In addition to Belgium, the group has significant operations in the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Ireland. It also has partnerships with other distributors worldwide.

The new global agreement with iTunes Plus will also see PIAS Digital offering "added value" digital services to the repertoire sold via iTunes, including bundling incentives with Ticketmaster and the ability to buy ringtone versions of tracks.

In a statement, Pope called the agreement with iTunes Plus "a real boost to our digital offering."

According to Pope, PIAS can now "provide access to this high quality, DRM-free service on behalf of the many repertoire owners we represent. The many thousands of tracks that we are now offering on iTunes Plus will give users access to the best music from independent labels with no usage restrictions, which can only be a positive thing."