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Thread: Beatles Catalog Finally Hits iTunes

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    Beatles Catalog Finally Hits iTunes

    Beatles Catalog Finally Hits iTunes Group's long-awaited digital debut announced Tuesday
    By Jem Aswad/Rolling Stone

    Apple announced Tuesday that the Beatles' recordings would be available for purchase on iTunes, after a day of speculation about what the company's iTunes-related news would be.

    At 10 a.m. ET, the group's 13 original albums, the two-volume Past Masters compilation, the 1962-66 and 1967-70 collections became available from the iTunes' Store as albums or individual songs. Also available is a digital boxed set featuring a video recording of the group's entire first U.S. concert in 1964 and that concert can be streamed for free from the iTunes site through the end of this year.

    "We're really excited to bring the Beatles' music to iTunes," Paul McCartney said in a statement. "It's fantastic to see the songs we originally released on vinyl receive as much love in the digital world as they did the first time around."

    "We love the Beatles and are honored and thrilled to welcome them to iTunes," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "It has been a long and winding road to get here. Thanks to the Beatles and EMI, we are now realizing a dream we've had since we launched iTunes 10 years ago."

    By late Monday afternoon the Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the situation," said the announcement would involve the Beatles' digital catalog. The paper said that the deal was being negotiated as recently as last week between Apple, representatives for the Beatles and their record label, EMI.

    Apple and the group have had a long and often fraught relationship, and not just because the computer giant and the Beatles' custom label share a name (which was the cause of the first legal action between the two companies, in 1978).

    Due to the complexities of the Beatles' finances, the group has been late to many developments in the music industry: Its catalog was not released on CD until 1987, and boxed sets of unreleased material were not released until the mid-1990s, after being available on bootlegs for decades. When the group's catalog was finally remastered and released last September, a press release simply said: "Discussions regarding the digital distribution of the catalogue will continue. There is no further information available at this time."

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    Re: Beatles Catalog Finally Hits iTunes

    Apple Finally Snares Beatles
    By ETHAN SMITH/Wall Street Journal

    Steve Jobs is nearing the end of his long and winding pursuit of the Beatles catalog.


    It has been a long and winding road but technology giant Apple announced that its iTunes store has begun carrying music by The Beatles.

    Apple Inc. is preparing to disclose that its iTunes Store will soon start carrying music by the Beatles, according to people familiar with the situation, a move that would fill a glaring gap in the collection of the world's largest music retailer.

    The deal resulted from talks that were taking place as recently as last week among executives of Apple, representatives of the Beatles and their record label, EMI Group Ltd., according to these people. These people cautioned that Apple could change plans at the last minute.

    Spokesmen for Apple and EMI declined to comment.

    Apple on Monday posted a notice on the home page of its iTunes Store that it would make "an exciting announcement" Tuesday morning.

    Terms of the deal that brought the Beatles music to iTunes couldn't be learned, and it was unclear whether other online music services would gain access to the catalog too. However, Apple maintains a roughly 90% market share in the online music business.

    EMI has been under financial strain following an ill-timed leveraged buyout by Terra Firma Capital Partners LP in 2007. If the iTunes tie-up generates significant cash advances or sales, it could delay breaches in the company's loan covenants. Terra Firma borrowed 2.74 billion (US $4.4 billion) from Citigroup Inc. to finance the deal, but has fallen into breach of those covenants, forcing it to add millions more to its equity position last year.

    Even as recorded-music sales have plummeted, the Beatles have remained one of the most reliable franchises in the business. In 2009, 39 years after breaking up, they sold the third-highest number of albums of any act in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, with 3.3 million copies sold.

    The Beatles aren't the only big iTunes holdout. AC/DC, Bob Seger and Kid Rock all have withheld their music from the online store. Other longtime digital wallflowers such as Metallica and Led Zeppelin have relented in recent years.

    The Beatles deal with iTunes was delayed in part by ongoing trademark litigation, the most recent round of which was resolved in 2007.

    The Fab Four's arrival in the digital age comes very late compared to most other major acts'. The group also was a latecomer to the CD era, waiting until 1987 to issue its main body of work on a medium that the industry had embraced in the early to middle part of the decade.

    People who have done business with the group and its corporate entity, Apple Corps Ltd., describe a very slow-moving process in which the two surviving members, and the heirs of the other two, can take a long time to reach consensus.

    The group started moving with a bit more alacrity following the 2007 death of Neil Aspinall, the long time Beatles confidant who ran Apple Corps, for many years. Founded in 1968, Apple Corps controls certain rights related to the Beatles recordings, although the recordings themselves are owned by EMI. Mr. Aspinall was replaced as Apple Corps' CEO by Jeff Jones, a former executive of Sony Music's well-respected Legacy division, which handles back-catalog releases for Sony Corp.'s various record labels.


    After the arrival of Mr. Jones, the Beatles started modernizing their affairs more quickly. In 2009 the group issued remastered CD versions of their studio albums with improved sound quality, something for which fans had been clamoring for years. The band struck a deal to release a videogame, The Beatles: Rock Band, last September. That title has seen mixed sales.

    Even the solo catalogs of the members of the Beatles have become available via iTunes and other online music services for varying lengths of time, prompting headscratching in the music and technology worlds about why the Beatles albums proper still weren't available.

    The Beatles-iTunes agreement represents a watershed in a fraught, decades-long relationship between two of the biggest icons in their respective fields.

    The two sides have traded lawsuits since 1978, when the Beatles alleged that the computer maker, incorporated as Apple Computer in 1977, infringed on the band's trademark in the name and logo of Apple Corps.

    The lawsuit was settled in 1981 for an undisclosed sum, plus an agreement that the Cupertino, Calif., computer maker wouldn't compete in the music business.

    Then in 1989 Apple Corps sued again, charging that Apple Computer had violated the terms of the earlier settlement by giving its computers increasingly powerful musical abilities, such as hardware that enabled its computers to control synthesizers.

    The two sides announced a settlement in 1991, after 100 days in court, with Apple Computer paying roughly $29 million to the band.

    Then in April 2003, Apple Computer again raised the band's hackles by launching what was then called the iTunes Music Store. Two months later, Apple Corps sued Apple Computer in High Court in London, alleging that the online music store violated the 1991 agreement.

    In 2006, after a one-week trial, the court handed the computer maker a rare victory in the long-running legal saga, dismissing the claims of the musical entity. Judge Edward Mann ruled that the Apple logo on the iTunes Store doesn't appear "in connection with" any particular music being sold, and instead is simply an icon for the store itself.

    The two sides announced a settlement in early 2007 under which the computer maker, then known by its current name, Apple Inc., took control of the trademarks at issue and licensed them back to Apple Corps Ltd. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

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    Re: Beatles Catalog Finally Hits iTunes

    Yeah, yeah, yeah--at $1.29 a song, or $12.99 an album. Kinda expensive. Aren't these all in crappy, lossy MP3 format? I'll stick with my Remastered CDs. BTW: I am a Beatles fanatic, but still, that's some expensive music for what you get. How I miss the "good ol' days" of the smell of opening a brand-new LP from its cellophane protection, feeling the vinyl LP in your hand, and checking out all the artwork while listening to the new music. (And maybe, like a Cracker Jack prize, finding some extra goodie inside--like a bedroom wall poster.)

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