Sony Ericsson is to partner with Universal Music Publishing to provide the publisher's emerging artists with a platform to promote their music to the mobile vendor's customers. The deal was announced during the MidemNet digital music business conference in Cannes.

The acts will feature on streaming service PlayNow Uncut, Sony Ericsson's platform for breaking emerging artists online (www.playnow-uncut.com) and via its mobile phones. The site is bookmarked in the company's Walkman handsets.

Formerly known as M-BUZZ, the service launched in October 2006 and features music, videos, interviews and tour dates. It also has a partnership with Sony/ATV.

The service exists alongside Sony Ericsson's a-la-carte DRM-free store PlayNow Arena and the all-you-can-eat service PlayNow Plus, which is currently operating in Sweden and will reach other territories soon.

"We are rolling it out elsewhere, broader than we initially planned," Martin Blomkvist, head of content acquisitions and management, tells Billboard.biz. He said that, from Q1, PlayNow Plus will launch in Europe, Asia and the Americas and there are deals in 36 countries.

The deal with Universal Music Publishing means that PlayNow Uncut can provide music online from up-and-coming acts who have publishing deals with Universal, but haven't yet got a label deal or are only signed domestically. New artists to feature include Gavin Thorpe, Flykkiller, the Answering Machine, and Ironweed Project.

"This is valuable exposure that we can bring with a partnership with Universal Music Publishing," Gareth Carter, content acquisition partner, music at Sony Ericsson, tells Billboard.biz.

Under the arrangement, Sony Ericsson has access to master recordings and Universal Music Publishing, while the artists and songwriters forego the usual licensing payments.

"It is not to say no one gets paid," says Blomkvist. "People will get paid at the appropriate time and at appropriate rates."

That will happen, for instance, if artists are among the highest rated and most listened to tracks, which will be made available for sale in the a-la-carte PlayNow Arena. Blomkvist says there are also possibilities for music on the site to end up being used in TV and online campaigns or events connected to Sony Ericsson's products globally.

The service is available worldwide except for the U.S.