Apple and Universal are making a major collection of Chinese music available to iTunes users.

The move could potentially be seen as a sign of the future for digital music retail, as online operators and music firms explore back catalogue and off-territory opportunities in the warehouse-cost-free new music market.

A report in the Financial Times said that Universal claims the release of the 1,000 tracks makes the first time: "This range of Chinese music will be legally available online outside its region of origin. The move represents Universal's faith in the continuing growth of the legal download market."

The report explains the companies hope to gain sales from within the Chinese expatriate community, who have previously only been able to buy the music at specialist shops.