Nokia's all you can download Comes with Music service is finally DRM free... in China (updated)

We've been browbeating Nokia for using DRM to "protect" its Comes with Music offering ever since the service launched back in December of 2007 -- a time when the industry was just beginning to shed its DRM shackles. Now get this, the idle talk is over, Nokia just launched its all-you-can-eat (for 12, 18, or 24 months, typically) Comes with Music service in China without any DRM at all. India is on deck as Nokia looks to hook more emerging markets on the (kind of) free music drug. That means you no longer have to strip the DRM illegally to play your downloaded content on devices other than your main PC and Nokia Comes with Music handset. And yes, you can keep the tracks for life after your CWM subscription expires.

At launch, Chinese consumers will have a choice of eight (ok, seven really) CWM handsets (X6 32GB and X6 16GB, 5230, 5330, 5800w, 6700s, E52 and E72i) with prices starting at a local equivalent of €140 (the CWM service fee is baked in to the cost, mind you) excluding taxes and subsidies. Suspiciously, Nokia's not making the usual boast about the millions of tracks available in the CWM catalog. It is, however, reassuringly supported by all the Big 4 music labels in addition to some Chinese indies, as you'd expect. Sorry, no word on when they'll strip the DRM from its European CWM stores and we're still not clear when CWM will finally see a US launch. Hopefully soon as a service like this could go over very, very well Stateside -- a market that Nokia is desperate to crack. Get on to the other side of the break for the full press release.

Update: We met with Jyrki Rosenberg, Director of Music at Nokia, who shed a bit more light on the offering. Unfortunately, while DRM-free music aligns with Nokia's global vision, he had nothing to announce for the US or Europe today. And as you might expect, the onus to go DRM-free in China was in part driven by rampant, local piracy concerns -- recovery of any revenue was better than nothing at all in the eyes of the Big Four. Jyrki also told us that Chinese CWM subscriptions will be 1 year in length but the terms of renewal are still being hammered out. We also know that the music catalog numbers in the "hundreds of thousands" at launch (comparable to competing services in the region, according to Jyrki) and is growing every day. Privacy advocates will be happy to hear that the 256kbps MP3 files are "clean" -- in other words, no user data is embedded in the files unlike the practices of Apple and Walmart, among others.

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Beijing, China & Espoo, Finland, April 8, 2010: Nokia today further increases its global footprint in the mobile music space with the launch of its ground breaking service, 'Comes With Music', in China. This announcement sees China's number one mobile brand drive further innovation in the music space by introducing the first device and PC-based free, legal, DRM-free music download service in the world's biggest mobile market.

The launch of Nokia's unlimited music download offering in China adds further momentum to Nokia's leadership in the world's highest growth markets including Brazil, Russia and Indonesia. The forthcoming launch of the service in India will add significant scale and differentiation in another critical market.

In a local partnership with Huadong Feitian, the China launch further showcases Nokia's expertise in delivering music services, tailored to local consumer needs. The service delivers a rich catalogue of local artists, unique features developed for the Chinese market, and a seamless, high quality music download experience.

Comes With Music will be available to consumers across China via a broad range of devices and through an extensive nationwide retail network. At launch, consumers can get unlimited music downloads with the purchase of any one of eight devices, to include the Nokia X6 32GB and Nokia X6 16GB, Nokia 5230, Nokia 5330, Nokia 5800w, Nokia 6700s, Nokia E52 and Nokia E72i. Entry level prices will start from EUR 140, excluding local taxes and subsidies.

"This launch delivers a truly mass market music offering from China's most loved mobile brand. Our broad range of Comes With Music enabled devices and the high quality, DRM-free catalogue form the perfect legal download recipe for the world's biggest market for mobile phones," says Liz Schimel, Global Head of Music, Nokia. "Globally, we have expanded the reach of our music service to 30 markets in just 18 months. We are excited to see consumers building collections of the music they love through our service, and we are firmly on the path to delivering legal digital music to all parts of the world. It's fantastic to have so many local and global labels partner with us to deliver this service in China. The industry came together to support us in innovating the mobile music business model in this unique market."

The service will include catalogues from the major global labels Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, EMI Music, and a host of local independent labels, including Huayi Brothers Media Group and Taihe Rye.

"China is a massive opportunity and a challenging market to address. Nokia is the undisputed dominant mobile player within China – there is no better partner with whom to develop the market in new, imaginative ways and make the most of its potential," says Rob Wells, Senior Vice President, Digital, Universal Music Group International.

"We are delighted to be expanding our partnership with Nokia to bring Comes With Music to the Chinese market," says Thomas Hesse, President, Global Digital Business, U.S. Sales and Corporate Strategy, Sony Music Entertainment. "We think there is great potential to convert China's massive audience of music fans into consumers of legitimate digital music with compelling services that are easy-to-use and broadly available across a wide array of mobile devices."

Song Ke, CEO, Taihe Rye, says; "We are very excited by the opportunity to have our music catalogue not only available in China, but to the rest of the world. Lovers of Chinese music can now download content from Comes With Music, broadening the market for our artists globally."

"Establishing legitimate online music services in emerging markets is imperative for the music industry's ongoing effort to remake itself," says Mike McGuire, Research Vice President, Media IAS Team, Gartner. "By getting the Comes with Music service up and running in China, and with India coming on shortly, Nokia is taking important steps in continuing to expand its Comes With Music ecosystem. It's also playing an important role in developing compelling alternatives for both artists and labels, and consumers."