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Nokia to Start Free Music Service in U.S. to Boost Sales

Nokia Oyj, the smartphone maker seeking to make a comeback in the U.S., said it will start a free music service in the country that will work exclusively on its Lumia handsets.

Users will have access to millions of songs and can listen to playlists created by artists including Rihanna, Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga, Nokia said today in a statement. The service carries no advertisements and requires no subscription.

Mobile phone companies have fought over music listeners for years. Apple Inc.’s iTunes helped create the digital music market, while Google Inc., Spotify Ltd. and Pandora Media Inc. have heated up competition. Nokia Music’s gig-finding service will use a consumer’s position to find live concerts and shows happening nearby.

Nokia, based in Espoo, Finland, is struggling to win back customers from Apple and devices running Google’s Android software. It has identified the U.S. as a key market where it has to woo customers to gain momentum for a global comeback. Nokia is set to introduce its first devices based on the mobile version of Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows 8 operating system in New York tomorrow.

“The U.S.A. is the most vibrant and competitive digital music market in the world,” Jyrki Rosenberg, head of entertainment at Nokia, said in the statement.

Nokia, whose U.S. market share peaked at 32 percent in 2001, accounted for about 2 percent of smartphone purchases in the second quarter, according to Strategy Analytics. IPhone and Android combined made up about 90 percent.

Shares of the Finnish company have dropped 38 percent this year.

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