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Sony BMG joins Nokia's unlimited music service

Nokia customers get access to any Sony BMG song for a year, and they get to keep the songs forever. Is this the music model of the future?

Comes With Music customers will have total access to the music of Alicia Keys as well as every other Sony BMG artist free for a full year.

The concept behind Nokia's new music service "Comes with Music" is starting to catch on with the major music labels.

Sony BMG, one of the four top recording companies, announced Tuesday that it has partnered with Nokia to make its music catalog available on select Nokia devices. After buying one of the devices, users will get unlimited free access to the music of Alicia Keys, the Foo Fighters or any Sony BMG artist for a full year.

During the 12 months of the offer, users will be able to transfer their Comes With Music library to a PC as well as to a new Nokia handheld, but they won't be able to transfer it to iPods or other non-compatible devices. At the end of the year, Nokia users will have the choice of acquiring new music by either purchasing downloads from the Nokia Music store or joining its subscription service.

Nokia is expected to launch the Comes With Music service in the second half of the year.

What is groundbreaking about these deals--Universal Music Group was first among the labels to join the service--is that Nokia users can download any song from Sony BMG and keep the music for the rest of their lives. There is no ceiling on the number of songs and the music doesn't disappear at the end of the year.

This is believed to be the labels' deepest foray into free music, and is reflective of the industry's attempt to find new business models that can compete with piracy, shrinking CD sales, and iTunes.

"We think this business model will encourage users to sample a wide range of material, expand their musical tastes, and listen to more music than ever before," said Thomas Hesse, Sony BMG's President of Global Digital Business.

Sources told CNET last month that Apple has discussed a similar offer with the music labels, adding that the concept behind Comes With Music is not exclusive to Nokia.

Should the concept of supplying year-long all-you-can-eat music catch on, other device makers wishing to gain access to music may be forced to adopt similar services.