"Competing against piracy and moving people to legal music downloads is a good thing," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of iTunes, last night.

Last night, Macworld UK spoke with Cue and Coca-Cola director of marketing in the EU Chris Burggraeve. We discussed the extent of the newly revealed European Coca-Cola and iTunes link-up and they confirmed that Apple and Coca-Cola had been planning the new European music campaign for "quite some time".

Coke prefers market leaders

The two brands have announced a partnership that includes major promotions in the UK and Germany and the launch of new Coke-branded music websites across Europe, including the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. These sites will integrate with iTunes.

As previously reported by Macworld, Coca-Cola has shut down its OD2-powered music service, MyCokeMusic. What wasn't then known was that the closure was in order to create space for the launch of new iTunes-supported services.

"Coke is going to replace all its existing music download sites. Where iTunes is available we are moving those services to iTunes. The Coca-Cola.com website goes live on August 8," said Burggraeve.

"iTunes is definitely the market leader in this area," observed Burggraeve, "as you may know, we launched a music store with someone else two years ago, but we prefer to work with someone who is the leader in the field. Music downloads is not our business," he added.

Teaching the world to sing

The Coca-Cola executive described his company as: "Extremely excited that huge brands like Apple and Coke are teaming up in Europe to launch a new music promotion. There's three strands: the 70 million song give-away in the UK alongside similar campaigns across Europe; a new Coke.com music room that offers teenagers the biggest European stage to upload and share their music; and the launch of new music services across Europe from Coca-Cola which integrate with iTunes."

Cue pointed out that giving away 70 million songs in the UK is particularly significant for a country with a population of around 60 million people. In Germany, Coca-Cola will give away an iPod and 50 free songs every hour for 8 weeks, and similar deals are planned across Europe, the partners implied.

Asked if the news meant Coca-Cola still wants to teach the world to sing, Burggraeve simply said: "You could see this as the modern expression of that." He also said, "music is an expression. Teens like to connect with others through music. The deal fits within the Coke Side of life campaign."

Festival plans and live gigs through iTunes

That's not the end of the new Coca-Cola-iTunes plans, said Cue: "We are also working together on music festivals. Coca-Cola has always been a big sponsor of music festivals. We are going to make some of the live performances available for purchase and download through iTunes."

No specific festival dates have yet been revealed.

Cue also admitted to being "excited" about the development of digital music sales in Europe. "We have also sold over 200 million songs in Europe, in just under two years."

In a previous statement, Cue had said: "The number of songs downloaded and purchased from the iTunes Music Stores in Europe has tripled in the past year from 50 million to 200 million. We're thrilled that music fans in Europe have shown such enthusiasm for the artists and exclusive music content found only on iTunes and would like to thank them for making iTunes such a success."

He believes that the scale of the new pan-European promotion between Coca-Cola and iTunes will be good for all involved, including musicians, fans and the industry: "What you need to be excited for is that this will be good for everybody: good for the fans, good for the artists and good for the music industry," he said.

"I think digital music is still in its infancy and there's a lot of room for growth," he added.