As expected, Apple today launched its iTunes Music Store in Australia, though Sony BMG continues to play hardball, exercising its major-label status to hamper Apple's catalogue in multiple countries.

The news means the iTunes Music Store is now available in 21 countries. Despite Sony BMG's reluctance, Apple is offering Australian music fans access to a million-strong song catalogue, alongside over 1,000 music videos.

Sadly, New Zealand music fans remain out of the loop - at least for now. Prices are A$1.69 (71p) per song, A$3.39 (£1.43) per video. Most albums cost A$16.99 (£7.19).

Big in Australia

"We're thrilled to bring the revolutionary iTunes Music Store to Australia," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of iTunes. "iTunes features the largest catalogue of local and international music in Australia with over one million songs."

Exclusive music for the Australian audience includes tracks from Ozzie artists Missy Higgins, Bernard Fanning, Paul Mac, Evermore, Gyroscope and The Dissociatives. Extensive catalogues are available from Australian greats INXS, Hunters & Collectors, Paul Kelly and Slim Dusty.

A selection of iTunes Originals available through the service includes tracks from local heroes Spiderbait, and R.E.M., Alanis Morissette, LL Cool J, PJ Harvey and Sting.

Sony BMG/Apple stand-off

Some big name Australian artists won't be available through the store, including singer-songwriter Delta Goodrem, the Associated Press reports.

"The Australian market is a very compelling market for us to come to because music has always done very well in Australia," Cue said.

"Warner, EMI and Universal are in the music store, Sony (BMG) is not", he added.

"We know Sony artists would love to be a part of our music store launch and we hope Sony joins soon," he said.

There is some hope for an improved relationship between Apple and Sony BMG.

Responding to questions about his company's absence from the store, Emmanuel Candi, general manager of business strategy and human resources for Sony BMG Australia told The Age that the company's US arm had met Apple to discuss the matters.

"There's a couple of points left to finalise, the negotiations are going really well and we hope that they will be all settled soon and we'll be on track too," he said.

Supermarket sweep

Personal usage rights include: the ability to play songs on up to five personal computers, burn a single song onto CDs an unlimited number of times, burn the same playlist up to seven times and listen to their music on an unlimited number of iPods.

In addition, Apple said that iTunes Music Cards will be sold in A$20, A$50 and A$100 denominations at a wide array of supermarkets, including: Myer, Megamart, BI-LO, Coles Supermarkets, Pick 'n' Pay Hypermarket, Kmart, Target, Coles Express, Officeworks and Harris Technology.